I’ve recently come across some rather amusing rants about grammar mistakes on Facebook and various blogs. It seems that a good many authors are appalled by other people’s errors but don’t feel the need to worry about their own. The comments are usually even better entertainment. I was hesitant, though, to write my own critical grammar post. I don’t edit my blog very carefully and would hate to come across as yet another grammar hypocrite. Then, today, I came across two fun little terms and decided to have at it.
The first term is hypercorrection, which is basically the grammar world’s version of trying too hard. If it were a fashion choice, it would look like this:
Or maybe this:
Here is an example: “Let’s keep this a secret between you and I.” The speaker tries so hard to be proper that he gets the grammar wrong. Another example is “I feel badly.” Nice try, but I don’t think you’re having trouble with your sense of touch.
A skunked term is a word whose usage has changed. Examples include bemused, decimate, and hopefully. The guy who coined the term describes two sets of people: group 1 insists that everyone should use the traditional meaning, while group 2 is in favor of the new one. The problem is that these skunked words are potentially distracting to the audience. If you use the new meaning, the group 1 sticklers thing you’re an illiterate doofus; but choose the old, and some people will deem you a bizarre fuddy-duddy. (You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I fall into group 1 most–but not all–of the time.)
What we really could use, I think, is a snazzy term to describe the rampant abuse of apostrophes. I would be extremely disturbed if this unfortunate trend became standard usage. Hopefully, English teacher’s and expert’s will save you and I from this terrible fate.