Friday, 4 January 2013


So, with the pronunciation of Worcester Sauce in mind, I am aware, oh yes, that sometimes my pedantry annoys people. This is OK because it's fair exchange for the deep, physical pain I feel when you lot make mistakes.


OK, it goes like this. There are some things that are either correct, or they're not. There are other things with options, let's call it wiggle room, because I like the term wiggle room (and if you don't, tough titty. I like that one too). There are other things which are free, FREE! Do as you please.

My husband has a few phrases that make him cringe. If he's already grumpy these will really set him off. They include "My bad" and "Earth to [name]" (when someone is not paying attention). Considering he is often the first person to accuse me of pedantry, it's rather funny, but you see, it just goes to show that absolutely everyone has these. Without exception, everyone who has ever groaned at my pedantry, or actually got cross with me for it, has some pet peeve saying or error that irritates them. That's my first defence, it's not just me!

The second defence is that it has to stop somewhere. If we allow words to be spelt any way you please, pronounced any way you please, and to mean anything you please, then there's a slippery slope towards the word banana being spelt bennuno, being pronounced "goldfish" and meaning any old fruit, or possibly a telephone.

In order to communicate effectively we have to have some sort of agreement. The words we use must be defined in some way, by rules. The rules can change, but if they do, everyone must agree to the change. You can't just change the word order, for example, as can often be found in other languages, because in English it can change the meaning. A horse race and a racehorse are two different things.

Language evolves, and people like to play with it anyway, so I have nothing against slang, or even neologisms. But I do get cross with lazy speech, especially when it's just copied for no good reason. Of course, people like to feel "in" by using jargon, or even argot, which is fine among their own group, but a standard form of language makes general communication easier, and more effective.

Since the internet, English speakers are much more aware than ever before of the different forms of English from place to place. Allowances must therefore be made for regional accents, and even usage. This is where the wiggle room comes in. Where does a word or phrase cease to be a regional difference, and become wrong?

I think the best example is the use of "I seen it" instead of "I saw it" or I have seen it". This is widely considered to be a "local variation" in several unrelated places. I've heard it in Norfolk and in Bristol, in England (where seen is pronounced "sin"), and I've heard it used by speakers from Nova Scotia, here in Canada. I am told it's also common in West Virginia. I'm sure there are other examples. Perhaps you've heard them.

What we have to decide, is whether it is simply a non-standard form that has become standard dialect in those places, or whether the users are simply uneducated hicks. No, really. Because it makes a difference. In any case, if it's used by an English student in New York or Toronto, his teacher would get my full support if she threw a chair at him. My point is, there is still such a thing as correct or incorrect within regional dialects. It is therefore perfectly correct for even an educated person in the southern US to use "y'all" in informal speech, but in Toronto...pass me that chair.

So, while there is more than one way to use most words, there is still a right and wrong way, no matter where you are. While I might say "tomahto" and you might say "tomayto", neither of us should be saying "tomma-toe". That's not right ANYWHERE. That's the difference between regional difference and JUST PLAIN WRONG.

Unfortunately there are those who think regional differences are wrong. We can't help them. They need to get their heads out of their arses. They are not pedants, they are language bigots. There's a difference.

The pedant just says "Come now, we made these agreements, now let's stick to them, hmm?"



  1. You must forever feel like you are fighting a losing battle!

    1. Everyone needs a hobby.

      I try to patiently help. English really is a difficult language, even if you were born to it. But I do tease, because you have to - or go crazy.

      I feel just as strongly that "local" is not wrong, as I do about knowing standard forms. The name of a place is pronounced the way the locals pronounce it, and that's final.

  2. Frank gets pouty if I say, "Shut the fuck up"! It is a good thing I do not own a firearm when he says, "You are overacting" or "Nonsense".(that is WHEN I say STFU!)

    My cousin who has decided not to like people from Massachusetts because of their special twang, is bonkers.

    My mother would phone the radio station if the announcer used improper grammar. I once asked her what first attracted her to my father. Her answer, "He was well spoken". Meaning he didn't use double negatives, dees, dem,dose, yous or say good when the correct word had to be well. Nothing about his looks or muscled body or humor.(made me wonder about the mating process)

    My elementary school teachers always commented on my large vocabulary as did my daughters' teachers. (Sure hope I used the apostrophe to denote plural ownership. My FB friend who was a HS English teacher would know. I bet you do too.)

    1. ROFL!!!!

      If people forget apostrophes, I overlook it. It's the extra ones that drive me nuts. But yeah, you were correct.

  3. All pedantry aside, why do I feel the main onus of your little rant was really the ultimate sentence? LOL

    I thought of you just yesterday, in fact, when I saw someone do just that in an advertisement--use an apostrophe to make a plural. Not to properly denote a plural, as Barb did, but just to throw it out there and make a word "look" like it means more than one.

    Like when people take the word "you" and want to say "youse" or "you's," such as when someone will say, "See you later, youse guys." As a writer, I know people talk this way, but it can be painful to see in print, just about anywhere. ;) ~ Blessings!

    1. I like to get it in whenever I can:)

      And yes, dialect speech is one thing, writing it is another. The problem with the urge to create a plural of "you" in English, is that people don't understand the history of this. You IS the plural form. It was the singular form that we lost, it was "thou". An older version of the plural form is "Ye", still used in parts of Scotland. Modern English has a standard form that is correct, and it's quite simple "all of you".

  4. I am guilty of saying y'all (mostly when I go visit). But I was born at the Oklahoma/Texas border, so environment is my excuse. But it must be used correctly. I have a very dear friend that says and writes yalls for the plural. I tried to explain that y'all is already the plural to no avail. He will still say "Do y'alls want more wine?" He lived in Texas for a few early years and picked it up there. It makes my stomach hurt. If he was saying y'all's in place of your's I could live with it. He is simply using it for more than one of you.

    1. Perfect example of people not really understanding what they are saying, which is what leads to most errors. "Could of" is one such example. It is grammatical nonsense. The recent arrival of "Imma" for "I am going to" is another one. It makes no sense because it breaks solid rules of syntax, which really are the unbreakable rules. The next level below this is grunting.

  5. Last summer my friends Brian and Georgie got into a heated discussion over the pronunciation of Banana... it went from the firepit, to facebook... it was hilarious. But as you say, some things are simply a product of where you come from.