In the criminal justice system*, grammatical errors are considered especially heinous.
*By “criminal justice system,” I of course mean that stratum of culture junkies whose appreciation for popular entertainment is at constant war with their expensive educations and barely veiled senses of superiority.
Did someone call me?
When Weird Al Yankovic’s “Word Crimes” song came out this past summer, many of my friends (compatriots in the above stratum) shared and praised his latest pop-parody ditty. Rightly so! The man is a durable entertainer who’s been productive and relevant for a staggering number of decades.
But I was left a bit cold by this weirdly rage-twinged tune.
I remember when Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” was popular. What a hilariously lugubrious plaint that summed up the angsty tone of so many ’90s pop songs!
Every time it came on the radio, my mom – always vigilant against the scourge of wayward pop culture references, nefarious dialogue or — worst of all, usage errors! — would practically have a rage stroke.
Each time Joan warbled the chorus, my mom would shout to drown it out:
“What if God were one of us. SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD!”
In “One of Us,” this was also one of those cases where switching out the grammatically deficient lyric presumably wouldn’t have affected the scansion of the song. (A topic for another post: the latest offenders to employ the questionable defense that “the meter of the song called for it!” Cf: Ariana Grande’s “Break Free”: “Now that I’ve become who I really are”; Timbaland/Keri Hilson’s “The Way I Are”: “Can you handle me the way I are” (probably not!); Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally”: downright odd pronunciation of “unconditionally”).
Many of the infractions Weird Al cites in “Word Crimes” feel random and/or insignificant. I can’t get behind his insistence on the Oxford comma. And apparently I’m going soft in my dotage, because I can see the utility of using shorthand like “U” (you) and “C” (see). Sure, it’s inelegant, but life is happening fast and it’s at least better than an inadvertently insulting failed autocorrect!
Further: Calling out people who think “espresso” is “expresso”? Um, OK? But it’s a borrowed foreign word and some people aren’t exposed to proper pronunciations. In that category, I’m more alarmed by all the people saying “chaise lounge” (it’s longue!), “chai tea” (chai MEANS tea!) or “segway” instead of “segue” (unless this has all been a viral marketing campaign for personal transporters?).
It appears the rigors of adulthood (read: weekday drinking) have lessened my ability to care about the grammar peccadillos that used to really cream my corn.
But! There remain a few usage errors that can really get under my skin. After all these years, the below remain my hobby horses. Proves I’m still alive!
OK, if we’re just going to make up fake medical ailments: the suffix “-itis” means “an inflammation of.” Are you saying that restlessness is making you a fat senior? A better term would be “freshmanitis” for the Freshman 15!
Even worse — as for Joan Osborne’s infraction — it would be no harder or more complicated to use a more correct form of the word — “seniorosis.” That would more accurately denote a condition afflicting seniors. SENIORITIS must be eradicated!
2) “Hot as balls”
Luckily, this inane, crass-for-the-sake-of-it term has fallen out of fashion. It was biologically non-sensical! I can’t count how many times I’ve told offenders who used this term in my earshot — strangers, even — that testicles hang externally for the express purpose of keeping sperm cooler than it would be inside the body. That’s their entire morphological function. “Balls” contents are actually 1-2° cooler than the rest of the body. If you’re going to get cremasteric, at least know what you’re saying. The phrase should be “cool as balls.”
This will join the previous two in the “why is this happening?” category. My college roommate Shawna first pointed it out to me, when an acquaintance of ours (a Yale student — yikes!) kept referring to “Amanda’s and I’s room.” This was such a foreign coinage to me that I didn’t even understand what the acquaintance was saying at first. I’s? The word doesn’t even look real.
Also related: people using “I” too much in general, as if “me” had some kind of stigma. So FYI (FY-me), don’t put “I” after a preposition or transitive verb. There should be no “just between you and I” and no “he told her and I.”
You need to get those “I’s” checked.