RANT: Crappy Grammar on the Internet

OK, so this week’s rant is hardly new, but it still gets my craw anyway. Lately I’ve been completely disgusted with the state what passes for English grammar and usage in Internet communications. How often have you been on an Internet message board and seen sentences such as this: “The MPAA can take all there DVD’s and PC’s and cram ’em up you’re ass! I will hate them until my dying breathe!”

My God! If the Queen were dead, she’d be rolling over in her grave!

So let’s review some basic English grammar rules, OK?

First of all, look out for homonyms. These are words that sound alike verbally, but are written differently. In the example sentence, the homonym “there” (meaning “a particular location”, as in “your keys are over there”) is used instead of the proper “their” (which is the possessive form of “they”, as in “their children are poorly educated”). Another homonym used incorrectly in the sentence is “you’re” (which is a contraction of “you are”, as in “You’re the best, Dad!”) instead of the correct “your” (which is the possessive form of you, as in “Have you found your keys?”). Yet another homonym (of sorts) used incorrectly in the example sentence is “breathe” (which is a verb meaning “to take oxygen into the lungs”) instead of the correct “breath” (which is a noun which means “the air inhaled and exhaled in respiration”). Other common homonyms include to\too\two, bear\bare, base\bass, board\bored, break\brake, capital\capitol, coarse\course, fair\fare, find\fined, foreword\forward, hear\here, hoarse\horse, leased\least, loan\lone, marry\merry, patience\patients, plain\plane, practice\practise, rain\reign, road\rode, seen\scene, sole\soul, threw\through, waist\waste, weather\whether and of course which\witch… just to name a few. If you’re not sure how to use these words correctly, PLEASE take some time to buy a dictionary and review any words you might have trouble with.

Defenders of the Queen’s English have also no doubt witnessed the explosion of unnecessary apostrophes running rampant these days. Here’s a clue folks: apostrophes have two main uses – to replace a letter that’s dropped in a contraction (don’t, aren’t, o’clock) or to show possession (Bob’s desk, Mom’s cookies). That’s about it. Remember that if the subject is plural, the apostrophe comes after the complete word (as in “The boys’ swimming pool needs cleaning”, in which case the pool is owned by two or more boys). Likewise, if a plural subject doesn’t end in an s, one is added after the apostrophe (as in “The children’s school is within walking distance”, meaning that you have two or more children that go to the same school). Lastly, note that apostrophe can be added after the s if the subject is singular *and* adding an extra s creates a new syllable; thus you have “Bill Gates’ money” and not “Bill Gates’s money” (“Gates-is-is”). Remember also that THERE ARE NO APOSTROPHES in plural abbreviations like “DVDs”, “PCs” and “TVs”. The fact that the abbreviation’s letters are in uppercase followed by a lowercase “s” is sufficient to express plurality. Seeing a sentence like “I own a lot of DVD’s” just makes me want to put my fist through the wall. Please stop.

And while we’re at it, an “abbreviation” is a “shortened form of a word or phrase used chiefly in writing to represent the complete form”, such as “USN” for “U.S. Navy”. An “acronym” is an abbreviation that ‘spells’ a common English word or becomes a word all on its own (like “radar” or “NASA”). Don’t confuse the two. Although both are abbreviations, only acronyms are said like an ordinary word (“MADD”) and not “spelled out” in letters (like “IRS”).

Lastly, allow me to enlighten you on the correct spelling of some select foreign words and phrases. The ones that really get on my last nerve are “per say”, “wolla” and “hoy polloy”. The correct spelling of “per say” is per se. It’s a Latin phrase meaning “through itself”, as in “Marijuana isn’t dangerous per se, but it can cause car accidents and lung damage”. What the hell were you people thinking every time you typed out “per say”? Marijuana isn’t dangerous through talking? The next is “wolla”, which is actually a bastardization of the French word voila, which means “to call attention to or express satisfaction with a thing shown or accomplished”, as in “you put some cilantro on top and… Voila! Dinner is done!” The thing that really cracks me up is “hoy polloy”, which is a halfassed attempt to use the Greek phrase hoi polloi… which is funny ‘cos while hoi polloi roughly translates to “the people”, the actual meaning of the word is closer to “the unwashed masses” or “Joe 6-Packs”. And by misspelling hoi polloi, you Joe 6-Packs come off as even dumber than you would have looked if you’d just said “unwashed masses”, “Wal Mart shoppers” or “sheeple”. Maybe you should continue using hoy polloy – that way you faux-intellectuals are easier to spot and beat to death.

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