Before I begin, I should admit to a bit of personal Grammar Naziism; that is to say, I generally have little tolerance for people who don’t take the time to learn to use proper punctuation, spelling and grammar and thus inflict linguistic atrocities upon those of us that do care about such matters. Thus it was with no little glee that I stumbled across two marvelous blogs dedicated to cataloguing those atrocities in photographic form: the “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks and Apostrophe Abuse.
That’s some good stuff right there. Seriously, people: if you’re going to commit wording to some physical object, be it a traffic sign, newspaper ad, billboard, menu, or otherwise, you just might want to get someone with a firm[er] grasp of the English language to proofread your copy before your stuff goes to print.
I used to be regularly derided by friends and acquaintances of all stripe for my use of “SAT words”, generally defined as words that do not see regular use in the populace at large and thus achieve a “nerdy” gloss. In fact, so distinct is my proclivity towards these sorts of words that they were eventually labeled “Doug words” by my college mates.
Well, mates, I have three words for you: post hoc validation. Houghton Mifflin has published their list of 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know. Note that: high school graduates. And, do you know how it starts out? With words that y’all would call “Doug” words. To wit:
Upon further consideration, cruder men than I might have an additional word or two to add, unprintable in a family-friendly setting. Instead, I shall abjure any churlish displays of unctuous verbiage and instead state simply: neener neener.
A colleague was drafting a memo to send out company-wide today and forwarded it to me for review. The copy was mostly good, although he referenced several “servers that will be effected by ongoing work” or somesuch. I replied that, while the memo itself was good, I had a grammatical bone to pick: the servers would be “affected” by the work, not “effected”. He replied that he remained convinced that “e” was the correct word, which sent me on a wild Googling spree.
I have always seen usage in-line with that which I outlined above (this quiz seems to bear out my conclusion – answers are here, for anyone that’s interested), and so I decided to try to run down the definitive answer. Unfortunately, Merriam-Webster is next-to-no help, but, in addition to the quiz mentioned above, I also found a few tips and tricks for remembering the difference and I appeal to no less authority than the Oxford English Dictionary’s site to prove me correct.
Am I off my rocker to be bothered by stuff like this? Should I have objected? After all, I was just trying to keep my colleague from embarrassing himself in a company-wide fashion.
And yes, I know, this makes me a huge, semantic, pedantic, annoying geek. Unfortunately, the intended audience of the email is filled with huge, semantic, pedantic, annoying, geeky engineers. I’m just trying to help a brother out!