Update: A post criticizing grammar wouldn’t be complete without the mandatory grammatical error…in the title no less. I, of course, meant “Pet Peeve”. For all who noticed and didn’t drop a bomb in the comments: thank you.
I’m really not that much of a grammar nazi. It does bother me a little when I see incorrect word usages, improper spelling or punctuation etc…but I rarely proofread my stuff carefully enough so I’m sure I’m as guilty as the next guy; so, I don’t often mention it.
However, there are a few turns of phrase that really bug me…mainly because they make it obvious that the person using them is only repeating something that they’ve heard said many times. They may have a superficial understanding of what is intended to be conveyed, but obviously don’t know to what the expression is referring or what the expression is analogizing.
For example…the expression is “toe the line” not “tow the line”. The image is supposed to be of someone in a tightly controlled situation, say boot camp or prison, being required to stand with their toes exactly on a line. To “toe the line” means following the rules.
“My boss really expects me to tow the line” doesn’t mean what the author thinks it means.
Another one I ran across today. Kevin posted a story this morning that included a link and invitation to check out the amazon.com reviews of a book about educational “improvement”. Among those reviews was this one from someone calling themselves “beachteach”.
This book is nothing more than a progressive’s journey to power. Its socialistic dribble espousing redistribution of wealth from “whites” to everybody else is disguised by the author’s attempt to raise cultural awareness among teachers.
See the problem?
Here’s a hint:
1. a small trickling stream or a drop.
2. a small quantity of anything: a dribble of revenue.
3. Sports . an act or instance of dribbling a ball or puck.
4. Scot. a drizzle; a light rain.
Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved September 06, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dribble
I think what they were really shooting for was a different word that, in certain contexts, can have a similar meaning:
1. saliva flowing from the mouth, or mucus from the nose; slaver.
2. childish, silly, or meaningless talk or thinking; nonsense; twaddle.
drivel. (n.d.). Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved September 06, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/drivel
I could go on and on, but I don’t want to beat a dead rented mule (that was a joke). This one really struck me profoundly because it ostensibly came from a teacher.