5 Speeling and Grammer Mistake’s That Can Justify Murder

If the title to this blog post didn’t make you want to punch something or, at the very least, cringe slightly, you have a stronger constitution then me … and if you noticed the mistake in the previous clause, you’ll probably appreciate this post. But, before I get onto the listing bit, which we on the internet so love, I want to say write type a few things to let you see where I’m coming from.

Language fascinates me. The way languages evolve is something which I’m particularly interested in. Unfortunately, this creates a problem for me; you see, language evolution happens in a similar way to biological evolution: through mistakes. Just as errors in the process of copying DNA can turn a dinosaur into a chicken, so too, errors in language acquisition can turn Latin into French.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but the cumulative effects of generations upon generations of mistakes is one of the main reasons that we can’t makes heads or tails of something like Beowulf.

So why is that a problem? Well, mistakes – particularly in language – can be very annoying. My theory is that it’s related to the uncanny valley effect: a minor difference in something as familiar as your native tongue gets your brain all riled up.

No-one gets annoyed that the French say souder instead of solder – who ever really expects to understand the French? – but when another English speaker drops¹ the l, it’ll at least make you sit up and think, “hang on…” if not actually annoy you.

Your brain’s happily following along, everything’s obeying the rules you know and love, nice and predictable as the brain likes it, then you hit a linguistic speed bump and your brain resets to its default mode: KILL. CRUSH. DESTROY.

Note: I don’t have a problem with linguistic innovation which enriches the language and makes communication easier and/or more fun. What I dislike is errors which confuse meanings and generally make communication harder. So, without further ado², let the list begin.

¹ If your accent does drop the l, read that as “pronounces the l” instead. Also, stop dropping the l. They put it in there for a reason. What are you, French? Jeez.

² Apart from that note above this one. And this note.


5. Saying could care less instead of couldn’t care less

Why it’s annoying:

You’re saying the opposite of what you mean.

I know, I’m not the first to complain about this and I’m sure I won’t be the last, but please, just stop doing it.

Why it’s OK:

If you say this wrong, it’s probably because you grew up with it. Just as in phrases like “at sixes and sevens” or “beat you to the punch”, you likely just internalised it as an idiomatic expression with a set meaning, never looking at what the literal meaning of the phrase was.

Why it’s really not OK:

The moment someone explains to you that “could care less” means that you do care, not that you don’t care, which is what you meant to say, you should instantly stop saying it.

If everyone just stops making the mistake, it will go away. If you keep on saying it wrong, you’ll teach it to your kids wrong and they’ll teach it to their kids wrong and before we know it the whole world will have gone to hell in a hand basket. And the logistics of finding a hand basket big enough to fit the entire world within are bad enough without even getting into the non-existence of hell.


4. Thinking then and than are the same word

Why it’s annoying:

Then and than are not the same word.

Do I really need to explain this? Saying “I’d prefer to have my legs cut off than my head,” is perfectly reasonable. Given the choice between either losing my legs or losing my head, I would rather the one which doesn’t kill me. If I said that “I’d prefer to have my legs cut off then my head,” on the other hand, the best interpretation would be that I want my legs cut off first, then I want my head to be cut off after.

Than is used in comparisons. Then is used when you’re talking about when or in what order something happens.

God. Damn. It.

Why it’s OK:

Firstly, it’s an understandable mistake. It’s a lot like the common mix-up with effect and affect. In speech, both words tend to be unstressed and reduced to /ðən/, making them homophones.

Not only that, but Shakespeare did it. In fact, then and than once were both the same word. They both evolved from Old English þanne, meaning “then”, “when” or “because”. The comparative meaning probably evolved from something along the lines of “A is bigger, then B”, as in A comes first in bigness, then B follows it.

Why it’s really not OK:

You know what? Just because Shakespeare did something, doesn’t make it alright for you to do it. Shakespeare lived in the sixteenth century; he probably shat in a bucket then tipped it out his window. Now, I don’t know where you live, but it’s almost certainly not alright for you to do that.

Secondly, if you’re going to use their having once been the same word as an excuse for being wrong now, I’ll ask that you use the same logic throughout the language and stop distinguishing between can and know, which both come from the same Proto-Indo-European root: *ǵneh₃-.


3. Using lay when you mean lie

Why it’s annoying:

OK, I understand this; it’s an easy enough mistake to make and we’ve all probably done it before. But if you’re writing a book, an article, a song or anything like that, do a little proof reading first. Please.

I’m looking at you, Bruno Mars.

You don’t “just wanna lay in your bed.” Assuming you’re not a god-damn hen, you wanna lie in your bed, you…stupid…fuck. I actually kinda like that song too, but every time it gets to that line, I want to find you and shoot you in your stupid can’t-speak-proper-English face.

OK, fine. Maybe that’s an overreaction. Pop-stars aren’t supposed to be the smartest people around, I know, but it would be nice if they could put a little effort into speaking the language. I mean, come on. Think of all the kids listening to this song on the radio and getting it into their heads that lie and lay are interchangeable. They are not.

Why it’s OK:

If someone’s just speaking casually, this is the kind of error that can be easily overlooked. It’s a funny quirk of the language that lay happens to be both the past tense of lie and a verb all on its own and it’s easy to see how you can mix them up every now and then in the heat of a conversation.

Why it’s really not OK:

It kind of is OK, but only – and I cannot stress this enough – only in casual conversation. It is not OK in any medium where you have a chance to go back and correct your glaring errors, like in a song, where it’s NOT FUCKING OK, BRUNO MARS, YOU DICK.

And speaking of annoying mistakes that pop artists make…


2. Using gotta when you mean got a

Why it’s annoying:

Gotta is a fine word. When you’ve gotta contract got to, it’s the go to; nothing beats it. But that is what it’s for: contracting got to. It’s not a substitute for got a. That’s not even a contraction. It’s exactly the same if you say it and the only thing you’re doing typing it is swapping the space with a t.

There is nothing more convenient about using gotta instead of got a and it’s just plain wrong. Sorry; this post wasn’t meant to be about insulting pop artists, but Black Eyed Peas (I don’t know your individual names and don’t care to find out), all of you deserve to die for that song.

Why it’s OK:

It’s not OK. It’s not ever OK.

Why it’s really not OK:

Will.i.am. I lied. I know his name. What an arsehole. What a stupid, fucking, fail-at-English, piece of shit. Fuck you, will.i.am. (I don’t even know if he’s the one who wrote it, but he almost certainly had a say and he just strikes me as an arsehole. What kind of person sues someone over the phrase “I am”? An arsehole. Also that iPhone camera thing… what? You have no association with photography or cameras, will.i.am; you’re lucky anyone even calls you a musician. Oh, and do I even have to mention the name? And really, who actually likes the Black Eyed Peas? Like, what kind of person would call themselves a Black Eyed Peas fan? They’re not terrible or anything, but they haven’t released a single song I would choose to listen to since “Where is the Love?”. I know, 12 year olds will buy whatever they hear on the radio, but who decided to play that shit on the radio to begin with? Why are you even still reading this? I’ve gone so far off topic, I don’t even know what I’m writing about any more.)


1. Writing of when you mean have

Why it’s annoying:

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Why it’s OK:

IT’S NOT OK!!!!!!!!

Why it’s really not OK:

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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