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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Word Crimes, Eggcorns and Grammar Nazis

I would assume that most bloggers care about grammar and spelling, but occasionally, reading blogs, I do come across spelling and grammar errors, sometimes bad, potentially embarrassing mistakes and sometimes numerous mistakes in one post. There are all sorts of bloggers out there writing on every imaginable topic, and I suppose bloggers might be photographers, visual artists or crafters who want to share their talent in this way and may not feel like they are wordsmiths. Even if you were never an English major and your expertise is in some area other than language, it's a bad thing to assume that grammar doesn't matter.

Unfortunately, readers will judge you by your writing and grammar use, and this will reflect on you and the message you want to communicate. Your content, which may be perfectly accurate, helpful, true and all of those things, could be dismissed because of an accumulation of little errors. People will not take you seriously as an authority on your topic if you can't write well. So, if spelling and grammar is not where your strength lies, don't despair but find a trusted person or two to help you with proofreading.

When I come across grammar mistakes online, I am tempted to comment with a correction. Does this make me a "grammar Nazi?" I try not to be obnoxious. This came up a couple of times recently with other bloggers. In both cases, I appreciated the content and let the blogger know that I did. I prefaced my critique with some genuine, positive comments. When someone critiques my work, it always goes down better if it's prefaced by positive comments.

One blogger made this mistake, using "would of" instead of would have. There is no such expression as would of! The confusion comes for some, because the contraction would've sounds like "would of," so when people are accustomed to hearing it rather than reading it, relying on their ears, they use an expression that, when you think about it, makes no sense. I kindly, (I thought) pointed out this error, but I noticed this blogger did not even respond to my comment or correct the mistake -- which would be easy to do -- even days later when he was still actively posting new things. I wondered why. I thought A) He finds my comment obnoxious, since I am a stranger. B) He realizes he made a mistake but doesn't care or find it important. C) He disagrees with me that there even is a mistake. This is all unfortunate, because he had a good message to share. So, when, a few days ago, I read a woman's post about a staph infection, spelling it as "staff infection," I refrained from making any comments.

By the way, there is a term for these misheard expressions -- eggcorns. The term "eggcorn" comes from the misheard version of acorn. I remember this example from college days. I remember a couple of girls talking about boys "scamming" girls from the mezzanine in the cafeteria. They meant scanning. Here are some other funny eggcorn examples, "for all intensive purposes," instead of for all intents and purposes and doggy-dog world instead of dog-eat-dog world. I'm sure I heard "doggy-dog world" growing up. Whether I was hearing it wrong or people around me were saying it wrong, I don't know, but when I saw the correct expression written down, it made sense for the first time. One common one is "cut the mustard" instead of "cut the muster." This last one makes me laugh out loud -- pre-Madonna for prima donna.

I came across this story on Reddit from someone whose user name is Lard_Baron. I'm not sure his misheard expression is a common mistake, but it is so funny that I wanted to share.

"When I was young my father said to me:
'Knowledge is Power....Francis Bacon'
I understood it as 'Knowledge is power, France is Bacon'.
For more than a decade I wondered over the meaning of the second part and what was the surreal linkage between the two? If I said the quote to someone, "Knowledge is power, France is Bacon" they nodded knowingly. Or someone might say, 'Knowledge is power' and I'd finish the quote 'France is Bacon' and they wouldn't look at me like I'd said something very odd but thoughtfully agree. I did ask a teacher what did 'Knowledge is power, France is bacon' mean and got a full 10 minute explanation of the Knowledge is power bit but nothing on 'France is bacon'. When I prompted further explanation by saying 'France is Bacon?' in a questioning tone I just got a 'yes'. At 12, I didn't have the confidence to press it further. I just accepted it as something I'd never understand.
It wasn't until years later (when) I saw it written down that the penny dropped."
Then there is this interesting and apparently common Google search. The image was found on

Hopefully, if you are reading this, you already care about grammar and spelling and I am preaching to the choir. I hope you have, at least, been entertained by eggcorns.

I came across this funny Weird Al parody song. Oddly, there are a couple of innuendos in this, and since that is not my sort of humor, I almost hesitate to share it. Aside from that, this is a pretty funny and entertaining way of showcasing a lot of common grammar mistakes. It's very relatable, because we all come across these things if you do much social media or reading online.

Disclaimer: If I literally used a crowbar to punish someone for poor grammar, I would literally be a grammar Nazi. I don't endorse the use of grammar police armed with crowbars.

I'm not perfect. Even those who care about grammar can make careless errors that sometimes end up in print. I'm determined to be an even more careful proofreader. It's amazing how many pairs of eyes can look over a document without noticing some of these things. I designed the cover for my first novel, and when I got my copies, I was embarrassed to see that the name of my alma mater, Cedarville University, had an extra letter in it. Apparently, I am the proud graduate of Cedaraville. At least, with blogging, corrections post-publication are not so complicated.

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