30 January 2010

Grammar Nazis Unite!

For all the Grammar Nazis out there. . .

Is "snuck" the past-tense of "sneak"?

Yes and no.  Yes, it has become one of those words that has gained some legitimacy through repeated use.  So, when the word is used in common American English, it communicates.  No, it is non-standard English usage.  The proper past-tense of "sneak" is "sneaked." 

I have been on a one-man crusade to save the subjunctive mood from extinction.  I'm losing. 

Also, "hopefully" is an adverb not an adjective.  "Hopefully, I will see the Pope" translates into the nonsensical sentence, "I will see full of hope the Pope."  The original sentence communicates the idea that I hope I will get to see the Pope.  Correctly written, this would be, "I am hopeful that I will see the Pope."

What's on your Grammar Nazi agenda?

Sieg Heil.  Carry on.

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21 comments:

  1. ... unless "hopefully" is modifying the helper-verb "will" rather than main verb "to see". (I think.)

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  2. Jeff, but how does one "see hopefully"?

    You can eagerly see (if you use see to mean understand)...but I'm not sure what adverb modifies to see in a way that makes sense.

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  3. "Most" unique! Makes my teeth grind...

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  4. Most unfortunately, I think the "Battle for the Subjunctive" is lost — based on what I've been seeing I think we have to move on to the "Battle of Basic Spelling and Grammar." :-)

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  5. Emmett9:15 AM

    I've recently taken up the cause of never ending my sentences with prepositions. That sort of malpractice of the English language is something up with which I will not put.

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  6. In the same vein, I am at work to resist the inexorable transformation of "presently" from its original meaning, i.e. "soon", to its acquired use, i.e. "at present". Of course, this puts me in something of a moral quandary since I tend to be a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist when it comes to language. I believe there is some saying somewhere about consistency, bugbears, and small minds!

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  7. orientate... you know -- the activity that occurs at orientations.

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  8. Anonymous11:09 AM

    Is struck' the past tense of streak?

    Maybe. It is the past tense of strike. As in, "Obama struck out for the 367th time Friday afternoon."

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  9. I only remember the Wiliam Safire fumblerule: "Avoid verb forms that have snuck into the language." :)

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  10. their vs they're. makes me CRAZY when people use them wrong.

    hopefully they'll all get it right sometime soon.


    oh yeah, and using words like lite, rite, nite. I mean come on!! we're talking about 1 letter more, is it REALLY that hard to use correct spelling??!!!

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  11. I would prefer to say that I'm a grammar aficionado. The Nazi word has such negative connotations.

    I concur with the Zapman. Let's put our battle forces to work on spelling and basic grammar.

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  12. Few people know how to use per se correctly. If one is going to throw something like this in their vocab to appear smarter, they should at least get it right. :)

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  13. "Literally" to mean "very" or "really" as an intensifier.

    And I really dislike "their" for singular use.

    Also, even Spanish, with a great sense of its use, is slowly losing more and more subjunctive. The future subjunctive is gone, except for some legalese, I think (think "you shall").

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  14. The battle against "comprised of" has been lost, but the field is still within range of my guns.

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  15. Actually, Father, sentence adverbs such as "hopefully" have a long and respectable pedigree. If I say, "Hopefully you'll get over your obsession with eradicating a certain sentence adverb," this is perfectly intelligible and is also very different from "You are hopeful that you'll get over your obsession with eradicating a certain sentence adverb." For clearly you are not!

    The original sentence of yours is closer in sense to "It is to be hoped that I will see the Pope," which has little to show for its extra syllables.

    Surely you see my point.

    Ironically, some writers who detest "hopefully" go sticking an extraneous hyphen in "past tense," thus illustrating what I call the People Whom Live In Glass Houses Syndrome.

    As for your struggle to save the subjunctive, I salute you. Our culture is the poorer for seeing it wither away.

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  16. You can't save what doesn't need saving.

    http://www.ceafinney.com/subjunctive/

    Also, what Emmett said reminded me of Fowler's condemnation in The King's English of "the modern superstition against putting a preposition at the end."

    http://www.bartleby.com/116/201.html

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  17. My pet peeve is when people say they feel "nauseous" instead of "nauseated". Yes, your poor grammar is nauseous, but you are nauseated!

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  18. Healthy food is food that's in good health. Healthful food is food that'll make you healthy.

    But "healthful" sounds so fussy, I never follow that rule.

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  19. There's a great t-shirt:

    Bad grammar makes me [sic]

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  20. Anonymous11:46 PM

    I'd appreciate if you could refrain from using ns-ideology, ns-language and trivializing comparisons, especially only 4 days after international holocaust memorial day and this year 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz.
    I'd expected better taste from you.
    Oremus pro invicem and for the 6 million jews and others who lost their lifes through the nazis.

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  21. My pet hate is the use of 'I' in the object eg "John gave my wife and I a beautiful present"

    Here is a useful guide:

    1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
    2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
    3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
    4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
    5. Avoid clichés like the plague.
    6. Always avoid annoying alliteration.
    7. Be more or less specific.
    8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
    9. One should never generalise.
    10. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
    11. Don't use no double negatives.
    12. Avoid ampersands & abbreviations etc.
    13. Never employ a polysyllabic word when a diminutive one would suffice.
    14. Understatement is always the absolutely best way to propose earth shaking ideas.
    15. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
    16. Even if a mixed metaphor sings it should be derailed.
    17. Who needs rhetorical questions?
    18. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
    19. One word sentences? Eliminate.
    20. Finally, proof-read carefully to see if you have any words out.

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