Grammar Wednesday!

“Mangled sayings” edition!

Here are some of the goodies I’ve heard and/or seen lately:

“Might (could/would/should) of”

“that really peaked my interest”

“all for not”

I’ve actually heard discussion in other forums – I think it was NPR, actually – about how the first one, “I would of come, but I missed the bus,” is creeping into the lexicon. I hereby send out a cry for resistance – the construction makes no sense. “Of” is a preposition and the entire phrase “would have come” is the verb for that clause, and the only way to make any sense of it.

The second example is a little less heinous – the verb peaked really does make sense in the construction, but it’s not generally what the speakers (or writers) really intend to say. To say that something peaked my interest is to say that it brought it to a pinnacle. To say that something piqued my interest is to say that something aroused it and caught my attention. To say that something peeked my interest is just dumb.

Finally, the last phrase is just wrong. Really, what one is saying with that construction is that it was all for nothing, and another word for nothing is naught. Kizz mentioned that she’d seen “more often than naught,” I suspect she found it in some of the grammatically and syntactically abmomidable fanfic she reads, and that’s wrong, too; that phrase should read “more often than not” because, if you expand the phrase, what’s being said there is “this thing does happen more often than it does not happen.”

Today, I leave you with my favorite student-generated sentence from last week’s writing assignments. The students were asked to write an opinion paper, and this particular scholar decided to write in support of Planned Parenthood. The need for more Planned Parenthood-type services is great, she said, because (and I’m quoting here):

“pregnant teens are expanding at an alarming rate.”

Having been pregnant myself – though not as a teen – I can attest to the alarming rate at which pregnant women actually DO expand, but that’s not at all what she intended to say.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!



Filed under Grammar

13 responses to “Grammar Wednesday!

  1. I see “would/could/should of” on such a regular basis in my students’ writing that I often don’t catch it… I am ashamed.

  2. What’s the difference in usage between will and shall? Also, difference in using the lt ending vs. the ed ending? I’m having trouble coming up with an example, no wait, dreamt vs. dreamed.

  3. Oh the wonders of the world wide web!
    I stumbled upon your blog and was amused by the grammatically incorrect works of your students.
    Though in honesty I was amused mainly because I am sure I have committed and continue to commit such crimes in my own work today.

    I’m a first year nursing student, though I hail from an art high school; majoring in the performing arts. I’ve realized that my joy in the arts is writing, playwrights to be more exact.

    Anyway, to end my rambling- I enjoy your blog and I would very much appreciate you reading my recently started blog to critique my style of writing. I’ve fallen from my arts and from any guidance aside from my peers (which can be limiting when wanting to grow)

    Thanks for your time,

    Kaye Sadilla

  4. MFL

    Count me as another stumbler, much like Kaye. I was reading a student blog elsewhere and saw the phrase “peaked my interest.” Having always used the phrase “piqued my interest,” I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t going crazy.

    I’ve never seen the mistake of “would of/could of, etc” before, though. But it comes as no surprise; in speech, the contraction “would’ve” has a pronunciation identical to “would of,” so I guess it was inevitable that the less grammatically-inclined might transfer that mistake into written work.

  5. WHOOPS! Thanks, Bill; I fixed it.

  6. Anonymous

    actually the phrase above “all for not” should actually be “all for naught”

  7. Anonymous

    The usage of “would of, could of, should of” is easily explained as people hearing the contractions “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” and erroneously thinking they’re hearing the word “of”. Regardless, it still merits correction

  8. bubble

    I got here from Kick in the head blog!

  9. Anonymous

    “To say that something peaked my interest is to say that it brought it to a pinnacle.” I don’t think this makes any sense. One’s interest could peak, but it makes no sense for it be peaked. “The theory peaked his life’s work” is just bizarre.

  10. Dorothy

    Have you discussed the popular misuse of “me vs.I”? I am aghast at how this has spread and is not addressed. The media, especially, seems to be adopting the practice of using “I” where “me” should be used. Aren’t these commentators and journalists educated in the proper use of English grammar?
    I agree with Anonymous (9/4/11) regarding “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve”. When spoken, the abbreviated “have” sounds like “of”, thus the mistranslation to written work.
    Thank you for the help you offer. Your bit of humor is delightful. :O)

  11. How about an interpretation of “more often than naught” as “more often than never”?

  12. Fuzzy Dunlop

    I’m going to assume that “abmomidable” was meant to be “abominable”…

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