Monday, January 23, 2012

Them Crooked Switcharoos


I’ll level with you. English can be a terrible language. I’ve been speaking since I was a wee tyke, but even I don’t know it all that well. Bad for an English graduate student? Maybe. But I
challenge someone to claim they know every little stupid nuance the English language has to offer.

Recently I was looking at an old blog of mine I started back when I was in high school. There was only one post: “A Prelude of Things to Come.” In it I introduced myself and explained all of my long-term, starry-eyed goals with the project, somehow hopeful that someone would happen across it and say, “Hey, guy, we’d like to offer you a writing job.”

I never got such a message.

did get one message: “Your an ass.”

At first, I was indignant. How dare someone I don’t know post on my blog and insult me? The audacity of some anonymous Internet citizen coming to my page and defacing my image disgusted me to the very core.

But I found solace in the fact that the individual made him/herself look like a big ol’ dummy. Instead of saying, “You’re an ass”--the grammatically correct method to call me a name--they voted to say, “Your an ass.” For a moment I tried to wrap my head around the statement, trying to make sense of it by literally reading it the way they typed it. I was unsuccessful.

I’ve seen this same mistake on student’s papers coming into the Writing Center. Many of them are simple typos, but they’re typos that can go overlooked if you’re not looking out for them. I could go an entire paper saying “it’s” instead of “its,” and I might miss it even if I look at it a couple of times. Then I’d look like a big ol’ dummy.
I should note: if I see this error on your paper when I’m looking at it, I’m not calling you a big ol’ dummy. I’m just stating that if another person were to see the error, he or she might just think you’re a big ol’ dummy.

But I digress.

Here are some common erroneous switcharoos:
  • their, they’re, and there
  • to, too, and two
  • who’s, whose
They’re switcharoos simply because they’re commonly used words. There are several other usage errors that are more tied to words that are homonyms, or “a word the same as another in sound and spelling but different in meaning, as chase ‘to pursue’ and chase ‘to ornament metal’” (“Homonym”). If one were to write a paper on famous naval battles, his or her instructor might be a bit confused about what combat could erupt between bellybuttons.

homonym. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 23 Jan. 2012. Web.

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