Please stop making my eyes itch! And other lessons in grammar.

If I’ve said this once, I’ve probably said it at least a thousand times. I’m really, really easily irritated by the way people use and abuse the language they choose to write in. It’s not just that I get a mildly frustrated pang in the pit of my stomach that I can easily ignore – I literally feel like scratching my own eyes out sometimes. That might sound a bit extreme, I know.

This is my teacher face.

You might even call me crazy (go ahead, I know you want to) šŸ˜‰ but I might be getting a little dramatic now. I really am persnickety, irritable, and even a little obsessed on a bad day, but mostly I just get a few good giggles out of the unintentionally deformed little freakazoids that people create from perfectly normal words.

Like my husband (and a big chunk of the males in our country) feels about rugby – shouting at the ref, surfing the sport sites, and obsessing over it for hours on end with enthusiasm and lots of loyaly to boot – I, too, get excited about the “sport” I love. Let’s call it Lingo, shall we? (Wow, that’s corny. Sorry.) I’m nominating myself for captain for today. And, well, let me be completely honest… With my track record of zero ball sense and a complete lack of athletic prowess, that’s problably the closest I could ever come to being sporty. šŸ™‚

Now, as all sporting fans will know: You don’t mess with the game! Rules were made to be respected (unless it’s your own team breaking them, but that’s a different story). Rules make it easier for us all to watch and understand, because frankly, we’ll all look a bit stupid without them. (Not pointing any fingers here, but the words “headless chickens” have come up before while watching rugby games. But I digress…)

So, to make it easier for all of us to play this game we call communicating, I’ve decided to clarify a few rules here. You can find these all over the internet on millions of different sites (and, when in doubt, google them, by all means!), but I thought I might make it easier for you if I explained them shortly.

Even if you’ve made one of these mistakes before, please know that there’s no judgement here! This is just my attempt at making it easier for all of us to understand what on earth we’re actually on about… I just feel like it’s my personal responsibility to help the people I like to look clever. Because you’re awesome like that šŸ˜‰

My top 10 “favourite” corrections:

10. on accident

This is a mixture of two phrases that are closely related, but are actually opposites.

To clarify: I ate the cake ON purpose (because it’s chocolate and it’s not as if it climbed into my mouth by itself…). Sorry. You must have left it there BY accident.

9. Learn vs. Teach

I see this so often, it looks like the whole country’s English teachers were all off sick on the same day, leaving hordes of school kids to be taught by the school’s cleaners for the day. Scandalous, actually.

To clarify: I can TEACH you what mistakes to avoid, but you have to take the time to LEARN the correct usage of these words yourself.

8. Life vs. Live

These seem confusing, but actually are quite easy to remember. The ‘v’ in LIVE has the same sound as the one in the word ‘very’. LIFE’S ‘f’ sounds the same as in ‘funny’.

To clarify: It’s important to LIVE your LIFE with an open mind, because that’s the only way new ideas can find their way in.

7. Were vs. We’re

We’re getting to the nasty ones now. To understand the next few examples, we have to focus on this little guy: the apostrope (‘). An apostrophe is used to indicate where two words are pulled together to form one word, mostly to ease pronunciation in informal language.

To clarify: We WERE there yesterday, but WE’RE here today. This is the easier way of saying that while we had been somewhere else before, today WE ARE here. The two words have combined to form a new, shorter one. That means that if you can put the word ‘are’ into the sentence, it’s incorrect to use WERE.

6. YOUR vs. YOU’RE

The same rule applies here. YOU’RE is a contraction of YOU and ARE, pulling these words together. YOUR indicates possession, meaning that it shows that something belongs to you.

To clarify: YOU’RE going to be glad you remembered these rules when it’s time to help YOUR kids with their homework.

5. ITS vs. IT’S

This is one of the more confusing examples, because everyone seems to get all blonde about it. (Yes, I played the blonde-card… but I’m a natural one myself and look how I’m contradicting it…)

Again, IT’S is a contraction, this time combining the words IT IS or IT HAS. ITS indicates possession/belonging to something or someone.

To clarify: IT’S not so difficult to use it if you just understand ITS meaning a bit better. If you can replace it with the words IS or HAVE, then IT’S is the word you should use. Otherwise, it’s ITS.

And, let’s be clear on this: There is no such word as ITS’. Really.

4. To, Too, or Two

Eish. This is one of those case where, if Mxit were a boy, I’d like to kick his butt for letting kids the world over use ‘2’ instead of the actual, correct word out of mere laziness.

It’s not so difficult to remember, though, if you just use a bit of common sense.

TO has a short sound, like in the word ‘into’. It’s actually a very basic word that you don’t have TO fuss about.

TOO has a long sound, like the word ‘soon’. The extra letter is a clue that the vowel has to be stretched to indicate the sound. This is used the wrong way TOO often, actually.

TWO is the word that comes just after one, right? Obviously šŸ™‚ But, unless you’re actually doing maths, PLEASE write the word out? By using a 2, you’re just confusing yourself. And, frankly, it’s not as if you have to write SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, it’s just TWO letters more. Use them. šŸ™‚

3. Exited vs. Excited

Ever heard how “Elvis has left the building”? That means he EXITED it. If he’d EXCITED the building, that might raise serious questions about how the building could possibly feel any emotions in the first place. You’d want to call the Ghostbusters for that, actually.

To clarify: To EXIT is to leave, and it’s also a word we see every day on signs above back doors or in parking lots. To EXCITE is to increase someone’s levels of enthusiasm, and it’s indicated by just one extra letter. Don’t forget about the ‘c’.

2. I could care less

Oh, this one just makes me want to cry…

When you say “I couldn’t care less”, what you’re actually trying to say is that you really don’t care at all. It doesn’t matter to you. You don’t give a flying rat’s… bumb. You’re saying: Even if I tried, I could not possibly care any less than I actually care now.

So, if you get confused and say “I could care less”, exactly the opposite is true. What you’re saying is that you acknowledge that you care about whatever it is too much, and you should actually not care so much. You’re saying that you’re extra sensitive about it, although you know you shouldn’t be.

To be completely frank, you are insulting yourself. Stop. You’re too nice!

And my favourite “favourite” is…

1. Literally!

This is one of the most abused words in the world today. People use it to communicate so many different things, but almost never actually mean that they would li-te-ra-ly do what they said they would do.

To clarify: Read my first paragraph again. While I’m a bit trigger happy about grammar sometimes, I’m not actually a freak. Literally. I really, really wouldn’t actually scratch my eyes out! I like my eyes. If I didn’t have them, I’d have no place to put my glasses, and I like them too šŸ˜‰

When you do use the word LITERALLY, make sure you are willing to back your words up with actions. Otherwise, you are barking much more than you could possibly bite, and who could really trust you then? Saying “almost” might make more sense sometimes. Exaggeration is never a good argument anyway.

Honorary mentions: I have to say something about two other freakazoids as well.

Using the word LIKE like a million times in like every sentence, makes you look like a twelve year old girl with like a marshmallow for a brain. Really.

And there’s a very important space between the words A and LOT in A LOT. For a giggle, look at this clever little explanation:

I think that’s it for today’s lesson, kids! Ha ha… I hope you found it helpful. At the very least, I hope it will help you giggle when you come across these errors again and, when you do, let me know. I might be bored that day and there’s nothing like a nerdy word joke to perk me up!

For more laughs, you might want to watch this video. It has a few “naughty” words in it, but the point is that it would have been perfectly innocent if the right words were used at the right times. Enjoy! šŸ™‚

What are the mistakes you see most often? What are your pet grammatical peeves? Tell me in the comments and I might include it in a post in the future. I LOVE reading your comments, so please, go ahead!


12 thoughts on “Please stop making my eyes itch! And other lessons in grammar.

  1. Hehehe! Ek het nou lekker gelag! Dis al die klein goedjies wat my sooooo kan irriteer! Ek kan nog een bysit by were vs we’re: where! Ja, ek ken mense wat selfs where gebruik in plaas van die eersgenoemde twee…
    PS: Jy sal jou oĆ« eers wil uitkrap as jy ooit in Amerika / Kanada kuier – ek het baie lank gegril tot ek besef het hulle spel LETTERLIK die woorde anders as ons. Ai! Maar my arme ogies hou niks daarvan nie.
    Hier’s `n paar vir jou amusement: tyre vs tire (ek praat hier van bande); favorite / color / nog duisende sulkes waar die “u” ontbreek; judgment vs judgement – ek het amper die skerm gesoen toe jy dit “reg” spel! Vir so lank het ek tot in my tone gegril elke keer as die “e” ontbreek, tot dit my omsingel het en ek begin dink het dat ek seker maar altyd verkeerd was… Dankie! Ek voel nou sommer tonne beter! šŸ™‚

  2. Oe, I’m sharing this with my students!! Maar ek weet nie hoe baie dit gaan help nie, want dink jy ek kry dit in hulle koppe dat “Doof” met ‘n “D” geskryf word wanneer dit verwys na die Dowe gemeenskap, die groep dowe mense wat Gebaretaal as eerstetaal gebruik en hulle eie kultuur, naamlik Dowe kultuur het?? En dat Gebaretaal / Sign Language met hoofletters geksryf word omdat jy die naam van jou taal, bv. Afrikaans en Engels met hoofletters skryf!! Berig wat Saterdag in die Beeld was, het die joernalis so mooi na my verduidelikings en raad geluister en dit alles reggedoen, deurgestuur aan die mense by die produksieproses MET ‘n nota wat verduidelik dat die “D’s” en “G’s” so moet bly, dis nie druk- of taalfoute nie. En wragtag gaan verander iemand dit na “g” o.a. in die geval van Gebaretaal. So ewe met die verskoning dat die AWS en die WAT dit met ‘n kleinletter skryf!!! Ek het op hierdie opgegee. Want JA, dis kleinlettertjies as jy van gebaretale in die algemeen praat, soos wanneer jy van gesproke taal praat, ook met kleinletters. Maar wanneer jy spesifiseer in die NAAM van ‘n taal, soos in SA Gebaretaal, dan IS dit ‘n HOOFLETTER!!
    Maar nie eens die studente onthou dit na ‘n semester se herhaling nie, so hoe gaan ek dit in ‘n Beeld taalversorger se kop kry?

    • Haha! Jip, dit mag dalk ‘n onbegonne taak wees… But, keep fighting the good fight! As ons nie aanhou karring nie praat almal dalk een van die dae net sms-taal… šŸ˜‰

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