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May 19, 2006   

It’s strange how something won’t bother you at all, but something else really similar will. As far as language, I’ve noticed that misspellings, mispronunciations, and misconjugations don’t bother me, but using entirely wrong words and pronouncing things that aren’t there do bother me.

To be more specific, here are examples of things that don’t bother me at all:

  • Pronouncing “salmon” without a silent l, i.e. making the first syllable rhyme with “Al”.
  • Reversing the “i” and “e” in various words (with the exception of the word “weird” — this one bothers me everytime I see it as “wierd”)
  • Mistaking the verb root of “conversation” to be “conversate”
  • Ending a sentence with a preposition

These are big huge no-nos to a lot of people, and I do entirely believe [ETA: I totally typed this as “beleive” the first time. Hee!!] that people should work on fixing them, but the reason these kinds of mistakes don’t bother me on a personal level is that when people make these specific types of errors, it is clear that they are still trying to do the right thing by following the known rules. “Salmon” is definitely an example where the correct pronunciation is an exception to the rule in English. I don’t know many words where the “l” is dropped. So I feel like, ok, the person hasn’t learned the one-off rule for this word — that’s ok. They just need to learn it and the problem is fixed.

The “ei” versus “ie” has so many exceptions that it’s again a matter of learning the exceptions rather than someone being ignorant of the overall rule. There is that little rhyme but my undestanding is that there are exceptions even to the exceptions themselves.

As for “conversate”, let me first be clear in saying that no, just because people mistakenly use it often doesn’t mean that we should allow it into the accepted vernacular; I am not saying that at all. But I’m saying that it is not an indicator of stupidity and lack of learning, as people seem to often feel. My take on it is that it’s a lack of specific learning, not learning in general, and can easily be fixed because it in fact demonstrates that the person is capable of solid reasoning techniques. In this case, you have a word that is presented in its noun form. The person knows that it shares a common root with a verb. Take the example of “commiseration”. The verb is “commiserate” not “commiser”. Another example is “fascination”. The verb is “fascinate” not “fascine”. In a similar vein, the person clearly has applied the same reverse engineering method to the word “conversation” to come up with “conversate” rather than “converse”.

The problem with this specific example is that the word “converse” is quite a common word in both common speech and reading, so this usage could demonstrate either that they are not well-read or that people are always using the wrong conjugation in front of them. But I don’t think that makes a person stupid. We learn language by listening to our surroundings. It isn’t an indicator of innate capabilities.

Ending a sentence with a preposition (in non-technical or non-legal writing) doesn’t bother me because, sometimes, the sentences sound so unnatural in casual conversation when you follow the proper rules of grammar. I allow myself and others a lot of leeway in this rule (and others, like using “they” or “you” instead of “one” when discussing a single hypothetical person) just because casual conversations don’t need to sound so stiff and stilted.

I could make a general hypothesis at this point that I don’t mind mistakes that are made when I can expect reasonable, intelligent, and capable people to make them, depending on lack of exposure to the given word or phrase, but I’m not sure that’s defensible.

Take the specific things that DO bother me:

  • Using “deep-seeded” instead of “deep-seated”, e.g. “She has some deep-seated, unresolved issues from her last relationship.”
  • Using “balled” instead of “bawled”, e.g. “I bawled my eyes out when the two main characters finally got together in the end.”
  • Using “would of” instead of “would have”, e.g. “I would have bought that pony, but I couldn’t figure out how I’d take care of it.”
  • Using the “____ and I” construct to the total exclusion of “____ and me” even when proper grammar strictly calls for it, e.g. “Paul decided to join Amy and me for dinner.”

I can’t actually think of a specific example of when people add or drop syllables in words at the moment. For the other examples listed above, I can come up with plenty of scenarios why a reasonable, intelligent, and capable person might consistent make these mistakes, but I can’t get away from the fact that they still bother me.

On reflection, maybe I’m just an self-centered bastard and if I think it’s a mistake *I* can and have made, then it’s ok, but if it’s something that I don’t do, then I get bothered by it. How terrible.

Let me add for clarity that those mistakes listed above don’t make me think less of a person or make me question their intelligence; rather, it’s the mistakes themselves that bug me. I don’t tend to extend my annoyance at the error to the person who makes it.

Furthermore, I had to correct this entry a billion times for errors, and I’m sure it’s still riddled with them. Heh. When I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I found that I consistently made certain mistakes in grammar that I hadn’t known about until the moment I read about them. Heh.

7 Comments
A_B
May 19, 2006 at 2:30 pm

I think this all has to do with your deep seeded anger at Seppo and I. I would of balled my eyes out at the thought if it, but I conversated with Seppo and I realized I didn’t care to.

ei-nyung
May 19, 2006 at 2:44 pm

I’m going to find out where you live, then you’ll be sorry!

*shakes fist*

Becky in Oakland
May 20, 2006 at 1:52 pm

I’ve noticed the shortening of words to turn them into verbs happens a lot in tech, especially with marketing folks. I find myself twitching with laughter at some of their new words (which, of course, I can’t think of right now).

Andre Alforque
May 22, 2006 at 10:33 am

This are big huge no-nos to a lot of people” — These?

I hate punctuation in the English language of America. I never know where to place commas, semi-colons, colons, or parentheses. And it bothers me to no end!

Damn you, Strunk and White!

ei-nyung
May 22, 2006 at 10:51 am

I have no idea what you mean. I never made such a mistake! 😉

roopa
May 22, 2006 at 1:52 pm

I wonder if you are more forgiving of errors that could have been based on a rule because it’s the kind of thing we do when learning a new language, which you have done.
People that have only ever spoken English are harsh in their own special way. The way that involves yelling louder if someone doesn’t speak English.

Although, I gotta say I’ve never heard of ‘conversate’ before, or if I did, I thought it was a joke.

Just today I phone screened two people, and am sorry to admit I assumed that one was dumber than he was based on his pronunciation and vice versa. I guess I’m not that sorry, since I took that time to talk with them and find out what they know and how they actually think.. but it’s funny stuff. Like thinking someone with a British accent is sophistimicated.

ei-nyung
May 22, 2006 at 4:22 pm

Sophistimicated! I love it! 😀

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