Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Sample of Verbal Pet Peeves

As many of you, my non-existent readers, might know, I can often be identified as a minor (or sometimes full-fledged) grammar nazi. I definitely like to keep my speech as correct as possible (in most situations) and have been known to mercilessly point out others' grammatical and/or orthographic errors. In tonight's post, I'm going to highlight two particular errors in speech that I see frequently and which, therefore, annoy me more than most others. I've mentioned both before in the past in different forums, but they both continue to plague English speakers worldwide. So they can certainly bear repeating.

"I could care less."

When people don't care about something, they'll often state that they "could care less" about it. This is frustrating to me because what they're saying is actually the opposite of what they mean. If you say you could care less about something, then that means you actually care about it! It's like saying, "I could own fewer apples." If it's possible to own fewer apples, then, logically, you must own at least one apple. Only if you owned at least one apple would it be possible to own fewer than you already do. The same is true for how much you care about something. If it's possible to care less, than you must already care some. And so, to say that you don't care, you must say, "I could NOT care less." That definitively states that you are at the absolute minimum level of caring, which would be to not care at all.

"<blank> and I" vs. "<blank> and me" (aka The Use of First-Person Subject vs. Object Pronouns in Compound Subjects and Objects)

I'm sure every English speaker has been told a million times by both parents and teachers that it is correct to say "<blank> and I" rather than "<blank> and me." The problem is that, while that's very often true, it's not ALWAYS true. Unfortunately, it's popularly thought that, whenever your're talking about yourself along with someone or something else, then you must use "I". However, that actually has absolutely nothing to do with whether you say "I" or "me". What determines which you use is whether you are referring to yourself as a subject of the sentence or as an object.

When you are a subject, then you much use the subject pronoun, "I". For example, "My friend and I went to the park." The subjects in this sentence are "my friend" and "I". Or, more properly, the sentence has a single "compound subject", "my friend and I". The popular rule applies here, so there's no problem.

Things change once you become an object of the sentence. For example, "The man told my friend and I a story." In this case, you and your friend are the objects of the sentence (or, again, you are both part of the "compound object"). As an object, you must now refer to yourself using the object pronoun, "me". Therefore, to say "my friend and I" is now WRONG, despite anything your elementary school English teachers may have drilled into your head. It actually is correct to say "The man told my friend and me a story."

This may seem terribly complicated, but it's really not that hard to figure out which one you should be using. The simple trick is to imagine that you're only talking about yourself. Whether you are the subject of the sentence or you are part of a compound subject, the rule is the same. (The same is true for object vs. compound object, of course.) If you were the only one going to the park, then you would say "I am going to the park." You would never say "Me am going to the park." That's very obviously wrong. Bringing your friend along doesn't change anything. That's why you must say "My friend and I", rather than "My friend and me."

The same trick applies to compound objects. Just imagine you're the only one hearing the story. You would never say "The man told I a story." Once again, that's obviously wrong. Instead, you say "The man told me a story." Adding your friend doesn't change anything here either. Therefore, it's correct to say "The man told my friend and me a story."

And, with that, my pedantic nature has been satisfied. At least until tomorrow when I shall again, undoubtedly, encounter one or both of these persistent errors.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Art of Not Posting

Those of you who have been following my blog may have noticed that I don't post too often. In fact, following my blog is probably about comparable to following an empty bucket of cheese. It really isn't going anywhere on its own, so following it is kind of silly. Thus I expect that, when I address my followers, I'm not really addressing anyone at all. But the fact that I doubt that you're reading this is not what I want to write about.

The purpose of this post is to explain, for the supposed none of you who have been wondering, why I haven't been posting anything. Contrary to popular belief, it's not because I've forgotten about my blog's existence. I actually think about it semi-frequently. It's also not because I hate writing. My hatred of writing has little to nothing to do with how frequently I do it. No... the real reason my blog remains stalwartly void is because I can never think of anything that I think appropriate to write about. That is not to say I have nothing to write about. I actually think of things I could post all the time. But those things are inevitably rejected for any number of reasons. Here are some of the more common ones.

The Idea is Too Negative
I'll often think to write about how and why I don't like something. For example, I hear a Casting Crowns song on the radio and I think about posting about how much the band annoys me. I've even gone so far as to compile a sort of rough draft in my head with a list of every reason for my dislike. Each reason would be elaborated with profound elegance such that none who read them could possibly come away with an opposing view. Or at least that's the way I imagine the post in my head. But, in the end, I always worry that posting about everything I don't like will render my blog annoyingly negative and judgmental. You, imaginary reader, might ask why I don't make sure to also post about things I like to balance the negativity. The reason is because I'm actually fairly resistant to disliking most things. If I do find myself thinking about how I don't like something, I'll almost always feel the need to justify that dislike. I'll think about why I don't like it and come up with a list of reasons. Sometimes I look at that list and realize that none of them are good reasons. At that point I can't really justify not liking the thing and it gets moved to the "I don't really care about it" category. That probably sounds really weird. My point is that I usually think about why I don't like things. The same is not true for things that I do like. When I find something I like, I'm usually content just to enjoy it without over-analyzing my feelings for it. For example, a post about why I love rock climbing would probably go something like this...
Rock climbing is pretty awesome. I've always liked to climb things, so it's natural that I would love climbing rocks. It's a good workout and, if I can find friends to come along, can be a good social activity. I wish I was climbing right now, because that would be fun. Yay for climbing!
As unbelievable as it may be, my blog would be even more pointless and boring if it were filled with posts like that. They certainly wouldn't be able to balance the carefully constructed arguments for why everyone should dislike anything that annoys me. So I've chosen to keep a balance by omitting both sides.

The Idea is Too Divisive
There have been times when I've thought about writing about my opinion on those topics which are constantly causing heated 120-post/hour debates that stem from a single Facebook status post. Now, I really don't think there's anything wrong with discussing the controversial. However, in the end, I just don't like doing it. I've been known to add one or two posts to those status message conflicts from time to time, but that's pretty much all I ever care to do. Even if I could write an entire book on the subject, I'm pretty much always content to concisely make my point as best I can and move on. The real problem is that it's extremely rare to find anyone in those discussions who is actually willing to listen to the other side. People tend to use those arguments to proclaim their opinion (usually as obvious fact) without any intention to actually engage in meaningful discourse. So, even if I do manage to get drawn into one of these debates, I'm always quickly frustrated by the realization that my carefully constructed arguments are mostly being skimmed over. From there, I quickly lose interest in the conversation. So, while I might think to write about such topics, I never think for long before realizing that I'm just not interested in writing about them. Anyway... I don't want to write too much about how I dislike hot-topic arguments and risk tainting the entire blog with negativity, so that's all I say.

The Idea is Too Inane
Far too many blogs fall into the trap of becoming detailed postings of "What I Did Today." That's boring. Even if something happened to me one day that I thought was really interesting, that certainly doesn't mean it's interesting to anyone else. There have been times when I've thought about writing about my experiences at work. But it only takes a moment of reflection to realize that I'm really the only person who cares what I had to go through to replace that thermocouple in the tediously designed fireplace. At least no one cares enough to read a detailed account. At best, there might be a small handful of people who would find something interesting. My coworkers might appreciate a work story. My friends who climb might be interested if I talked about a particular route I was working on. But this blog, despite not having an audience, is targeted toward a much larger group. So I really can't bring myself to write about things that I know will only hold the interest of a select few, if any. That pretty much rules out the entirety of my day-to-day experience.

Despite the difficulty I have in finding topics to write about, I've not given up entirely. I do still plan on posting things once I'm able to think of them. Maybe someday I'll even get the hang of thinking of things and I'll post regularly. For now, I can only hope that it's not another four months before I next get around to producing a post for you to not read. Until next time, à bientôt!