Five Recently-Spotted English Mistakes that Make Me Want to Push the Writer into a Vat of Writhing Hagfish
First of all, so that you may all understand fully the depths of disgust that these grammar/vocabulary errors engender in me, here is what a hagfish (also known as slime eel) looks like:
Yes, it is a very ugly creature. These English mistakes are also ugly creatures:
1. “You” when it should be “your” — example: “Drinking more water may actually prove beneficial to you health.” The other day, I nearly fainted from horror when I discovered that my beloved BBC world news had fallen victim to this egregious mistake. I suspect that the mistake is the result of writers rushing to meet deadlines. My advice: either type slower or spend a minute reading over the document before you publish it.
2. “Your” when it should be “You’re” — Honestly, I was cheering for Ross when he chastised Rachel (on the TV show Friends) for making this increasingly common error, even if his timing was slightly inappropriate. Although these two words sound the same, one word shows possession, while the other word is a contraction for “you are.” I cannot tell you the number of news blogs guilty of not knowing the difference. My advice: Give up contractions until you know the English language better.
3. “Infamous” used incorrectly — “Infamous” does not mean the same as “famous.” Nor does it mean the same as “noteworthy” or “notable” — despite what your thesaurus might tell you. Just recently, I was very perplexed when one of the news headlines on Google News referenced “Pippa Middleton’s Infamous Bridesmaid Dress.” Since the dress in question was quite lovely (and was apparently chosen by the bride — or at least approved by her), I could not understand what was wrong with the dress. After reading the (poorly written) article in question, I understood: the writer just needed a few dunks in a vat of hagfish to help her learn to only use words she fully understood the meaning of. My advice: Don’t just automatically substitute words from a thesaurus; look up the meanings first! Connotation is a dangerous thing!
4. Going from single to plural to avoid upsetting feminists — The pronoun “their,” for those who didn’t know, is plural. It implies that there is more than one person. English, sadly, does not have a singular pronoun that means both “he” and “she”. When you are speaking about one person, you cannot say “their motive was blah blah blah.” Nope. It’s “his motive” or “her motive.” I know that the hip thing right now is to be gender neutral (though I am perplexed as to how this can be practically applied — like it or not, the genders are different. A two-year-old child can explain some of these differences, if you are in doubt), but the English language just wasn’t built that way. Using the male form as all-inclusive worked for centuries, but now it makes feminists see red, so butchering grammar is apparently the better alternative. My advice: Use he/she and him/her if you’re really that concerned about it. It looks a little clunky, but is highly preferable to looking stupid. (And believe me, getting dunked in a hagfish vat would certainly make a person look stupid — and doesn’t make saying “him” or “his” look quite so distasteful after all.)
5. Okay, this last one isn’t necessarily a mistake, but it just makes me want to throw more people into the hagfish vat: Overuse (and abuse) of the word “amazing” — Read the facebook statuses of any of the ever-growing demographic of mindless drones (sadly, these are very often young women, which really pains me), and you will see things like this: “We had the most amazing dinner last night. The pizza was amazing. The whole evening was like amazing.” Really? The food actually astonished you? It caused great wonder or surprise? Did your jaw actually drop as you bit into it? If you were that surprised that it was so good, why on earth were you eating at that restaurant in the first place? My advice: One hour in the hagfish vat — just because these people annoy me that much.