Annoyed by Bad Grammar

Before I get into this subject, I readily recognize that I make grammar mistakes all the time. In fact I am notorious for bad spelling. Grammar mistakes in common conversation or blog posts or blog comments don’t bother me much. And even though I did major in English in college, I have never approved of those who feel the constant need to correct the grammar of others, especially when the meaning of their words is perfectly clear even with the incorrect grammar.

However, I am annoyed under certain circumstances by obvious grammar mistakes. Three recent bad grammar sightings that annoyed me:

1. My wife, our two daughters, and I were waiting in the office of our family doctor for the nurse to come out to tell us that the doctor was ready to see us. I grabbed a couple of the children’s books available there to read to the girls while we waited. The first book was one of the books from the “Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library” series. (This was a few weeks ago and I don’t remember the specific title, though I think it was “On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects ”).

Perhaps I am somewhat prejudiced because I have never been very impressed by the third-rate Dr. Seuss knock-offs that have been produced using his characters. Anyhow, about half way through the book there was a severe verb agreement problem. If I get a chance to take a look at the book again I’ll copy down the exact phrase, but it said something like “There’s three of them…” I know that is common for people to misuse “there’s” in everyday speech (I have done it myself), and perhaps the editors approve of bad grammar in order to keep the meter right (though the meter in the rest of the book wouldn’t seem to indicate a real concern for such). In any case, the mistake really annoyed me and I stopped reading and commented about it to my wife.

2. There is a song by the modern progressive rock band, Coheed and Cambria, called “The Suffering” that I like a lot. However, throughout the song there are various phrases that begin with the construction “If it was up to me, I would have…”

Now it seems clear to me from the lyrics that these portions of the song are supposed to be what in grammar is called the past subjunctive mood. The past subjunctive is used to to describe an occurrence (or hypothetical) that the speaker presupposes to be contrary to fact. But the correct construction of the past subjunctive is “If … were, … would ….”

So every time I hear the “If it was up to me, I would have…” in the song, I just shudder and think “If it were… if it were!”

You can hear a 30 second clip of the song with the offending phrase from amazon.com (Windows Media ).

It doesn’t annoy me enough to stop listening to the song…yet.

3. The last example is from a song that I don’t like, by a band that I generally don’t like. System of a Down’s music has been called nu-metal, and progressive rock. I call it Anarcho-AgitPop. Their music is primarily concerned with socio-political commentary. Their most recent radio release is called “Lonely Day.” It is hard for me to take their generally liberal socio-political lyrics seriously when they can, in all seriousness, sing the grammatically grating words “The most loneliest day of my life” over and over and over again. Arrrrggghhh! Listen to a clip from amazon.com if you can stand it (Windows Media).

Anyway. I guess I am just in a griping-grammar freak mood. Good night.

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