Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Peeves

Almost all my peeves are someone else's peeves.

I first noticed it when someone down the street had a daily visitor who drove up and honked the horn for him instead of using the doorbell. It was rude, but I could ignore it. Not my neighbor, though. She got a little purpler each time, and eventually whenever I heard the car horn I could feel her fury right through the vinyl siding. I knew it was only a matter of time before she hauled out on the front porch with a pistol. She was plenty capable of taking that car horn out without nicking the dashboard. I began to seize up whenever the horn went off. I had developed Acquired Car Horn Syndrome.

This business of taking on other people's peeves started early. My father was a first-class curmudgeon and all sorts of things irked him. No improper use of English went uncorrected in our house. He was too polite (and anti-social) to correct other adults but we kids were fair game. And he went off several times a day on wayward custodians of the language. It could be anything. "The forecast IS rain, the forecast is not CALLING FOR rain," Dad would bellow at the weatherman, every single night, as we kids mouthed it silently behind his back. The fact that my father could not save the English language all by himself never prevented him from hollering at the television. He was certainly in charge of us, at least. All four of his children were punted out of the nest with a death-grip on proper English and a lifelong tendency to cringe, on his behalf, when "people who should know better" messed up.

He never got anywhere with the campaign to save "comprise." It means the opposite of "compose" but they are used interchangeably most of the time, and he simply could not stand it. But his fury was general: Nixon, the destruction of the environment, and people using "iris" as a plural all elicited the same reaction.

Dad has been dead for over thirty years, but I still hunch up wincing when our weatherman talks about his "futurecast,"as though that were somehow more prescient than a forecast. I'm the sort that thinks that dead is dead, but Dad's crotchets have eternal life.
George

Now people are more peevish than ever. Any glance at the internet will reveal how many things drive people absolutely crazy, and how proud they are to admit it. Apostrophe abuse, visible panty lines, clerks that call you "honey," people making duck lips in their selfies, long voice mail messages, people who write "wallah." If any of these send you around the bend, you might consider the possibility that you're wound too tight. You might, as my Dave likes to say, want to let out a loop. Because here's the thing: if hearing someone say "hone in on" drives you nuts, it's probably a pretty short drive.

As a public service here at Murrmurrs, Inc., we will now list all the things that you really ought to be upset about. The rest don't matter.

1) Global warming.
2) Mass extinctions.
3) "Comprise." It means "be composed of," not "compose." Get it right, or face the Wrath Of George.

110 comments:

  1. I think part of it is a fear that too much exposure to sub-standard English will erode our own language ability. We acquire an easy grasp of standard English from repeated exposure to it, after all. When you read a lot -- properly-proofread and edited books, I mean -- you know the difference between "its" and "it's" and the fact that it's "rein in" and not "reign in" because you've seen those things used correctly hundreds of times and it becomes second nature.

    Since I feel an obligation to understand our political opponents as correctly as possible, I regularly read right-wing websites with their horrible grammar and English usage, and I know that my grasp of correct English has suffered as a result. There are times now in my own writing where I have to pause and think what's the correct way to say something, whereas before, I would have known without needing to think about it. When you're immersed in mistakes, they soak into you.

    Oh, and that duck-lip selfie thing has got to stop.

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    1. That reminds me. I don't think I've read any novels lately (traditionally published, edited novels) that I haven't found at least one error in. That kind of makes me sad. As for all the rest, I tend to correct people only when I think they need mocking on account of their stupid beliefs, or when they're language fiends who would actually appreciate knowing better. (Or I think they would.) Everyone else gets a pass. Although, if I'd had kids they would have gotten the full treatment. They'd have been able to complain about me to the psychologist in perfect English.

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    2. I've been reading a lot of e-books lately...mostly novels via Kindle...and the editing is atrocious. Not only are there numerous grammatical and punctuation errors, but frequently the content doesn't even make sense. I'm not talking self-published books without professional editing, but books by well-known authors, put out by main-stream, international publishing houses.

      Well, I guess its time for I to go...I need to lay down. ;-)

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    3. Hear hear. Some of the novels on my kindle appear to have been printed in their submitted manuscript form with no editing or corrections whatsoever. Even punctuation is missing. I still manage to weasel out the story if it's part of a series by an author I really like to read. But it is annoying.

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  2. I go nuts when someone stands behind me and reads over my shoulder. I just CANNOT stand that. I do not know why, but I go crazy. As for grammar/syntax, I really would appreciate a good editor for my blog. Do you know anyone?

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    1. Your blog looks pretty clean to me. That's probably why you want an editor--you care. I'm not volunteering because I have had no spare time since I retired. (Why IS that?) But I do know someone, if you're serious.

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  3. I get a little annoyed by the constant misuse of "its" and "it's." Gotten so bad, though, that I now only feel a little twinge rather than getting purple in the face. I'd have had a heart attack by now otherwise. Good for George. :-)

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    1. I know, and some of these things are really easy to learn. I get fouled up sometimes when I get into a stampede of clauses, but "its-it's" should be a snap. Should be a one-hour lesson, once a lifetime.

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  4. I have a way with words that can irritate well. I can still hear an old nun bristle when I do this.

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    1. Your second sentence makes me very, very happy.

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  5. The it's/its thing has gotten so bad that I now notice when its is used correctly. It's pretty rare.

    The lie/lay mistakes are really common, so much so that I think there is now common acceptance (as Infidel753 has warned about) of using lay for all senses of both lay and lie.

    My younger daughter says she has written book reviews on Amazon and has included errors she has found in the Kindle versions. She finds some of them corrected when she re-checks the text and once a writer e-mailed her to thank her for the correction. So maybe there is hope?

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    1. Huh! Good for her. That could take up her whole day though. You know, I knew when I wrote this that there would be a collection of peeves in the comment section. Even though I sort of implied that it means we're crazy.

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  6. Don't forget Me and I. For some reason every time I read "Tom and me went to the store" I (me) go ballistic.

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    1. I don't hear "Tom and me went to the store" nearly as much as I hear "come to the store with Tom and I." Another easy one to learn, if one takes the time. Although I'm perfectly fine with saying things like "this is me." Sounds too hoity-toity the other way.

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    2. When my son was looking for his swim goggles I held some up and said "Are these they?" My brother in law was highly amused at my hoit.

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    3. Yeah. I probably wouldn't say that most of the time. But it does make me smile when someone else does.

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    5. I remember the old Henry Aldrich radio show, which always opened with his mother calling for him, and his reply: "Did you call I, Mother?"

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  7. It's not actually possible to drive me crazy. I'm already there.

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    1. As you so splendidly demonstrate on your website.

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    2. A crazy website? I must have a look.

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  8. I am married to a world class curmudgeon.

    And while I am peeved by a fair number of things myself, I'm much more likely to just sigh and let it go. But, I do have to confess to correcting errors in the notices my children used to bring home from school - many years ago now. It always seemed to me that a teacher shouldn't be sending home written material with glaring grammatical/spelling errors. Or perhaps that the individual in question should have been looking for a different line of work.

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    1. Hey, teachers should be fair game! You go!

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  9. Infidel753 said: "We acquire an easy grasp of standard English from repeated exposure to it, after all. When you read a lot -- properly-proofread and edited books, I mean -- you know the difference between "its" and "it's" and the fact that it's "rein in" and not "reign in" because you've seen those things used correctly hundreds of times and it becomes second nature." YES! Yay for reading. But OMG, I'm another one mourning properly-proofed books. Talk about "people who should know better" -- sheesh.
    By the way, where are the brakes on this train to Crazyville anyway? We're picking up speed here....
    ~Kim

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    1. I had a notion this would happen. There is nothing that can get people riled up faster than saying "okay, calm down." That is why I like to say "okay, calm down," and hand people a cookie. But my computer doesn't enable cookies.

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  10. I'm not sure just why we love to get so irked. Letting out a few loops is definitely good for our souls. But I do feel a lofty sense of my own rightness when I manage to catch someone else mangling the language.

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    1. Feel free to correct me any time. I can take it.

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  11. I have Acquired Hanging Basket Syndrome. Before I moved to this house, I never even thought about hanging baskets, but most of the neighbours here have them, the bigger the better. One day I found myself buying a hanging basket and found myself placing it on the previous owners' hanging basket hook. Now I'm terrified I'll develop full-blown Suburban Stereotype Syndrome.

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    1. You're going to have to get rid of your pickup truck, too.

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  12. My mother was an English teacher, and I was a voracious reader, so it was easy for me to get a grasp on the language. But since discovering blogland I have relaxed my grip on things. I have learned so much useful stuff from people with poor grammar and spelling, it's worth it. Not everyone has advantages, and not everyone is a reader. But a lot of those very people have enormous talent and the gift of communication. Besides, English is an ever-evolving thing. Some of the things we think are standard only became so within the past century.

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    1. I do believe I just uncovered MY pet peeve :)

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    2. You are exactly right. As usual.

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    3. But, but ... that could be taken either way ... Oh, you are too clever for me :)

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    4. Not at all! I agree with you.

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  13. I am in agreeent with your Husband. Loop 'em, I say:-)

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  14. before anyone goes ballistic.. that would be, Agreement..

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    1. Nobody gets to go ballistic in this space. We are always nice to each other. There might be cookies later.

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  15. I have a zoo of peeves. They aren't pets, they have to be kept under control or they will take me over.
    And your father and both of my parents were obviously related. I do spend a lot of time correcting the television. Until I remember and step away.

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    1. I'd snicker, but I just caught myself questioning the guy on NPR out loud. He said "minimalizing." I said "what's wrong with minimizing?" (He didn't answer.) I guess the next thing is minimalization, and then we'll get to use THAT as a verb.

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    2. That's right up there with orientated.

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    3. Yup. There're a bunch of them. None of which come to me at the moment...well, there's "commentate..."

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  16. Replies
    1. George. My daddy. I'm sure you know all about the wrath of George.

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    2. You mean you see through my devilishly clever pseudonym? Uncanny!

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  17. What would we have to complain about if not for our peeves?
    I've never heard of "Wallah."

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    1. "I was looking for that tool all day and then I opened the drawer, and wallah!"

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    2. Oh my! Mangled Fran├žais. As in "Voila?"

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    3. Oui! Now you'll see it everywhere.

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    4. Every once in a while you'll even see a "viola." I feel a little sorry for those people because they almost got it right.

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    5. "Viola." Yes. These kinds of things bother me, and while I'm at it, I don't like when people don't know how to spell a name. Names are really important. I love names. I love all the richness of the languages that contributed to them. "Antwan" doesn't cut it with me. But I'll be dead soon.

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    7. Our last name has an apostrophe in it. (O'Keeffe) My daughter went to the doctor's office to pick up a prescription. Her name was spelled: first name OaposKeeffe. Whoever took the instructions for writing her rx apparently didn't even know what an apostrophe was, and couldn't spell it all out anyway. We get all sorts of weird spellings, and even weirder pronunciations, but this is the ultimate in spelling.

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    8. Now your last name looks kind of Maori. Just sayin'.

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  18. I have a person who leave Comments on my Blog and just Capitalizes words willy Nilly. Willy-freakin'-Nilly, I tell You! It drives me bat Crap crazy!

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    1. Yeah, now, you see, THAT kind of thing gets to me too. I'm very sensitive to random emphasis. And too many ellipses, which put me to sleep. Although I just did that myself a few comments ago.

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    2. I've noticed the random capitalization seems to happen when people are connected through their ipods or some other device - doesn't it automatically capitalize some stuff? I could be wrong.

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    3. Or maybe they've just suddenly gone German. Or 18th-century.

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    4. I meant smart phone, not ipod. At least I think I did. Technology, bah!


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    5. Some of those appliances will capitalise at the beginning of every line, whether it is a new sentence or not.

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  19. I have been a wound-too-tightly, over-pedantic yeller at the TV, much too concerned with usage. I blame the English teachers. Here's to unlooping and relaxing! But, oh my Dears, stay away from fb.

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    1. I think Murr's tongue was firmly in her cheek with that one, River.

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    2. I knew that, I knew I'd get a reaction from someone too.

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  20. I don't see Pat L. in here giving her two cents worth. She always has something to say on editing, punctuation, grammar. Pat? Anything to say? Hmm...I am sure she will pop in soon. She is very busy with her work and Greenpeace.

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  21. I try to appreciate the addlepated poetry of the mute point, but wallah makes me cry.

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    1. I'm sitting here all by myself in my study snorfling my fool head off at that sentence.

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    2. "the addlepated poetry of the mute point" was utter perfection.

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  22. Amen, sistah. I would change "Global warming" to the all-encompassing "climate change."

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    1. I usually go for climate change, but ever since we all got the memo that we should use climate change instead of global warming in order to appease the idiots who wonder why their last winter was so cold, I've gone back to "global warming." Because dat's what's happenin'.

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  24. Did you know that in order to fix something in a post here, you have to copy & paste then delete it?

    My parents were both Georges: introverted, polite curmudgeons who yelled at the t.v., and relentlessly corrected my grammar. I was also fed a steady stream of the very best literature from the moment both eyes opened. So I am quite peevish, to the point of drawing one knee up to my chest and shouting "Gah" when a particular peeve hits me in the solar plexus. The seventies may have unlooped me but the 00s are undoing all their good work.

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    1. Yeah. Did the Georges do us a favor or not? I'm thinking maybe we need to start smoking weed again.

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  25. The most tortured phrase I'm encountering now is, "The English teacher was complimenting my wife and I's parenting." The garbage truck ran over my partner and I's dog.

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    1. My dad explained that whole thing to me a long time ago. He said kids used to say "Billy and me went down to the river" and they got corrected "Billy and I! Billy and I!" until that became the thing you had to say if Billy was involved. So anything with an "and" has to be followed by "I." Really, this should only take one good afternoon of drilling, but it doesn't seem to take.

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  26. Oh, and the flier by the mailbox this morning that advertised "Lawn Malignance And Pressure Washing." (Did they compose and print from an iPhone?)

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    1. Now, honey, that's just precious. I have a similar phrase I'm cherishing, but someone who might read this blog is responsible for uttering it, and I can't mention it.

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  27. Since I'm Canadian, I'm used to people from all parts of the globe translating from their mother tongue in their head as they go. Sometimes it works; more often it doesn't.

    In the laundry of our building, a sign reads, "Do not put any articles in the washers if they have dye on them. We all have to enjoy using them."

    I absolutely refuse to enjoy using someone else's clothes with dye on them!

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    1. I've saved a lot of printed instructions from people whose first, second and third languages are not English. The Japanese ones are the best. They are a treasure.

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    2. from my old Yamaha motorcycle manual: "be sure to leave your machine in gear, or it will be easy to go running forward." And many others.

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    3. Can't throw them out. Too cheerful.

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  28. Misplaced apostrophes are the ones that bother me most. Just because a word ends in s doesn't mean it needs an apostrophe. For heaven's sake people, get it right.
    Comprise is not heard or read very often these days, it would seem that not enough people know what it means. My guess is they use compose instead because of its similarity to composition, which does mean make up (as well as essay), comprise also means make up, yet compose means quiet, calm, relax, as in compose yourself, i.e. calm down settle down, relax a bit.
    Other people's peeves don't generally bother me, but I've been known to shout at the TV presenters too on occasion.

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    1. You see "comprised of" all the time, which is always wrong. And most of the time when you read of something comprising something, it's also wrong. Because it doesn't mean "make up" as compose does; it means "include." A committee comprises its members. The members compose the committee. Oh gee, thanks, Dad.

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    2. My Thesaurus is wrong then? Damn! Listed by comprise it has makeup, along with compose, contain, include. I'll make a note in the margin.

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    3. I'm thinking your thesaurus has given in to popular usage, but to be a true Curmudgeon, you keep fighting for the words that are particularly useful, and don't let them slide into meaning their opposites. George lives!

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  29. My late husband sounds like your dad's cousin. I remember the time he was doing some postgraduate study and a tutor had written on one of his essays that a sentence was tautological. He was almost paralytic with rage. Me, being of poorly educated working class background, didn't know what the word tautological meant and couldn't care less about middle-class grammatical niceties, ended up laughing until I cried. This made him even more mad (purpler, in fact) and that made me laugh even more. He taught me all I know about grammar for which I am very grateful and he was a very good man but, good grief, sometimes he could be such a stick-up-his-arse wanker. It still makes me smile to think about the whole episode.

    "Even Shakespeare played about with language, changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original." OED

    You are right; rather than getting our knickers in a twist about the ever-shifting changes in language there are things we should be worrying about that are more important. All that matters is we understand the gist of what the author or speaker said or wrote. Next time we feel wound up because someone somewhere made a grammatical mistake, let's take a deep breath and put that energy into protesting about sex slave trafficking, or fracking the great barrier reef, or rich corporations displacing indigenous peoples to get their hands on minerals, or people being executed for speaking out against dictatorial regimes, etc,. I wouldn't laugh at that kind of protest.

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    1. I'm all for clarity in language, and would prefer to get more than the gist of what someone means, but the level of pique we get into over this is really interesting to me. I mean, look at how many comments this one got!

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    2. It is interesting - maybe this topic brings out more of the curmudgeons in your followers. Or, maybe we're all getting old and want to hang on to things as 'they used to be'. Or maybe people believe they can't fight effectively against the big evils in the world so they fuss about grammar instead. Or maybe language is the only area where the grammarians can get to play high priest and priestess. Or, maybe it's an old person thing because the comments always seem to have a "back in my day" tinge to them. I don't know the answer to this riddle. I'm sorry about the snark but the grammar police do make me so peeved. Talk about bread and circuses!

      ps: Apologies for using the word 'gist' instead of 'understanding'. I should have made myself clearer!

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    3. It's definitely an old coot thing. The old coots would say that that is because the whippersnappers don't know they're doing it all wrong.

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  30. The people responsible for fracking on the great barrier reef, or anywhere else for that matter, need to be immediately pulled down into their own special level of hell.

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    1. And it should probably burn for a long time, huh?

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  31. The ubiquity of television sets in public places. There is a little old-fashioned type lunch counter I used to go to once a week. The food was not as good as something I could make at home, the coffee was weak, but the conversation was stimulating. THAT is why I went there. They had a TV, but it was always tuned to the weather channel unless something on the scale of 9/11 happened. Then something horrible happened to change this dynamic. The owner's son -- who worked there -- decided to change the channel from the Weather Channel to daytime talk shows. There was no more stimulating conversation. Everyone just stared at the TV. I stopped going there.

    And what is up with having all the TVs in the bar area of a restaurant tuned in to Sports Center, but leaving the sound off? No closed captioning either. But STILL people stare at the goddamned screen instead of talking to one another!

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    1. They could still text each other, right?

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  32. I just ran into this on another blog: "low and behold ...". Not a typo; the whole post is carefully edited for spelling and punctuation. Not for meaning, apparently.

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    1. Oh dear! Sweet of you to put in "on another blog." Wait: you're seeing other blogs??

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    2. Fine, then, as long as you're not enjoying yourself.

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  33. I was raised in Mississippi and live up the road apiece in rural Maine. If I let language spin my top I would be over the hill. Ahyup, wound too tight. Beside that it is wicked good to hear some variation. My wife is from Massachusetts and when we go to a restaurant and she orders pie you can hear the e on end of pie. I keep telling her the e is silent and that is why I order pi.
    I don't think it is something we have to worry about because soon all conversation will be by twitter.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. I seem to have a twitter account, and every now and then someone decides to follow me, but they don't get very far. After a valiant few weeks of attempting to pop in a bon mot a few times a day, I just settled for putting in a link to this here blog, and now I don't even do that. I love that we still have regional accents. And it's weird that the Maine one and the Boston one are so different, even though they're so close together. Handy by?

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  34. I have been AWOL and return to find 102 comments on your latest post. 102! at that rate, you probably didn't even notice I was gone. But it's good, oh so good to be back! I love you being peevish.

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    1. That IS a lot of comments. This is what happens when you write a post about language peeves to a smart audience. Maybe this is why I don't offend many Republicans, too. They're not looking.

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  35. Welp, if I was you, I'd give up the fight. Wallah! All better.

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