These first two things are banes to the existence of two women whom I love, and for their sakes, I’m going to set the proverbial record straight.
Organic Mama emailed me yesterday. It seems she was listening to NPR (being the lefty humanist that she is) and was prompted to electronically gripe to me:
I just listened to NPR and some presidential candidate said “Where I differentiate with the other candidates…”! I was yelling at my radio! Differ FROM, dolt!!
Ehem, indeed. Differentiate is a verb that is generally used with an object and means, essentially, “to distinguish or mark as different from other such things.” One can differentiate between (or among) things, and one can differentiate oneself from others, but one can not “differentiate with the other candidates” in the way that the.. erm.. dolt above tried to do. He could have fixed this sentence by adding one word and changing another; “where I differentiate myself from the other candidates is…” If he were incapable of this bit of grammatical acrobatics (as it seems obvious that he was), he could have simply said “where I differ from the other candidates is…” and saved Mama a lot of angst.
The other grating problem comes to me via Blue. She goes into paroxysms (look it up) of grammar-induced rage whenever she hears someone say that they “feel nauseous.” Nauseous is an adjective that means “causing nausea; sickening, nauseating.” Her contention is that one can BE nauseous, but one cannot FEEL nauseous. Blue thinks that smart people would say “I feel nauseated.” The prescriptive in me says she’s absolutely right.
This isn’t entirely correct, though. The meaning of the word has expanded to include being “affected with nausea, nauseated.” While I, myself, say that I feel nauseated (though, thankfully, not often, because I’d rather feel anything but nauseated), I don’t grit my teeth when someone complains that they feel nauseous, at least, not because of their grammar. Truth be told, I hate puke so much that I usually don’t stick around long enough, after such a declaration is made, to correct the speaker. That, however, is a post for another time…
Finally, I’m going to address something that makes me crazy, and that I’ve noticed an awful lot in the last week or so.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; when you’re saying something like “the problem is” or “the reason is,” you don’t need to say “is” twice. At least twenty times this week – in restaurants, the grocery store, the health club, the classroom, seemingly everywhere – I’ve heard something to the effect of “the thing is, is there are too many ways to screw this up” or, “his problem is, is he doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings.”
The introductory material in these situations, “the problem is” or “the reason is,” or “the thing is” and the like, are separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma: the rest of the sentence should stand alone as a complete structure without that opening line. If we were to dissect one of my examples above – “his problem is, is he doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings” – and we take away the introductory phrase “his problem is,” we’re left with a sentence that reads “Is he doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings.” Most second graders could tell you that isn’t a grammatically correct structure.
If we take out that second “is,” though, we’re left with “He doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings” – a completely correct (and often true) statement.
Do your part: axe the second “is,” please, and encourage others to do the same.
Happy Wednesday, All!