Author: Gary McCarty

No Longevity, But Maybe Some Levity

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As reported by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, here is a conversation between Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith on TNT’s "Inside the NBA":

Barkley: "I was reading that heavy drinking is not good for your health, so I have to stop."

Smith: "Stop drinking what?"

Barkley: "No, I gotta stop reading."

I agree with the message, but the gotta has gotta go.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

‘Myself’ Is Not a Polite Version of ‘Me’…

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it’s just ignorantly wrong.

Myself is a reflexive pronoun that must appear with the use of me; it cannot be substituted for me.

If you don’t want to talk about yourself because you feel it appears arrogant, feel free never to talk about yourself.  However, if you’re just trying to paper over the ego thrill of talking about yourself, myself ain’t the solution.  It just shows you’re stupid.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

‘Throw Under the Bus’: Common but Hard to Trace

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I’m hearing people use the phrase “throw under the bus” so frequently that I began wondering about its origin.

Best answer I can find is that the origin is either unknown or unfindable.

Here’s one:

From Slang: the Authoritative Topic-by-Topic Dictionary of American Lingoes from All Walks of Life by Paul Dickson (Pocket Books, New York, 1990), under “Automotive Slang,” “throw under a bus — Sales talk for selling someone a car or van with all the extras and options at full sticker price or better.”

Here’s another from Grant Barrett:

“Despite the Urban Dictionary entry (which, like all such dubious etymologies, lacks details–call letters? station manager name?) I was only able to take it back for certain to 1991, when it appeared in a courtroom context. There is also a bracketed quote from 1984, which, as in HDAS style, means that it’s not certain to perfectly epitomize the term being defined, from the rock-and-roll industry. It has it only as ‘under the bus’ not ‘throw under the bus’ or ‘put under the bus’ (which is a less common variant).”

Anybody else want to weigh in?

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Never Trust a Film That Can’t Spell Cannot

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The trailers for the upcoming film about the English literary legend of Beowulf not only make it smack too much of 300 for my taste, but they can’t even spell cannot right. 

This is not too surprising.  I’m actually shocked when I find a student who actually uses cannot correctly rather than ignorantly writing can not.

I’m sure there are many of you out there who will find some ridiculous reference saying that both spellings are correct, but sorry, both you and your references are being silly.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

NotPhrase: ‘A Whole ‘Nother Thing’

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No matter what talents (not many) he displayed on the floor on "Dancing With the Stars," and no matter how well he runs a professional basketball operation, [tag]Mark Cuban[/tag] can butcher the English language with the best of us.

Here’s a NotPhrase he used on TV tonight and one I sometimes use myself:  "A whole ‘nother thing."

I’m not sure how one would correct that.  "A whole other thing altogether" would seem to be the most logical and correct usage.  Or use "a different matter altogether"–there you go!

I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks at the Oxford dictionary haven’t already added ‘nother, but they probably spelled it nother.


Categories: Grammar Sucks

There for Their, and Smith’s for Smiths

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I keep chalking up abuses of the English language for my hoped-for ultimate word on correct English usage in my book Fast Food English.

In my English composition class this past week, I sat through (maybe I should say thru, huh?) endless presentations where, without exception, the presenters used there for the possessive their.

In general, native English users in the United States have a hard time with the possessive, often using it’s for its–and the list goes on.  (Clue: possessive pronouns never–should be easy to remember–use apostrophes.)

I owe this one to Copyblogger, who runs a blog on copyediting; in his latest e-mailing, he pointed out that people nowadays (or should I say, like my students, now days) get all confused over the apostrophe and use it to form plurals.  He used the example of the erroneous boy’s for boys.

However, I’ve got an example closer to home.  Each morning when I drive down my street, I see a see in front of someone’s home that says, "The Smith’s" (name changed to protect the guilty). 

Now, even if you put a noun behind this construction to make it a true possessive, such as The Smith’s House, it would still be incorrect because Smith is not plural.  Smiths is, just as Joneses is for Jones.  Simple pluralization rules apply, which I’ll broach one day in my Building Blocks series.

For now, I’ll just point out the abuse.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

‘Portmanteau’ the Word Carries Some Baggage

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It’s either a large leather suitcase with two compartments, or a combination of two words to form one new word.  What is it?

Of course, if you read the title, you’ll surmise that it’s portmanteau.

What you’re reading here is a portmanteau–a combination of Web and log, or blog.

Other notable examples are smog (smoke and fog), motel (motor and hotel) and brunch (breakfast and lunch).

Collectively, these are all portmanteaux.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

The Kiss That Made Film History

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In tribute to actress [tag]Deborah Kerr[/tag], who passed away yesterday at 86, I offer here a clip of her kiss on the beach with [tag]Burt Lancaster[/tag], arguably the most famous scene in film history, certainly in terms of the sheer number of still photographs showing the kiss (okay, so this has nothing to do with English, but Ms. Kerr was British):


Categories: Grammar Sucks

Spot On for Bill O’Reilly: To Bloviate

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The dictionary definiation of bloviate is "to speak pompously," and if that doesn’t sum up people with causes in America, nothing does.  So my guess is that, if you hate Bill O’Reilly, you’re probably a far-left ideologue and/or a bloviator (the two usually go hand in hand). 


Categories: Grammar Sucks