Media Criticism

Pedants Are Revolting: Grammar Nitpick Sparks Barnyard Henpeck


Andrea Barham's The Pedants' Revolt. Yours starting at Β£0.01 on Amazon.

Call it the circular firing squad or the pot calling the kettle black or the hoisting of the jackanapes on his own petard (actually, please call it that last one). Years ago, esteemed Hit & Run commenter R C Dean considered the law under which anybody who points out a "typo, misspelling or grammatical error" will in turn commit "some kind of typographical, spelling, or grammatical offense."

Now Scott Stein sifts through a CNN comment thread that puts the snicket in persnickety to find a tragic example of Dean's Law in action. (Will we ever learn?) 

One or two commenters blow the whistle on the author's violation of the underpublicized "I've got" injunction. But no sooner have the grammar constables taken off after the illiterate wordstress than they are besunken in a slough of misplaced subjunctives and possessive pitfalls: 

"I've got nearly 20 years of experience in the classroom…"

I've got – if it wasn't so sad, it would be funny.


You're opinion died at "got". Sorry.

Very funny. All the usual characters show up for the Hobbesian copyedit of all against all. Even the romantic who sings that we must cast aside these Latinate chains that bind our rough Teutonic tongue and give full Nordic will to the Queen's English. That person goes by the name Uthor and calls people Nazis. (Isn't there a Web 1.0 rule about that too?)

If anybody knows the logic behind the prohibition on "I've got," please pipe up in the comments. Extra credit to anybody who can explain why "the fact that" is grounds for public ridicule.

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  1. Tim, be honest: you proofread this post about twenty times.

    1. looking for the bilover?—datebi*cO’m— is a site for bisexual and bicurious singles and friends.Here you can find hundreds of thousands of open-minded singles & couples looking to explore their bisexuality.sign up for free.

      1. Yes, but are they pedants?

        1. why? are u a pedantphile?

  2. It should be “I can has.”

    I saw it on the Internet.

    1. Nope, it’s, “I can haz.”

      1. p.s. I wasn’t actually correcting you, just making fun of people who would.

      2. Am I the only person who thinks the lolcats stuff isn’t funny?

      3. I think it depends on what side of the pond are you on.

  3. I gots to know!

    1. 6 bullets


  4. All the usual characters show up for the Hobbesian copyedit of all against all. Even the romantic who sings that we must cast aside these Latinate chains our rough Teutonic beast tongue and give full Nordic rein to the Queen’s English. That person goes by the name Uthor and calls people Nazis. (Isn’t there a Web 1.0 rule about that too?)

    That is hilarious. Kudos goes to you.

    As for “I’ve got,” the thing that gets prescriptive linguist types in a frenzy is that the proper construction for the present perfect tense in English is [subject+have/has+past participle]. The past participle form of “get” is “gotten”. However, “I’ve got” is such a common idiom that it is silly to assume such supercilious pose about it.

    Similarly, “the fact that” is seen as a stylistic error as opposed to a grammatical one.

    1. I dislike it because it’s inefficient. I have conveys the same meaning as I’ve got, and it contains less punction, and few word concepts.

      1. This, for me.

        I have a number of pet peeves along this line. Sample: “ultilize” instead of “use”.

    2. “gotten” is not considered proper in British English. They consider it improper or archaic.

      1. Come along and sing with me: “I’ve gotten a lovely bunch of cocoanuts!”

        1. I’ve gotten a lovely bunch of cocoanuts at Safeway before.

          I’ve got a lovely bunch of cocoanuts at home.

      2. “gotten” is not considered proper in British English. They consider it improper or archaic.

        Yes, this is true. In some regions of America it is also considered archaic, but strangely not in New England. However, most authorities in American English consider gotten to be the proper past participle with “got” as an acceptable, though idiomatic form.

        1. I had two versions of the same English textbook–one British English and one American English. They had lists of the same irregular verbs and the British English text had the past participle of get as “got” and the American English as “gotten.”

          1. Did it also contain a large excerpt explaining why American English sucks dick and deserves to die in a fire? A Year 11 English textbook I got when I was there in 2004 did — eight or nine pages.

            Those dudes need to calm the fuck down, man.

            1. “Sucks dick” and “die in a fire” sound like Americanisms to me. I call shenanigans.

              I imagine there are Canadianisms but I’ve never heard that word used.

              1. huse.

                You, know that structure that keeps the snow off your head.

      3. I seem to recall that many Brits deride the American tendency to combine the verbs “have” and “got”. For them, “I have” is correct and “I have got” is an abomination.

        But who cares what those bloody poms think anyway, right?

  5. It’s because people think you mean, “I’ve begotten.”

      1. Sorry, God. Jesus is yours.

    1. ill-begotten gains? I’ve a lovely bunch of ill-begotten coconuts?

  6. Language evolves. Deal with it. Read some Civil War era letters sometime and note how they use “be” verbs.

    As long as you’re intelligible, I think it’s ridiculous to bust people on this stuff.

    But I’ll keep doing it on the internet anyway.

    1. I’m okay with changes in language. Before the printing press and especially the written word, it evolved continuously. It still tries to, and does, though a static written record has slowed that process somewhat.

      However, I am not okay with stuff like getting homonyms mixed up. And fucking superfluous apostrophes.

      1. Mixed homonyms rein. Or reign in you’re enthusiasm, whatever amount you’ve got.

        1. like rein on you’re wedding day.

          1. When it rains it pours and one should rein in one’s compulsion to pore over this stuff. ‘Bye!

          2. only if you are into that pony stuff…..

  7. Years ago, esteemed Hit & Run commenter R C Dean considered the law under which anybody who points out a “typo, misspelling or grammatical error” will in turn commit “some kind of typographical, spelling, or grammatical offense.”

    I thought that was “joe’z law of the intarnets”.

    The corresponding “RC’z law” was about someone making a spelling or grammatical error that produces a different, comical meaning.

    1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is “joe’z law”, and I’m pretty sure I’ve fallen prey to it a few times.

      1. In fact, here’s RC Dean himself citing (and violating) joe’z law.

      2. Yes, RC’s Law is when your spelling or grammatical error makes your statement funnier or even more apt (from other posters’ point of view) than it would be if you hadn’t made the mistake (which is basically what Tulpa said). We’ve all fallen prey to it.

        Correction time, Tim!

        I coin a new law: every time someone attributes the origin of joez’ law, they do it to the wrong person.

        1. my metadetector just exploded.

          1. That’s what you get for buying a cheap one, tightwad.

            1. No, it exploding and harming wylie is a feature, not a bug. Engineers labored many hours to achieve that result.

        2. Wouldn’t that properly be “Episiarch’s corollary”?

          1. Starring Adam Sandler.

            1. “Um… Okay, how about this: Adam Sandler is, like, in love with some girl. But it turns out that the girl is actually a golden retriever…or something.”

              1. Its genius! We can call it ‘puppy love’!

              2. There is a ‘derp, derp, derp’ in there somewhere. Speaking of which, there is also a new Rob on tonight!

                1. Who let Rob Schneider back on TV?

                  1. Adam Sandler, his owner.

                2. Rob Schneider has a new show? What’s it about.

                  You know what, never mind. I think I can guess.

          2. Sure, if you want, you pedant.

          3. “Episiarch’s corollary” is his pet name for his junk.

        3. On the other hand, though, fuck joe.

        4. Best thread ever.

          “Traveling in Tim” is an RCs law example i believe.

    2. Y’all do know that others have already beat you to the naming of these laws, yes?

      1. (Yeah, I know, “already beat” is redundant.)

        1. (And it should have been “already have beat,” anyway.)

          1. Self pedantry is like self abuse – don’t do it in public.

            1. Dude, chicks love a big pedant.

              1. Chicks dig the fact that I’ve got a big pendent.

          2. Not “have beaten”?

            1. Either “beat” or “beaten” works as the past participle of “beat.”

              1. Not with nik it doesn’t.

      2. McKean has formulated ‘McKean’s law’, a variation on Muphry’s law: “Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error.”[8]
        ^ “A word to the wise”. (12 August 2008). The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), pp. A14.…..ent_667023

        The reference is from 2007; H&R wins the copyright

        Funny thy speeled Murphy incorretly -insider joke? πŸ˜‰

        1. Plus this McKean’s Law is from Canadia, so it doesn’t count in the rest of the world.

          1. Kinda like the way Americans think they invented Basketball?

    3. Pre-threaded comments, joe (and so many others).

      HnR was so much better then.

    4. Tulpa is correct.

    5. ugh. those days.
      *bites self in taint for favorably referencing that fuckhead Woo meister*

  8. Is “I’ve got” bad grammer? It’s redundant I suppose. But I think it’s okay because it implies more immediacy, as in, “I have $4500 in my bank account, but I’ve got $12 on me.” So the “got” acts in this case as an adjective, substituting for “only”. It can substitute for many adjectives, and adverbs as well. The fact is, language is fluid, and people should just be happy we can communicate with each other.

    1. That’s a novel interpretation.

      1. It’s novel that using different words might convey particular meaning that is specific?

    2. I’ve never seen “got” used as an emphatic. Nor as an actual adjective.

      1. You have got to be kidding me.

    3. “I’ve got” = “I have got”.

      It makes no grammatical sense when you unpack the contraction, but it’s fallen into such common use that it’s acceptable, the way that calling an all-you-can-eat meal in Hawaii a “BOO-fay” has slipped into acceptability.

    4. EDG: Your example and explanation make no sense.

  9. Using “Nazi” to mean “strict” is one of my pet peeves. Nazis killed millions of people.

    Words have the meaning that people understand them to have. (Who is the dictionary to tell me what words mean?) And perhaps needlessly appealing to emotion should be another of his pet peeves. National Socialists killed millions of people and they were strict about everything.

    1. But most individual Nazis only killed a few people each, if any. It was their mindset of strict adherence to rules and subservience to authority that allowed them to kill millions collectively.

      But yeah, correcting someone for a minor grammatical or typographical error isn’t on the same level.

      1. It was their mindset of strict adherence to rules and subservience to authority that allowed them to kill millions collectively.

        Well it’s clear that they weren’t the “right people”!

        1. Both those killed and those doing the killing.

    2. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean?neither more nor less.”
      “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
      “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.”

    3. National Socialists killed millions of people and they were strict about everything.

      They killed millions of people because they were strict about everything.

      1. At least they had an ethos.

    4. The dictionary doesn’t define words, it’s explains the definitions of them that are in common use.

      Otherwise not one single aspect of English would have changed over the last 100 years, excepting the addition of new terms.

  10. Tim, be honest: you proofread this post about twenty times.

    I always assume Cavanaugh is spot on with his grammar. Any Reason staffer that directly corrects my grammar is tops with me (and reminds me of my father).

    For pedants everywhere, I give you the inestimable Stephen Fry:

    1. I WIN!!

      1. Ugh, nice job Veemee Sashimi. You do win. You are clearly an intelligent, erudite, well-read person of the highest order.

        You’re probably good looking too.


    2. I’ve always loved that video. I just wish someone had posted it earlier.

      1. Hey, I gave it an intro at least.

        1. I think you’ll find that Stephen Fry is the very definition of “a man who needs no introduction.”

          1. C’mon man. Two minutes. It took me that long to type the post, search the Googles and link the video.

            Depending on how one looks at it, one could be charitable and say I was first– by virtue of comment post inflation.

            I’m never good enough for you.

            1. *runs out of room crying*

            2. I’m never good enough for you.

              Just remember that and we’ll get along fine.

  11. If anybody knows the logic behind the prohibition on “I’ve got,” please pipe up in the comments.

    I’ve (got) no idea.

    But I do know that “I’ve got” just sounds better — stronger, crisper — than “I have,” because of its hard consonant.

    1. Just think of McEnroe yelling “you have got to be kidding me!”

      The got is entirely necessary.

    2. I agree with your astute observation regarding the phonosemantics of the “I’ve got” construction.

      1. It’s the same reason I appreciate that Tim used “anybody” rather than “anyone.”

        And it’s the same reason I just used “rather” instead of “instead.” Although I just used “instead” in this prior sentence because the rhythm was better.

      2. I wrote an article for *Verbatim* magazine on “have got.” I made the point that the extra syllable sounds more satisfying to both speaker and listener because the consonants, as TomD says, make it “stronger, crisper. The low back vowel also carries well.

        I compared it to the “pas” that supplements the French negative “ne.” English “have” is less wimpy than “ne,” but it still benefits from that extra syllable.

        Sorry, but I can’t point you to the article on line; *Verbatim* stopped putting up PDF copies two issues before they worked their way back to the one with my article in it.

  12. Even the romantic who sings that we must cast aside these Latinate chains that bind our rough Teutonic tongue and give full Nordic will to the Queen’s English. That person goes by the name Uthor and calls people Nazis.…..qc5xzp.gif

  13. Irregardless of the principal involved, I’ve got a well idea that this post is real badly.

  14. (I got better.)

    Extra credit to anybody who can explain why “the fact that” is grounds for public ridicule.

    It’s often filler that doesn’t do anything, which often sucks. But “the fact that” is primarily stylistic, and it’s a style assholes don’t like. “The fact that I’m a JOO…” sounds poor-peopler than “My being a JOO…” (except that there are no poor JOOS). That’s it.

    “I’ve got” is the same sort of thing. It identifies its user as unbothered by the semantic mechanics of “I’ve got,” because they’re busy foraging for lemon rinds in the gutter so their kids won’t get scurvy.

    1. What is you doing, good sir?

  15. Two problems with “I’ve got,” first is that most of the time when you say I’ve got, you really mean I have, which, thanks to the contraction, you’ve already said: “I have got.” That makes the last word redundant, and therefore naughty.

    Second was pointed out before, if you really mean to say something different than “I have,” the way to do it is to say “I’ve gotten.”

    1. Except the redundancy is benign. It might be unsightly, but it isn’t incorrect.

      1. like NBA Basketball

        1. +1 not so superbowl

  16. I’ve gamboled through the dictionary and have never come across this.

    1. You mean “thru” and “have never came”, right?

      1. I spose

        1. We isn’t like those retards at Reason, you now! Were smart!

          /WashPo commenter

          1. Your not as smart as me.

  17. I love how so many native English-speakers think their language is easy because it’s so widespread.

    Some American tourist goes to India and discovers many folks speak decent/good English, and spends five minutes of the broadcast explaining how he feels culturally inferior to the guy bathing in sewage because he knows English.

    It seems to get lost lost on people that it’s only that way because so many people learn it from a young age. I bet we could all learn Hindi if we spent years on it, too.

    1. English is actually quite hard to learn. As someone who has dated foreigners for whom English is a second language, they will tell you–quite emphatically–that it’s a pain in the ass.

      1. Yes, because German verb tenses are so much easier.

        1. That’s funny, I don’t recall comparing English to German in any way…you dirty pedant.

        2. German’s considerably easier to learn, generally, for Russophones. I don’t know about the universal standard for it, however.

          1. the real tricky bit is the indefinite articles like ein, eine, einer, eines

            1. Are you a speaker?

              1. A long time ago. But after a few days in Germany it usually comes back. So far.

                1. I suck balls at German. It’s one of the languages I’ve never even looked into. Any particular super-quirks that make vases and TVs fly and shit?

                  1. Don’t speak improper German to a German. They won’t even pretend to figure out what you are trying to say. They will switch to English instead.

                    1. I once pissed off a German guy by speaking Russian. They still hate Russians in the “Far East”.

      2. English is objectively harder to learn, and especially master, than French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and the Western Slavic group of languages, for example.

        My father’s a good first-hand example — he’s fluent in Italian after only three years, but he still has significant quirks with English after decades in the United States.

        1. I like how russian has half the words but twice the anger as english. We fill a sentence with articles and what not while they say shit like “What Eat!” as opposed to “What would you like to eat sir?” (Ms. Bandit insists the lady was just being rude but i had about a tape and a half of russian and I understood her fine).

          1. I’m fully bilingual (English and Russian), and it gets tiresome trying to explain to people that what you were describing is an integral part of Russian — that is, short, single-purpose sentences like that. They’re not only permissible under the rules of Russian syntax and grammar, they’re as natural components of it as anything else. For example, what you said:

            “What would you like to eat tonight, Mr. and Mrs. Bandit?” (Limetree waiter)

            “Shto budite, gospada?” (Literally, “What have, folks?” (Russian waiter).

      3. English is actually quite hard to learn. As someone who has dated foreigners for whom English is a second language, they will tell you–quite emphatically–that it’s a pain in the ass.

        Fascinating. I’ve heard the exact opposite.

        My grandfather was a linguist and I’m ashamed I never asked him his opinion.

        As someone who loves languages and have done some cursory learning of Chinese, next to a couple of latin languages I know considerably more about, english is fairly straightforward.

        My Grandfather who had spent his entire adult life in Czechoslovakia teaching foreign diplomats english gave me a quick primer in the Czech language.

        My own name changed about 9 different ways just depending on how you talked about me and in what tense.

        English may not be the easiest, but I’d argue it’s in no way the hardest.

        1. Well, if you want complex, Latin is the one that will impose the future on you. Latin is ridiculously overcomplicated with massive redundancy. In Latin, your name would change just as much as it did in Czech, and don’t get me started on the subjective tense.

          English is tough because is has a shitload of irregulars, it has articles, and is loaded with slang and idioms.

          Is it the toughest? Not at all.

          1. At least the rules in Latin tend to stay, not that any authors adhere to them.

            Attic Greek is just one giant exception & made me rip my hair out & cry!

        2. Fascinating. I’ve heard the exact opposite.

          I think it’s conventional wisdom that English is a very difficult language to master.

          1. English is a very difficult one, but shit like Hungarian and Mandarin is worse. DO NOT WANT.

        3. You speak Chinese? That’s not very American.

          1. I do not, I’ve spent moments of my life learning some absolute basics, and to the western ear, learning a tonal language is almost like describing color to a blind man. But episiarch is correct about the large numbers of irregulars in english.

            However, regarding the slang, it’s been argued (citation required) that the prevalence of slang exists in the english language because the english language lends itself to quickly made up words.

        4. 1) Russian’s also very heavily cased, and verbs always fall through with second-language learners.

          2) It’s weird that our experiences differ so. I’ve found Romance languages easier technically.

        5. I don’t find case endings hard at all.

          I’ve been trying to pick up Finnish as a way of keeping my mind active (and because I’d love to go back there after the short stay I had 20 years ago), and it’s the verbs that are much tougher, especially the participles and the “infinitives” that act like participles.

          Of course, I’ve already studied German (my grandparents’ native language) and Russian (also has case endings), so that might be part of the reason why I find case endings a relatively easy concept to pick up.

          1. 1) How good are you at those languages, respectively?

            2) “… so that might be part of the reason why I find case endings a relatively easy concept to pick up.”

            It must be, because casing is rape for the unfamiliar.

            1. Pretty good at German, since I make it a point to listen to and read German-language news on the Internet every day. Not as good at Russian as I used to be. πŸ™

              I’d argue that it’s verb aspect that is rape for the unfamiliar. (Chinese-style tone would probably be worse, except that I’ve never tried to study Chinese.)

          2. I’ve been trying to pick up Finnish as a way of keeping my mind active

            That’s a funny coincidence. I pick up Swedish chicks to keep myself active. Finns, harder to find, but certainly worth the effort, I’m sure.

          3. Case endings are particularly difficult for people who have not studied grammar rigorously. By that, I mean their native language grammar. If you don’t understand IOs, DOs, OPs, PNs, you’re screwed with languages like Latin and Russian.

            1. I found Latin exceedingly easy to learn because of case endings and the like– coupled with the relative lack of irregulars, it made learning the language almost like learning to multiply and divide; once the basic tables are committed to memory, they pretty much do the work for you. And rather than requiring prior knowledge of the arcana of English grammar, I found that learning Latin demystified the subject, which has always been part of the rationale for studying Latin in high school.

            2. My first term of Russian, we had to buy a book called “English Grammar for Students of Russian”. I find that knowing English grammar well really helped with learning Russian.

      4. English is actually quite hard to learn.

        Only for Asians, really.

        What is embarrassing is that many scandinavians speak fluent english in their teens just because they’re taught to, while americans who train in second languages are proud if they can speak passable spanish after 10 yrs of study. Retarded, we are.

        Recommended book = “the Adventure of English” by Melvin Bragg. Fuckin awesome.

        1. Scandinavians and many others “speak fluent English in their teens” because English is the lingua franca, and it’s culturally and usually legally obligatory. Americans don’t give a shit, for the most part, because our mother-tongue is the lingua franca anyway.

          When it comes to languages, I’m nothing special, and I’ll bet you my house I could learn Finnish in a year.

          1. English is the lingua franca

            Considering that English was not a contributing tongue, the comparison…

            oh shit, my pedant-circuit just blew a fuse.

          2. I’ll bet you my house I could learn Finnish in a year.

            I’ll bet you *my* house it wont help you a fucking whit in life. πŸ™‚

        2. I worked with a Peruvian woman whose daughter learned flawless American english — I mean accent and everything — between ages 12 and 14, living in Denmark and watching Friends for 2 hours a day. It was impressive. I could never quite muster the same hatred for the show after that. As long as I didn’t have to watch it.

          1. Jaromir Jagr learned English watching “Married With Children”

          2. There are just some people that have a natural talent for languages. You get people that storm through Mandarin in a year in their teens.

            1. Mandarin is not that hard, aside from pronunciation and memorizing ideograms. It’s not as easy as Germanic or Romance languages, but the difficulty is exaggerated. The grammar is extremely simple: no tenses, no conjugations, etc.

              At the same time, I can think of a half billion ways to say “to be” in Japanese that depend on setting, whether the subject is living, what the status of the speaker is, what the status of the subject is, what the status of the listener is, etc. (aru, iru, oru, arimasu, imasu, orimasu, oraremasu, gozaimasu, irasshaimasu, da, de aru, desu, de gozaimasu, etc.). And none of those impart much information on tense; they all can mean “is currently,” “will be” or “is and has been.”

              Now, I suppose it does tell you a lot more about social hierarchy than an English sentence, but it’s mostly superfluous as status is usually predictable just by looking at folks.

        3. I took Spanish for eight years and at this point can barely read it. I took Japanese for three and lived in Japan for two and am near-native. It’s all about exposure. There’s no reason for a high school student to care about Spanish; we have a lot of second-generation immigrants who are perfectly capable of speaking both, and let’s face it, the lingua franca of business and entertainment is English.

          The big reasons Asians have trouble with it is the language is almost never taught by capable native speakers, and immigration is so low that there’s no real impetus to learn the language. They don’t start young, and they don’t learn any other languages (most Europeans learn several languages; learning a third language is much easier than learning a second).

      5. As someone who has dated foreigners for whom English is a second language, they will tell you–quite emphatically–that it’s a pain in the ass.

        You may have misconstrued their meaning. Were you fucking them in the ass at the time? In retrospect, were they telling you to quit raping them?

      6. Depends on your mother tongue. Since English developed from West Germanic languages I think it is not that difficult to learn it when your first language is German. I for one have much more trouble learning Romanic languages.

  18. Semi-OT: Who else here can understand Middle English?

    1. Ne ic. Ic i b?o aldgeddung l?rh?s.

      1. All right, where did you find the translator? I just spent five minutes Googling for one.

          1. I considered doing that, but figured I might screw up the actual grammar.

            1. It was an easy sentence and I took Latin so I think it’s mostly right.

    2. I understand Modern English

      1. Shitty band

      2. Shitty band

    3. Res Publica Americana|2.2.12 @ 8:04PM|#
      Semi-OT: Who else here can understand Middle English?

      I only understand half of it. (ba dum tiss)

  19. OK, since this came up earlier today, someone explain the problem with using ‘them/their’ as the 3rd person singular adjective when gender is neutral or indeterminate instead of the God-awful he/she/it his/her/its?

    1. There isn’t one.

    2. It’s fine. There’s even a song I’ve gotten to hear called them their eyes.

    3. It’s pretty much completely accepted in British English at this point to use they/them/their/theirs as gender-indeterminate singulars. It’s also widely accepted in American informal English, but still derided in more formal communications on this side of the pond. That ain’t going to last too much longer though.

      I speculate that the Brits had less resistance to this because they already parse many nouns as plural that Americans would consider singular, e.g., in English-English you would write “the team have left” or “the team are on the bus,” while in American English you would use “has” and “is,” respectively. And in formal written American English, you would also write “the team looks forward to meeting its new coach,” but I could easily see colloquial speech coming out as “the team are looking forward to meeting their coach”–backward-infection from the (“incorrect”) “their.”

      Sorry. I was a copy editor. Who previously studied linguistics.

      And to actually answer your question: there is no “problem.” It’s just not standard formal written English (yet).

      1. “His” as the gender indeterminate singular is very widespread, and I use it interchangeably with “their/they”.

        1. Yes, and that’s what was traditionally correct but is, of course, now considered sexist.

          As a bad post-feminist, I just can’t be bothered. And I spend a lot of time reading pre-war literature, so it seems normal to me.

          1. That’s good to hear, because that’s one of the most retarded things uber-feminism has conjured up. Ever.

            Let’s mold our language to their sociological preferences, eh?


            2. Yes, I suffer horribly from false consciousness.

              I even (gasp!) prefer to be addressed as “miss.”

          2. I also use he/his as gender neutral, but worry about seeming sexist, so I randomly mix it up with she/her in a gender neutral context…

            1. I’ve just gone with “it”.

              I do a lot of contract drafting, and I despise the “he/she” abomination, so now I just refer to the parties as inanimate objects.

      2. all that and not one mention of “one”.

  20. All I know is that if “We’ve gotta get out of this place” was good enough for the Animals, well then, by golly, it’s plenty good enough for me.

    1. There’s a good sub-thread for you: The little grammar errors in song lyrics that make you nuts.

      I give leeway to rock ‘n’ roll lyrics 99.9% of the time — you pretty much have to — but there are a couple of instances that manage to get under my skin. There’s some Doors line that pinches my brain every time I hear it. Damn, now I can’t remember it.

      1. Oh, duh:

        You know that it would be untrue
        You know that I would be a liar
        If I was to say to you

        1. The “was/were” confusion is really common. We should stop it by any means necessary *primes nuclear bomb*.

          1. First time I heard “What if God was one of us?”–I screamed at the car radio. “If God WERE one of us, He would use the subjunctive correctly!”

        2. The thing about “was/were” that gets me is it doesn’t even sound bad in music. It’s not an elective thing like Hound Dog‘s “ain’t nothing but” or (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Pink Floyd had Wish You Were Here.

          And after checking the lyrics to that very song, she has lines like “If you were faced with him.”

        3. Not half as bad as

          I’m gonna love you
          Till the heavens stop the rain
          I’m gonna love you
          Till the stars fall from the sky for you and I

      2. I’ve gotten you under my skin….

      3. Are we human? Or are we Dancer?

        1. WE ARE DEVO!!

      4. Ahh yes, another one: “I only have eyes for you” is a notoriously ungrammatical song lyric.

      5. Oooh, I have one, and I’ve been wanting an excuse to complain about it for years!

        In “Back on the Chain Gang,” Chrissie Hynde sings, “And I’ll die as I stand here today/knowing that deep in my heart/they’ll fall to ruin one day/for making us part.”

        The “deep in my heart” is disturbingly misplaced. She can only actually be saying that their fall to ruin will happen deep in her heart. I should never have even thought about parsing it; it’s fine poetry but now it destroys me to hear.

        1. Yeah, she needed to move that “that.”

          Oh, and marry me.

          1. Only if we can still listen to the song sometimes.

            1. We shall listen and cringe together.

      6. Grammatically correct song titles, such as, “you [aren’t anything] but a hound dog”

      7. That would be “There are some Doors line(s) that pinches my brain… etc.

      8. In “Live and Let Die,” Paul sings:

        “…this ever-changing world in which we live in.” I always sing it as “…this ever-changing world in which we’re living.”

  21. OK, since this came up earlier today, someone explain the problem with using ‘them/their’ as the 3rd person singular adjective


    1. I assumed it was a mistake.

    2. Well, that’s embarrasing.

      Many years ago, I score 800 on the SAT verbal. I suspect they’re going to be rescinding that now… πŸ™

    3. “Their” is the third-person plural (possessive) adjective, so he’s only half wrong.

  22. I’ve got no problem wif varmints sayin’ I’ve got. Th’ fack thet some varmints reso’t t’public ridicule is of no corncern t’me.

  23. Like arguing if the past tense of dream is dreamt or dreamed

    1. Recently I was told not to say ‘leapt’ but ‘leaped’.

      1. Sounds like you are getting a lot of advice to ditch British/commonwealth preferences in favor of American ones.

        1. Which is heartily satisfying and induces smugness, because I really despise Britain and the Commonwealth. On one hand, fuck them all and right on.

          On the other, just let languages flow and evolve naturally. Who cares, right?

            1. In fact, combine all of the options into one — and you’ve made the language more complex. Take that, Asians!

      2. As long as you keep rooves, hooves, staves, beeves, etc for pluralizing words that end in vowel then f, I’m cool. Staffs bothers the shit out of me, roofs and hoofs probably dont. Beef has become like moose, singular and plural, but I like beeves.

        1. For me, it’s always been:

          Roofs, hoofs, staves, beef.

      3. I say “dreamt,””leapt,” and “spilt.” My BF tells me I am the only one he knows who says “mustn’t” and “shall” But my English is all mixed up because I’ve lived 10 years outside the US.

    2. That’s purely convention and/or style. They’re both completely valid. “Dreamed” is American English, while “dreamt” is more widespread in British and Canadian English.

  24. Here’s another example of distinct dialectic conventions:

    “”verbs: past tenses -t/-ed Both forms of ending are acceptable in British English, but the t form is dominant-burnt, learnt, spelt–whereas American English uses -ed: burned, learned, spelled. Contrarily, British English uses ed for the past tense and the past participle of certain verbs-quitted, sweated-while American English uses the infinitive spelling-quit, sweat. Some verbs have a different form of past tense and past participle, eg, the past tense of dive is dived in British English but dove in American English.”

    1. I never, ever say “burned.” Doesn’t everyone say “sun-burnt…”

      1. Doesn’t everyone say “sun-burnt…”

        Nah, we say, “Eh, haole boy, put on some fucking sunblock — you wen go to da doctah?”

  25. Bad Grammar in Song Lyrics

    1. I was about to mention “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Cartman – I mean, Eric Carmen a few posts above, and I see it’s listed on that site.

      Irregardless of the first-person pronoun mixup, that’s an awesome song. And I’ve never seen Dirty Dancing!

      1. Irregardless of the first-person pronoun mixup, ….

        brrrrrrrrrrhhh! Sorry, you broke a rule again. “Irregardless”=not a word. ‘Incorrect in standard English’. Dean’s law prevails!

        1. I now realize this was probably an intentional joke, and I’m an asshole.

          Now I know why i never get an adjective-hat-tip.

          1. Yes, I used “irregardless” intentionally, and I wasn’t even the first in this thread to do it.

            I’d call you GILMORE the Contrite, but it sounds awkward and has a weird Catholic-guilt vibe.

            1. Meh, the weird catholic guilt thing is probably spot on. Although I’m more likely, “GILMORE, the temptingly-punchable”

        2. Irrespective of your opinion on its correctness in formal usage, “irregardless” is certainly a word.

          It ain’t as respected nor as old as “ain’t,” but it exists.

  26. I hope Nicole’s wrong and English stops evolving. Otherwise, Ezra Klein VI will fuck the Constitution up completely in a century or so.

    1. I don’t know if you’re aware (or care), but linguists are sometimes involved in textual analysis for court cases and such; there was a very interesting brief filed in Heller of very legit linguistic analysis of the second amendment.

      1. I just hope it didn’t conclude the language the Amendment was written in was actually a long-dead African tribal language, because knowing our courts and “experts”, anything’s possible.

        1. It explained why beginning the amendment with “A well-regulated militia being necessary…” did not limit the scope of the following phrase to apply only to well-regulated militias.

          1. That, and the fact that “well-regulated militia” doesn’t mean what hophophobes think/say it means. At all.

            1. Lisa: Dad! The Second Amendment is just a remnant from revolutionary days. It has no meaning today!
              Homer: You couldn’t be more wrong, Lisa. If I didn’t have this gun, the King of England could just walk in here any time he wants, and start shoving you around. [pushing Lisa] Do you want that? [pushing her harder] Huh? Do you?
              Lisa: [quietly indignant] No…

              1. OT: Family Guy went full retard last season on the leftist crap. I gave up on McFarlane.

                1. Last season? Thinking about it I can’t really name a critical moment but it was my impression that it happened much earlier.

                  1. The inital run of FG had Brian as a voice of reason. The 2nd run he became a TEAM BLUE supporter

  27. esteemed Hit & Run commenter R C Dean…

    Fuck, now everyone has an adjective except me.

    I must be doing something wrong.

    1. If you makes it feel better, they hat-tipped me for something joe did.


      If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go cut myself now.

  28. I find “ain’t” prefereable to “aresn’t.”

    1. I’ve always hated “amen’t”.

  29. i don’t know if it’s technically incorrect, maybe a grammar expert can clarify, but what drives me crazy is:

    “try and see”


    “try to see”


    shouldn’t the verb be followed by the infinitive “to see”?

    people do this with a lot of verbs

    also, and newscasters are frequent culprits with my other peeve: “the person THAT drove…”

    it’s “the person WHO drove…”

    a person is “who” but a thing is “that”

    “the idea that tacos are tasty …”

    “the person who ate tacos…”

    not “the person THAT ate tacos…”

    at least these are the rules as i see them. i could be wrong

    1. Ich bin ein Berliner!

    2. dunphy, all your complaints would be A-OK colloquial American English and at least somewhat nonstandard written English (disallowed in formal contexts, at least). Native speakers routinely make “mistakes” about when to use who/that/which at the beginning of relative clauses.

      The “try and see” phrase is similar in terms of standardness, but more interesting linguistically. There are theories that this is actually a different verbal structure, one that is not normally allowed in English but is in some other languages.

      1. THANKS. as somebody who frequently has to review the others’ writing, i try to be at least somewhat edumacated as to what is or isn’t correct.

        those are the ones that just grate on me.

        thanks again

      2. Yeah — it’s linking “try” and “see” into a single action, instead of directing somebody to try to see. Pretty sure it was common in Middle English.

        Also, it’s a lot more pervasive in Commonwealth English than it is in American English. You should try reading anything in the United Kingdom written after 1970, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

  30. Since I didn’t really see it explained above (and I’m sure it’s very important), the reason why “the fact that” is stylistically bad is because it violates the good old Strunk & White maxim: omit needless words.

    That is to say, in almost all circumstances, you could simply say “that”:
    The fact that you helped him was nice.
    That you helped him was nice.

    But notice that you’ll sound like a dick if you actually say that.

    Because “needless” is not necessarily so clear-cut…

    1. Again, though, it’s just style, so you could pepper your sentences with redundant crap, and they might sound better or worse. πŸ˜›

  31. dunphy, since you’re here.
    Winnipeg is trying Foot Patrols to gain a relationship with the downtown community.
    Do you think it’s a positive step?…..n-winnipeg

    1. How about liberalizing gun laws instead?

      1. I can only dream of the day.

      2. The fear mongering argument against that is always “why do you want more guns?” and then it’s just bashing your head on a brick wall after that.

        1. Best answer: “What fucking business is it of yours, you totalitarian fuckbag?”

          1. No, the best answer i ever heard was “Because I can’t throw a rock at 2500 feet per second”

      3. i think foot patrols are excellent. one of the drawbacks of the hyperprofessional, just the facts ma’am, radio car era was some loss of the ofc. friendly on the beat interactions that people could get with foot patrols.

        some agencies even had specific regulations prohibiting ofc’s from engaging in frivolous and non work related conversations while at work. iow, “don’t talk or be friendly. be a robot” attitude. it was a huge mistake.

        i think bike patrols offer more bang for buck since it also gives great response time over decent distances, great ability to sneak up on crimes in progress, etc. and as long as ofc’s are encouraged to dismount (huh huh huh) frequently, have much of the same benefits as foot patrol.

        but yes. in brief, foot patrol is a good thing.

        1. bike patrols in Winnipeg are used in Summer. In February, not so much.

          1. lol. yea. didn’t think about the weather issues.

            here in seattle it’s mostly rain all winter long. it snows occasionally, and you’d think it was armageddon the way people run around with their heads cut off and drive like… people with their heads cut off would

  32. OT: This Senator has balls…..nging-idea

    1. You know what would be REALLY impressive? A libertarian politician pushing rabidly for gun deregulation in a place like Quebec. Now THAT would be some real fuckin’ balls.

      1. Shit that would be cool. Would he be a separatist too? Or not? But then he’d have this to counter every fucking day of his campaign. It would never go away.

        1. 1) Aren’t the vast majority of Quebecois separatists also socialists/rank progressives? I guess if we’re talking ideals here, he’d be a proponent of columns-model constitutional republicanism, he’d advocate the annihilation with all traditional ties to Britain, and he’d also publicly hate on Obama, too.

          That would be a good day.

          2) He’d have to overcome appeals to emotion with fact, I guess, if that’s even possible with modern electorates to any discernible degree anymore.

          1. *of, not with

          2. The BQ was started by former PC Cabinet Members. I’m not sure when they turned socialist, but they started out as populists.
            My view was always to let them separate if they wanted to.

            1. They’d just come crawling back ten years later, beginning for readmission into the confederacy, because the bread lines are JUST TOO LONG NAO NEED EVIL KAPITALIST ASISTANS

            2. I’m not sure when they turned socialist, but they started out as populists.

              Are the two mutually exclusive? Although maybe I’m thinking more of the PQ…it’s been a while.

              1. BQ is Federal politics, PQ is Provincial.

                1. I know…and I definitely remember the PQ being populist, wondering if I transferred that memory incorrectly onto the BQ.

                  1. The BQ won a ton of seats in ’93 because they were French. That’s as populist as it gets.

  33. What we need is government OUT of our lives. We don’t need more regulations.
    People should not be allowed to sue the taxpayer for isolated incidents.

    It’s all Obama’s fault for being a muslim that goes to a baptist church and practices communism. He wasn’t even born here.

  34. Irregardless of the principal involved, I’ve got a well idea that this post is real badly.

    Wait a fucking minute – the jamie kelly? Was that what, a two year stretch?

  35. You shouldn’t be so hard on people who say or write “I’ve got.” Many speakers of English say this very often. That makes the construction a solid part of the English language. Usage is law.

    Damn skippy. Tow the lion people.

  36. Prescriptivists consider “I’ve got” bad grammar for a few reasons:

    – “Gotten” is the correct past participle. That’s pretty dumb because “have got” and “have gotten” have different use cases:

    “I’ve got a car” vs “I’ve gotten a car” (1 sounds best)
    “I’ve got to the end of the game” vs “I’ve gotten to the end of the game” (2 sounds better)

    – “Have” is passive and “got” is active. “I have a book” vs “I got a book.” This explanation is just stupid because “have” is an auxiliary verb here and there are no limits on which verbs you may use in conjunction with it.

    – “Have got” is redundant if you already have something. This argument ignores the cases where “have got” is for emphasis and that the phrase is usually abbreviated to something like “I’ve got” a car, which is no longer than “I have.”

    They’re wrong. I was on the fence but got religion on grammar descriptivism vs. prescriptivism after hearing some grammar Nazi chiding a black dormmate of mine in college for his improper grammar. I had come to dislike her anyway after she declared Catholicism the supreme religion because its “mysteries of faith” set it far beyond our understanding, which is the most profoundly un-introspective thing I heard in college. Context is very important, and most people know several dialects with their own grammar rules (writing on the internet vs. a formal essay, talking to peers/children/bosses/relatives).

    On the other hand, “the fact that” is just lazy writing. It’s fine as filler in speaking, but in formal-ish writing there’s usually a tighter way to say things. Like “it should be noted that,” you can often just omit the phrase entirely:

    “Because of the fact that he’s at work” => “Because he’s at work”

    tl;dr: If you use a particular grammar and hear others use it frequently, it’s by definition grammatical in that context. That doesn’t make “have got” good formal writing, but it is perfectly valid colloquial English in the same way that avoiding contractions is good writing but terrible speech. “The fact that” is filler: fine in moderation with speaking and bad in writing.

    1. Also, for what it’s worth, the grammar rules on writing don’t really need a reason.

      They exist to ferret out those who don’t follow the rules and make it easier to determine who sufficiently understands the rules of the medium. Someone may have a point hidden under all the grammar faux pas, but it’s less likely.

      It’s somewhat like how you can tell at a glance whether someone who’s writing code has any clue what they’re doing just by checking whether they use whitespace to set off blocks of code.

      1. My gut reaction was simply that ‘I’ve got’ is redundant but this explanation is pretty awesomely comprehensive.

  37. The explanation is in the use of one’s choice of dictionary:
    descriptive or prescriptive

    Language is reborn by neologisms. I don’t think of words as archaic, just serpentine

  38. MATT DAMON??

    1. Don’t be being an intrinsically paternalistically intrinsic paternalist, you assholing asshole! The Bourne movies were a completely certain and certainly complete work of awesome awesomeness for me and got me loads of lots of ladylike ladies.

      /Matt Matt Damon Da-da-a-a—d-a-da-d-ad-d-ad–Damon.


    Warsaw Will

    December 12, 2011, 2:28pm

    @HairyScot – I totally agree with you that ‘I’ve got’ has exactly the same meaning as ‘I have’ (and that’s where you’ll find it in the dictionary) and that porsche has got it wrong here.

    But ‘I’ve got’ is mainly used in informal spoken English, where we don’t usually worry about redundancy. In fact many linguists say that redundancy actually helps comprehension in spoken language . And I still argue that ‘I’ve got a new car’ is easier to say then ‘I have a new car’ – it involves less mouth movement. In spoken English ‘have got’ is simply more natural (as MWDEU says – link below).

    You could use exactly the same argument about ‘Ive got to’, and ‘I have to’ – but I imagine there is an equally good reason why we often say ‘I’ve got to’.

    What is more important? Worrying about a little harmless redundancy, or using good old idiomatic English? It was good enough for Jane Austen, Lord Byron and Lewis Carroll after all.

  40. So this is where all the smart people go to make comments on the internet

  41. This has gotta be the worst fucking thread ever. These prescriptive terrorists outta be placed on that there no fly zone list, to.

  42. Here’s what Fowler’s Modern English Usage (2d ed. 1965) says on the subject:

    Have got for possess has long been good colloquial English, but its claim to be good literary English is not universally conceded. The OED calls it ‘familiar’, the COD ‘colloquial’. It has, how3ever, the authority of Dr. Johnson (‘He has got a good estate’ goes not always mean that he has acquired, but barely that he possesses it), and has long been used by many good writers. Philip Ballard in a spirited defence, citing not only Johnson but also Shakespeare, Swift, and Ruskin, concludes ‘The only inference we can draw is that it is not a real error but a counterfeit invented by schoolmasters’. Acceptance of this verdict is here recommended. Perhaps the intrusion of got into a construction in which have alone is enough originated in our habit of eliding have. I have it and he has it are clear statements, but if we elide we must insert got to avoid the absurdity of I’ve it and the even greater absurdity of He’s it, with its ambiguity between has and is.”

    So all those people playing “gotcha” about this “error” need to STFU.

  43. Aaack. Italics off.

  44. Dude seems to have a major hard on for that guy!

  45. Tim, your the bestest.

  46. All the usual characters show up for the Hobbesian copyedit of all against all.

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