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Could you, in fact, care less?

Published Thursday, August 26, 2010 @ 1:42 AM EDT
Aug 26 2010

It began with a link on my Facebook page to a Reader's Digest article, "24 Things You Might Be Saying Wrong," which kicked off an interesting conversation.

(Friend A) The one that gets me is the "less" and "fewer" confusion. We had worksheets in preschool [Friend A is a retired teacher] that said to circle the picture that had less. It's ok if the kids could look at the picture and see that the glass of milk had less in it than the other glass, but when they were showing sets of fruit that the kids could count, fewer would have been the word of choice.

(Friend B) You would correct people.

(Friend A) Me too... If I don't correct them, I at least say the correct word under my breath.

(Friend C) It really irks me when people try to be hyper-correct and end up being wrong, as in, "The party was fun for John and I." Or when people insist on always putting the "S" in time designations like "8 am CST" all year round, even though Standard Time is only in effect for about a third of the year now.

(Friend D) My favorite is waiting for someone to report "the Noble (sic) Peace Prize in Medicine was awarded this morning...".

(KGB) Friend C- I think we're particularly sensitive because of our programming backgrounds, where syntactic inaccuracy can be catastrophic. Your "John and I" is a good example. Confusing the nominative and objective is the moral equivalent of transposing input() and output().
Irregardless, for all intensive purposes, it doesn't phase me. At least not back in the day.

(Friend D) ?"the moral equivalent of transposing input() and output().".
Or, as the restaurant owner pointed out to Wilma and Betty (approx. quote from memory), "using the in door (from the kitchen to the dining room) for out, and the out door for in".

(Friend A) Kevin, You're too funny. Have you ever read the Poisonwood Bible? Each chapter is written from a different character's perspective and one girl's chapters are written much like your above sentence... (BTW, I'm having a hard time writing to you because I'm constantly checking my grammar and spelling. IT'S very hard.)

(KGB) I think it was the narcissist Rachel character with the pompously inaccurate grammar. I liked Leah much better. ;-)

I "blame" my attitude about grammar on my mother. I had problems with English in elementary school, and she spent hours helping me. She loved the language and her enthusiasm was contagious. Some of my fondest memories are of the evenings we spent diagramming sentences. I still remember the thrill of correctly identifying and diagramming a subordinating conjunction. Some will laugh derisively at that statement: how nerdy. Yet it describes an accomplishment as significant as tying one's shoes for the first time, or getting one's first hit in a Little League game. My mother knew my future would depend on my language skills, so she instilled in me her passion for the subject.

I was grateful when she corrected my errors. She was helping me; her actions were totally altruistic. I don't understand why the man about to give a speech or presentation expresses his sincere thanks when you mention he has a piece of food stuck in his teeth, yet becomes sullen and resentful when you tell him "irregardless" isn't a word. Both are potential sources of embarrassment, especially in the context of my example. Yet the first is considered an act of friendship and the second, obnoxious pedantry.

For what it's worth, I only mention grammar and spelling errors to people about whom I respect and/or care. And you're riting am good.

(Friend B) ummmm can you care a little less then LOL

(KGB) Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.
-Janis Joplin



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