Schmenglish XII

10 September, 2010
Rat Fink

Yes, I am the Grammar Hammer. (Thanks, Lars. Mama raised such a clever boy.)

I am Defender of the Faith against the continuing barrage of direct hits our poor language sustains with alarming (and increasing) regularity. But lest you accuse me of captiousness or pretentious and arbitrary verbosity :-) , I will say that I am not a total semantics snob. I like me some slang. So don’t go all David Soul on me. Because I like sentence fragments, too. Like this. So there.

Rather, today’s special is made up of meanings; specifically, mistaken ones. Have you ever used a word, then wondered what it really meant? I have — mostly when writing mind-numbing research papers. I can probably count on two hands the times I’ve reread a sentence, then consulted a dictionary about a word I’d used,  just in case.

Here’s a short list of mix-ups:

  1. Affect is almost always a verb; effect, a noun. Poison ivy doesn’t affect me, but I’ve seen its disastrous effect on others.
  2. Desert and dessert: I ate my cactus-flavored dessert in the desert, under the stars.
  3. Fewer versus less: If it’s something that can be counted, say “fewer.” If you’re talking about something in quantities, say “less.” I have fewer than ten children, which means I have less stress in my life. (Certain exceptions to this rule apply, however.)
  4. Whose versus who’s: Remember to release contractions to make sense of a thing. Whose shirt is this? Who’s in charge here?
  5. When referring to three or more persons or things, say “among.” Use “between” when talking about two persons or things. Let’s keep this between the two of us. Who among us is perfect?

Answer to that last question: no one — least of all, the Fink. I just publish these little gems in the public interest, and to continue to uplift English to its proper height. Because, as you know…

Happy Finkday!

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Rae
Rae
10 September, 2010 7:56 am

“I like me some slang. So don’t go all David Soul on me. Because I like sentence fragments, too. Like this. So there.” Ha! So… you write in stream of consciousness too, ya know? I wish I had brain power to write a blog (something that matters) rather than just my masters homework (something that steals every rational or irrational thought from my brain through my skull without my permission). Have a good day. You should be asleep by the time I’m rolling off the bus tonight… A-town tomorrow, by the way. Can’t stay away, I guess. ReplyRat Fink Reply:September… Read more »

Suzanne
10 September, 2010 8:40 am

I lost a spelling bee in 4th grade because I misspelled desert (or dessert, can’t remember which). My teacher, The Great Mrs. Letourneau, told me a way to remember the difference and that is that you always want a 2nd piece of dessert thus the 2 esses!! I’ve been a dessertaholic ever since and by golly I never misspell it! ReplyRat Fink Reply:September 10th, 2010 at 2:49 pmGreat mnemonic device! Stoney and I were just talking about spelling today, as a matter of fact. We were having the “definitely” conversation. It’s probably one of the most often misspelled words in… Read more »

BoomR
BoomR
10 September, 2010 9:44 am

I have been edified! :-)

…btw, a week from today I’ll be winging my way to see you! Can’t wait!!

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Rat Fink Reply:

YAaAaAAAAaaaay — text me your ETA as soon as you know!

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RD
RD
10 September, 2010 10:04 am

The Grammer Hammer — love it! You’ve authored another gem of a blog. I say that not only between you and me, but also among all of your blog fiends.

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Rat Fink Reply:

Ahhhh….very good, Grasshoppa. You learn well! :-)

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kay
kay
11 September, 2010 11:57 am

countable and uncountable is the key to lesser and fewer – nice ESL trick

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