Butchering grammar 6: I don’t like grammar anyways

Some grammar errors make me cringe in a big way, like when I am in line at a store and hear someone say “I didn’t like them shoes.” I get furious at the teacher who let that one slide in her class, way back in third grade. But then again, maybe the teacher herself said it. That makes me think of the impact of a teacher.

Back in the 1930s, when families were leaving the hills of Arkansas and other states in droves, heading west to greener lands, my dad was a boy. Fresh from Arkansas with his parents and loads of siblings, he was a fourth-grade back-woods farmer boy in New Mexico. His teacher didn’t sound like his family at home, nor did she sound like the drawling New Mexico kids from all sorts of backgrounds.

“You talk different,” he drawled. She agreed. They struck up a friendship when he asked her to teach him how to speak better. She worked with him as much as she could, this boy who needed to be back on the farm pretty quickly.

And my dad became the first boy in his family to graduate from college–he even earned his Masters–and he never spoke like his Arkansas family again (not that he was ashamed; he just consciously spoke differently from then on). He left the farm, moved to Colorado, and eventually became a school administrator. That teacher had a lasting impact.

I am certain teachers are out there battling the poor grammar of their students, but I sure do get discouraged when I see signs with poor grammar or hear conversations in public with language not fit for public consumption. Where are the other grammar nazis out there? Am I alone in my obsession? Is the fight for good grammar over?

Anyway, this gets me to my next peeve: the word “anyways.” I hear it all the time in conversation, and I work hard to keep my right eyebrow from twitching. This week I found it in a nonfiction book, in an author’s narration. Really? It passed the editor and proofer! Let’s get it straight: “Anyways” is not a word. Never.

Here is a word around which other words are wrong: myriad. The word is not myriads. It’s singular. Nor does it get the preposition “of” alongside. Never say “Myriads of people” or “A myriad of people.” (Twitch.) Here’s the fact: Myriad means many. You will not hear people say “Many of people” or “Manies (eek!) of people.” The word does not get pluralized, nor does it get that preposition “of.” You would just say “Many people,” just as you would say “Myriad people.”

Have you encountered a teacher who has slammed you for your poor grammar, who has taught you the correct way to say something? Thank her! Chime in here: tell me what she taught you.



Filed under Grammar

8 responses to “Butchering grammar 6: I don’t like grammar anyways

  1. It was in your rhetoric class I learned that toward/forward is American and towards/forwards is British. I still remember–four years later. Thank you.

  2. Michael Wacyk

    Right on Shaunna! I do love the cartoon of the retired English teacher in handcuffs being dragged off by the cops for defacing a “Got milk?” sign. She crossed off “Got” and wrote in “Do you have.” It’s you and Linda in 10 or 15 years!

  3. I might be wrong, but similar to myriad, cohort, is misused a lot. Cohort is defined as a group of subjects who share a similar experience. Unfortunately, since too many people use cohort to refer to an individual, dictionaries have added “accomplice” in their definitions.

  4. Allen

    “Never say “Myriads of people” or “A myriad of people.” (Twitch.) here’s the fact: Myriad means many. ”

    Funny thing about that. Myriad was a noun *long* before it was an adjective. The OED dates the first use of myriad as an adjective to 1800. The noun was at least 300 years older. The idea that the noun usage is wrong is very recent, as in the last 3 or 4 decades, and contradicts more than five centuries of good literary usage. You can read it in Milton: “Assemble thou, of all those myriads” (that quote is in Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, of 1757, which of course doesn’t even mention the version you claim is correct), in Smolett’s 18th century translation of Don Quixote: “That may be true, said Don Quixote ; tho’ her tallness is accompanied and adorned by a myriad of mental graces.”, in Dickens: “the hum of myriads of summer insects”, in Bram Stoker: “myriads of horrible fancies began to crowd in upon my mind”. Both means are valid, and continue to thrive today.

    ‘“Anyways” is not a word. Never.’

    The fact that the vast majority of English speakers understand it contradicts your assertion. Most dictionaries label it as colloquial, which literally, simply means “more common in speech than writing”. That’s probably why you hear it all the time in conversation. It’s found in every modern dictionary.

    • It’s interesting that you appeal to very old usage to argue the first and common contemporary jargon to defend the second. Thanks for your comment.

      • Allen

        You can find old usage to defend the second as well. For instance, the sixteenth century Anglican Book of Common Prayer, “We commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are anyways inflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate.” It eventually disappeared out of formal, literary English, but continued to be used in dialect. (That’s not precisely the same way it’s used today, admittedly).

  5. Rachel Morton

    You taught me “myriad” before I even started your Rhetoric class! I wrote “a myriad of…” in my entrance exam, and you most definitely caught it! I’ve never forgotten that…. 🙂

    And now, I’m the grammar nazi…ask any of my friends. The only time I get corrected is when I’m speaking. I have a tendency to say things like: “I’m gonna go get something real quick.” *twitch* My other grammar-nazi friends will pop me in the head for that one… 😉

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