A Rant Regarding Usage & Language Change

Context: A thread on twitter asking writers (presumably) to share their “grammar pet peeves”. The OP’s example was when people say “I’m the kind of person that” (wrongly defined by OP as a grammar “mistake”) instead of “I’m the kind of person who”, and many of the responses similarly regarded word usage commenters deemed “wrong” (ironically, some of these “errors” have been in our language longer than the proposed “correct” forms, but that’s another story).

My response (and the rest of the thread) can be read on twitter here, or where I’ve quoted it below:

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Love it!

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I read the rest of the Twitter thread. So many pet peeves that aren’t even wrong in the first place.

Flaunt for flout, for instance. (Some people even use flout for flaunt).

Less instead of fewer. Been around a while. But I’ll give that one a pass since many style guides still make the (pointless) distinction.

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Someone complained about people using “impact” as a verb. First of all, what? Since when has anyone claimed that was wrong? Second – I looked it up out of curiosity, and it turns out it had been in use as a verb for over 130 years before people started using it as a noun.

Some people have weird ideas of what’s correct/incorrect.

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I saw that, too. Good job on the Etymonline cite!

How else are they gonna feel superior? But really, people spend so much time in school learning the right answer that they never get to learn that sometimes there is no right answer.

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Language perscriptivism is one of my pet peeves. Language change is good and wonderful. And different registered/styles of communication are very important. If I never hear “It’s not ‘me and you’, it’s ‘you and I’” again, it’ll still be too soon.

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Prescriptivism.

:ducks and runs:

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As long as it is understood, right? You can’t just change it to something that no one will understand, but other than that, writing (language) is an interpretation of meaning. How often do our words not effectively cover this? We have to be creative.

In other words: if anyone tells me I have to write “sneaked” instead of “snuck”, my pen is going down their throat. THAT GOES FOR YOU, COMPUTER SPELL CHECK!

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yes but also let me introduce you to internet millennial linguistics

yes but also :slightly_smiling_face: let me :slightly_smiling_face: introduce you :slightly_smiling_face: to internet :slightly_smiling_face: millennial :slightly_smiling_face: linguistics :slightly_smiling_face::slightly_smiling_face::slightly_smiling_face:

Yes, but also let me introduce you to internet millennial linguistics…

(point made I hope?)

(that said, it is absolutely a case of “one must know the rules in order to break them effectively” interwoven with “the rules changed while Strunk & White weren’t looking”)

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THIS SO MUCH. I had to turn spellcheck and grammar check off because it kept throwing up errors when I knew my spelling and grammar were correct. All those squiggly red and green lines were putting me off.

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Or “dived” instead of “dove”. It seems English likes changing the vowel sounds of verbs more than one might have expected.

(Also, I will totally die on the hill of “alright”.)

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I’ll watch you die there. is avid user of “all right”

But all I care about is that the person I am reading is consistent. Sure, I might prefer one thing over another and someone else won’t write it like that. But I learnt to spell “colour” with a “u” while also living in the USA. I get that, it is perfectly fine. All right? Alright? Just as long as someone doesn’t use one in one sentence and a different one in the following.

(Unless it is something like sneaked/snuck in dialogue, of course, because if it’s pronounced differently someone definitely can say it in a way you don’t tend to write it as.)

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“Sneaked” just kind of looks to me like a five-year-old overcorrecting verb conjugations they don’t quite fully understand yet.

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Right? Sneaked looks so strange. I’ve read that “snuck” snuck in during the 19th century and is more common now. We just aren’t used to “sneaked” anymore. But as long as we know what we’re saying, right?

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I’ve always said “sneaked”. Funnily enough, “snuck” looks weird to me.

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I do touch on that near the end :slightly_smiling_face:

(And, to contribute to the sneaked/snuck discussion, I’m all for using snuck.)

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Just wondered why I think I’ve always heard sneaked and not snuck.
Cambridge Dictionary: verb UK ​ /sniːk/ US ​ /sniːk/ sneaked or us also snuck | sneaked or us also snuck.
And Merriam Webster just gives them as alternatives.

OK. We were taught British English at school. Though I wonder what mess my English is nowadays. I write “colour”, but don’t remember what shuld be -ize and what -ise. I suspect the majority of what I read is American. My pronunciation is probably closer to “Oxbridge”, with an accent …

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-ize is American. -ise is UK/elsewhere.

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This has got me wondering what form of the word is used more often here in Australia - Australian English is a weird creature that borrows quite a bit from both US and UK English. Looked it up, and found an article from the Macquarie Dictionary’s blog:

So it seems we use both here equally. I just did a quick search in two of my WIPs, and personally I use sneaked rather than snuck. The former just sounds nicer.

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IMO, a particularly intriguing irregular verb is yeet. I will admit, to me, yote sounds more “correct” than yeeted (though I know yeeted is also used by some), but the intriguing thing is this: WHERE did yote come from?

It seems an irregular past tense would come about by similarity to phonologically-similar irregular verbs, such as meet/met, sleep/slept, etc., so shouldn’t the past tense of yeet be yet? Why does it sound so wrong to say “I yet my water bottle down the hallway” (but not I yote/yeeted it)?

I guess it could be compared to speak/spoke, but that’s literally the ONLY example I can think of where the past tense is formed by changing /i/ to /o/. The only other words I can think of where the vowel shifts to /o/ in past tense contain a different vowel (generally /ai/) in the present. (Admittedly, I can only think of four examples off the top of my head. If anyone would like to point out the /i/ > /o/ shift is a pattern in English, please, go right ahead.)

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