Thursday, November 16, 2006

To-may-to, To-mah-to...Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to

(Blogger's note: In the spirit of my last entry, I decided to create my own month...NaBloAvoMo. [National Blog Avoidance Month] And as you can see, I've been doing a spectacular job of keeping up with its rigorous schedule. I even got words of encouragement from a friend just the other day. Kinda jarred something loose in my brain that if I keep this up, all my readers (as if I had any to begin with) would soon move on to the millions and millions of other blog-perusing opportunities available to them. So the hell with my month, I say. It's time to put some words on a Web page.)

— • — • —

I got an e-mail the other day from...or wait, is it an email?

And then I went to visit this really cool Web site. it, website?

In my job, one of the bibles I refer to quite often is the Associated Press Stylebook, which provides answers to the questions above and many more. And to that point, AP style dictates that "e-mail" and "Web site" are the correct uses. But more and more, on the Web and in print, I've been seeing those terms used the other way, and I've gotta say, they look a lot smoother that way. I just haven't been able to cave and start using them as such.

Certainly this is all just picking nits, but it's also an addiction of mine as well. I love the minutiae of words and grammar and spelling and the English language. (I also love the word "minutiae" for ending with three vowels. How bold!)

One of the most familiar misuses is of course the ever-popular "apostrophe, s", which is thrown into words in which it has no business being. It's everywhere! (previous example correctly used.) Some people feel that if a word ends in "s," it must need an apostrophe. The two-cent rule I've always heard is, "when in doubt, leave it out."

I'm probably going to come off as sounding like some sort of snob after this entry and people will be afraid to send me e-mails again, for fear that I'll return them edited. But that's not the case at all. (with the exception of one last week, but he deserved it.) I know I make my share of mistakes as well, and if you searched this blog you'd probably find dozens of typos on which to hang the "hypocrite" label around my neck. I'm not perfect, I'm just language-obsessed.

One other example I'll share with you here is the word, "myriad." For so long, it was used as a noun, as in: "...a myriad of ways to misuse an apostrophe...". But then language snobs much snobbier than I started turning up their noses and chastising people for not realizing that the oh-so-correct way to use it is as an adjective: "...I've annoyed myriad readers by not blogging for the past seventeen months..."

While I love to pick a side and engage in a healthy debate, I never knew which was correct, so I remained on the fence. And in the latest edition of Merriam-Webster, it's listed as...both. Everybody wins. So all the adjective snobs out there were being snobbish without due cause.

Whether it's an unfamiliar spelling or a misplaced hyphen or a word with more style than words are supposed to have, I love it all. And I'll probably make this a recurring topic on this blog (in this blog?), sharing little grammar nuggets and English tidbits as I run across them.

Got your own English and grammar pet peeves? Send me an e-mail. Or leave a comment on this, uhh, (whatever.)

And if you were wondering...yes, I am SUCH, a neurotic dork.

"If the English language made
any sense, a catastrophe would be
an apostrophe with fur."
—Doug Larson
"If the English language made any sense,
lackadaisical would have something to do
with a shortage of flowers."
—Doug Larson


  1. It was going to take an immense post to make up for the lack of posts...

    You achieved it, my friend. Well done.

    I read this one three times and smiled the entire way through.

    Now, in order to maintain a loyal following, may I suggest a more "regular" showing?

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Great, now I'm even more conscious of my dangling participles. Gross.

  3. Thanks, Brad, for the kind words. (although if you read it three times, I can only assume that you were hunting for typos, but that's understandable. I've probably set myself up for that. and I take as well as I give.)

    Your subtle suggestion at the end has been duly noted, and well-deserved. I'll try to do better next time.


    Let 'em dangle. I won't tell.

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

  4. I see it alot. In fact, if you spend alot of time on any NFL teams' message board, you'll see it alot. There's alot of mistakes. Alot of monkeys hang out on football message boards. Alot can be said of the grammar problems you'll find there - alot. I kid you not - alot.

    If I had a nickel for every grammar problem I've seen, I'd have A LOT of money!

  5. I've seen that one, too, Burt. It's a mistake that's made alo...quite often.