Guest Post - the Duke of Earl

It's time to welcome another guest wordsmith to the Verbicidal Tendencies family. Meet John, aka the Duke of Earl. When I read this post at his site, I commented that it was the kind of things like this that SJ and myself love to post here.
....John has graciously given us permission to reprint his post here. I hope you enjoy it.


Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day, first from him now from you;
Is that all you blighters can do?

Recognize those lines? They were Eliza Doolittle’s complaint to Freddie in “My Fair Lady,” when that smitten young man tried to tell her of his undying ardor. The song was titled, “Show me.” Like the advice given to writers, time after time: Show, don’t tell!

My mother, a high school graduate who was plenty smart enough to go to college but never did (most girls didn’t back in the 1930s even if their families could afford it, which hers couldn’t) never took advanced English courses. But she knew that people formed an important first impression within minutes, based first on a stranger’s appearance; and second on his grammar and vocabulary.

As a youngster growing up I was never allowed to use improper grammar or pronunciation. If Mom was in doubt about a certain word or usage, we’d stop and look it up.

When my daughters were in their early teens, Carol and I fought battles with them about “goes.”

You know—the verb kids used to use before “like” became so pervasive?

Example: “I saw Paula this afternoon, and she goes, ‘Hi, Christina,’ and I go ‘Hi Paula,’ and she goes, ‘Have you seen Star Wars yet?’ and I go, ‘Only three times!’”

Carol and I would ask, “Go where?” The girls would roll their eyes and say (in total disgust), “Okay...(theatrical sigh)... I SAID!”

For the last ten years that same story would sound like this: “I saw Paula this afternoon, and she’s like, ‘Hi, Christina,’ and I’m like ‘Hi Paula,’ and she’s like, ‘Have you seen Spiderman 3 yet?’ and I’m like, ‘Only three times!’”

Anyway, based on all that, I cringe when I hear some words and syntax that are misused repeatedly. Here are a few:

How many times a day do you hear people say “Undoubtably?” (The word is “undoubtedly.”)

How about “perimeters” when they mean “parameters?”

Almost every TV golf announcer says, “There’s a ridge between he and the hole.” HE and the hole have a ridge between them, but that ridge is between the hole and HIM.

When you want to drill into brick you use a masonry bit, not a “masonary” bit. (Were you thinking of “missionary?”)

“I need to orientate the new employee.” No. The employee goes through “orientation.” In the process he hopefully becomes “oriented.” You orient the new employee, you don’t orientate him.
The plural of “matrix” is not “matrixes,” it’s “matrices.” Oh, and not every graph, chart or table is a “matrix” either.

Got some of your own? Want to share? Feel free!

I resist the urge to correct people at work. They wouldn’t appreciate it. Folks become embarrassed to learn they’ve been mispronouncing a word for years.

I would know. I used to say “peculiaralities” instead of “peculiarities.” I think I somehow combined “plurality” with “peculiar.” Carol laughed one day and asked, “WHAT did you just say?” I said it again, like I always had, and was mortified to learn I was incorrect.

She assured me that most likely nobody had noticed (or cared, if they DID notice.) I felt like taking Eliza’s advice,

Don’t talk of spring, don’t talk of fall,
Be sure to thank John by paying him a visit sometime.


lime said...

well, i think you could do an entire post on my particular complaint. the lack of a truly clear plural form of 'you' is problematic. even though 'you' is properly used as a singular or a plural form it can seem unclear. we know in the south, the problem is solved by use of 'y'all. as much as a southern accent grates on my nerves i don't mind that usage. where i live the term is often 'you guys,' which is also tolerable to me but when someone says 'yous' i cringe. i have even been know, when in a group addressed as 'yous,' to whip my head around and say, 'sheep? where are they? i see no ewes.'

Duke_of_Earle said...


As every Texan knows, y'all is the singular form. It's perfectly acceptable to say to an individual, "Say, do y'all want to go with me to see a movie?"

Now the plural form, used when addressing two or more individuals (all the way up to a stadium-full of people) is "ALL y'all."

Hope that helps. Glad to have been of assistance to y'all. And if I see any of those ewes, lambs or rams, I'll let y'all know.


Serena Joy said...

Fabulous post, John! I'm a stickler for saying it right, too. I'm also a Southern girl who says y'all a lot.:)

Hale McKay said...

I've been removed from them thar Southern Hills since 1968 and even though I'm now in New England, I still say y'all, as well as "all y'all" as noted by John.

What about "you-ins?"

Serena Joy said...

I'm a big y'all user, but I don't think I've ever said you-ins. LOL.

lime said...

oops, my mistake john, and my apologies. i get my y'alls confused with the trinidadian 'all yuh' which is indeed plural. thanks for setting me straight on that. sorry if my error made you cringe as much as 'yous guys' makes me cringe.

anyjazz said...

There's only one mispronounced word that gnaws at me currently: "Nucular." Y'all know who I mean.

Good piece. Well written.

Serena Joy said...

Ack! "Nucular" drives me berserk, too.

r.e.wolf said...

John is one of my favorite word-wranglers, and this piece is a shining example of why!

Hale McKay said...

R.E. Wolf, I like John's work also. I've been reading his posts since I started blogging back in Jan of 2005.

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