But I Can’t Get Over It!*
If you somehow missed circling these holidays in red on your calendar, it’s not too late to celebrate. The websites representing National Grammar Day and National Proofreading Day suggest a variety of ways to observe these special days. For example, you can link to a site full of pictures of “cake wrecks”—cakes decorated with grammatical errors. These cakes provide evidence that a knowledge of basic grammar should be required before putting the icing tip on a piping bag.
Another fun way to celebrate is to watch “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Word Crimes video. If you haven’t watched this creative parody (set to the tune of “Blurred Lines”), you simply must. If you’ve already enjoyed it, it’s still a good way to celebrate our grammar-geek holidays. You’ll never listen to “Blurred Lines” again without thinking of prepositions and dangling participles.
As a writer and editor, I pay attention to details, not only in my own work but everywhere there are written words. So, I end up editing all the time—menus, school memos, commercial vehicles, billboards, and, sometimes, even my friends’ messages. This obsession makes me particularly eager to get one resource I found on the National Proofreading Day website—a book by two guys who took an obsession with grammatical accuracy to a whole new level. Armed with Sharpies, Wite-Out, and other editing tools, Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson set out on a quest to correct errors displayed in grocery stores, museums, malls, restaurants, beaches, and other public places across the country. They documented their journey in The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time. Can you say “heroes”?
We all have dreams of similar quests—to take our red (or blue) pens and correct grammar, in the hopes of getting others to finally see the errors of their words. To get people to understand our grammatical pet peeves. I’m sure we all share some of the same pet peeves: it’s vs. its; they’re, their, and there; your vs. you’re; who vs. whom; and so on. The pet peeve that has risen to the top of my list is the use of “Google” as a verb. (“Google the restaurant for me, will you?”) This infraction may be relatively new with the advent of search engines, but it is analogous to the age-old error of using “Xerox” as a verb, regardless of the brand of photocopier you’re using. I was always taught to respect brand names, to substitute the generic noun for brand names such as Kleenex, Styrofoam, or Rollerblades, and if not, to at least use a capital letter to denote the brand name. And I was always told to never, ever use a brand name as a verb.
As Xerox did (and continues to do), Google has tried to control the conversation by at least stating that the brand name should be used only when that search engine is being used. In other words, if you use Bing to look up a term online, don’t say you “googled” the term. But use of the word “Google” as a verb has persisted, and the dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary, the most authoritative dictionary of the English language, list “Google” as a verb. Dictionaries reflect usage, not necessarily grammatical accuracy, but that doesn’t convince most people, especially my friends who taunt me with “Google it” because they know just how much it annoys me. They tell me it’s a lost cause, everyone uses it as a verb, and I should just get over it. But why should I have to.
What grammatical pet peeves are impossible for you to get over?
By Lori L. Alexander, MTPW, ELS, MWC, President, Editorial Rx, Inc.
*I also posted a modified version of this blog on the American Medical Writers Association website.