When Grammar Goes Bad

(Note: It's my week off so I thought I'd post a rant rather than doing one of my complicated research articles or thought-provoking discussion points. Today I will be talking about grammar, or lack thereof, in Western society.)

I'm an editor by nature, which means I'm a grammar cop of the worst order. Sometimes this makes life hard. Every time I go on social media, I cringe. I shudder when I watch specific YouTube videos with narration. Worst of all, however, is when I squirm after finding these errors printed on professional signs and forms in everyday life. The following are some of my biggest grammar pet peeves as of late.

1. Using apostrophes on plurals and no apostrophes on possessives.

It’s one of the most common mistakes I see, and it is so ingrained that I have to wonder if it is actually being taught this way in school. Someone puts an apostrophe on a plural (example: meal’s or plane’s) but they will not use one on a possessive (example: Johns or Debbys). Is this really so hard to explain? It can’t be that difficult! When I was in school we were marked down for making these mistakes. Unfortunately, this error is so common now that, as I said above, it is being printed this way on signs. There is actually a place in Lee Vining, California, where, according to a professionally carved sign, you can rent “cabin’s.” My mechanic also posts his “disposal fee’s” on a printed plaque above the door.

2. Pronouncing “women” the say way that you pronounce “woman.”

While number 1 is widespread throughout the generations, this second error seems to be exclusively a problem of the younger set. I have noticed it a lot on YouTube videos in the last year or so. Once you hear it, you can’t unhear again. (Example: “Many woman have come forward with accusations.”) Where they decided this was a thing, I don’t know, but it is getting to epidemic proportions and it is extremely irritating. Young people, please, listen to broadcasters and actors. They are not pronouncing “women” as “woman.” Geesh!

3. Overuse of the word “had.”

It seems they have one on every true crime documentary on Investigation Discovery. She’s graying, she’s about fifty, she’s got a smoker’s growl, she sounds like she’s chewing something when she talks, and she uses the word “had” as if her life depends on it. It seems that this word is a requirement every five seconds, usually interspersed with plenty of other terrible grammar. (Example: “I had brought it because he had axed for it after he had drove away.”) Just shut up! Seriously, you only need to say it once in this entire sentence!

4. Over-pronunciation of words.

Speaking of television, what’s up with the actors who can’t pronounce their way out of a paper bag? Since when did the words “singer” and “song” have a hard G? No one in the existence of the fucking world eats their syrup with a long E. I can understand that at one time microphones didn’t pick up dialog and actors had to annunciate, but that was a long time ago now. We live in the digital age and every last one of your over-pronunciations are audible. Time to fire the old acting coaches for someone who knows this.

5. Using “is” when referring to plurals.

This particular one doesn’t grate on my ears as badly as the next one, but it’s still annoying. This is fairly common in both speech and writing, especially on social media, where no one seems to remember proper grammar to save their lives. (Example: “There is five boxes.”) This irritates the crap out of me because it is just so lazy. It’s one word, people! One stinking, measly little word that doesn’t even take up more than one syllable! Is this really so hard?

6. Misuse of male and female pronouns.

I don’t mean mixing up him and her, I mean using them where they don’t belong. Again, I’m pointing the finger at younger creators and their recent TikTok and YouTube videos. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve dry heaved after hearing some young narrator say “him and his friends went to the movies.” What, are you five? Because it sounds like something that some little kid would say while digging in a sandbox. Unfortunately, this generation doesn’t seem to know the difference between “him/her” and “he/she” in the course of regular speech. It’s really sad that he and his friends can’t even go to the movies without sounding like toddlers.

7. Misuse of the word “literally.”

This comes from the two generations behind. It seems that this word must be sprinkled liberally in any sentence involving action. I would like to say it died out as we left our twenties and grew into the main part of adulthood, but, no, I still hear it from some soccer mom sitting in the bleachers somewhere. When she says she literally wants to do this and literally felt like that, I literally fight back the urge to strangle her in front of her kids.

8. Using “its” where you meant “it’s” and vice versa.

Well, if they can’t figure out the use of an apostrophe with a possessive as opposed to a plural, I shouldn’t expect people to know this one. It must be hard because you use an apostrophe for most possessives but you don’t use it for the possessive of “it.” Just remember that “it’s” works the same way as words like “don’t” and “won’t.” This will probably be the only place in this entire rant where I’m polite. I never said grammar was easy, but when you stop and look at it closely you can figure it out.

9. Not adding “-ed” where it belongs.

I notice this one particularly in the South, especially Florida. The past tense of certain verbs, especially those ending in T, are pronounced the same as any present tense word. (Examples: “sweat” or “pet.”) I don’t understand this one in the slightest. Seriously, though, please stop. Floridians, just remember, if it ends in a T, it still needs an -ed.

10. Sounding out words rather than reading them.

I don’t mean sounding out a word you don’t know. Everyone does this and it’s the best way to learn new vocabulary words. No, I mean those young people, who are reading words from a teleprompter or script and instead of saying the actual word they sound it out instead. It’s not a word they don’t know, it’s just a word they apparently can’t read aloud if someone held a gun to their heads. When this happens, “sponge” becomes “spong” and “tongue” becomes “tong.” Or, as we discussed above, “women” becomes “woman.” People, if you can’t pronounce your way out of a box, perhaps being a video narrator is not for you.

Our grammar is going out the window and no one seems to be able to speak or write, much less read, anymore. I would say the explanation for the problem is the state of the education system in the United States, but some of the worst offenders I have encountered are British and Canadian. This is not an American problem, it’s a Western one. To be honest, I’m baffled where this comes from, I just know it’s getting worse every day and people sound stupider and stupider. As I heard someone else say, Idiocracy was not supposed to be a documentary. Can we please stop sounding like it is?


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