Caring, More or Less

After a considerable hiatus, I am back with a vengeance, wielding my syntactic sledgehammer. Today’s particular subject of derision is the ubiquitous misuse of the phrase, “I could care less.” How often has a respected and beloved friend/acquaintance of yours, uttered this phrase in anger, dismissal, and absolute disinterest? What does it mean, really? It actually means that, even though I am disgusted by your philandering ways, arrogant behavior, or casual disregard of my feelings, I could potentially reach a greater degree of less caring than I do now. In other words, I have not reached my limit of disinterest in you. In fact, what the speaker clearly means to state is, “I couldn’t care less.” That one statement accurately sums up the absolute limit of the not caring that one feels. How confusing for the recipient of the first phrase hurled angrily at him/her. Hearing, “I could care less” might lead me to believe that I could push the boundaries of my bad behavior even further without serious consequences since obviously the speaker is saying he/she could care less in the future than now, whereas receiving the second phrase, leaves me no doubt that I have reached my limit with the speaker and that there will be no less caring than now.

So, dear readers, be caring in your syntactical choices. Remember, caring less offers hope and not caring less offers none.


Thank-you, Garfield!

There, Their, They’re



When the grammar gremlins decide to attack, these are their favorite three words to target, and quite frankly, nothing enrages me quite as much as when I see them misspelled. Like our old friends, your and you’re, they are nearly impossible to distinguish from one another when spoken, but when written…vive la différence!

So, my dear malaprops, here is an easy way to remember correct usage: their is a pronoun, which means it substitutes for a noun and it must agree with the noun for which it substitutes, in number. It would be wrong to say, “Dougie and his lame friends got lost but were able to find his way home.” Instead, one would correctly say,” Dougie and his lame friends got lost but were able to find their way home,” since Dougie and his friends are plural and therefore the pronoun standing in for them, must be as well. Also, it  modifies a noun so it is an adjective and a possessive pronoun since it owns the word it describes. See? Not so difficult, right?

Now here is where it apparently gets tricky for some of you, and I say apparently because it is so often spelled incorrectly. There is both an adverb and an expletive. You are saying to yourselves, “why do I care what this word is? I just want to use it correctly.” You need to understand a very basic concept so you don’t continue to appear uneducated. In this sentence, “There is no way that dog lying over there is ever going to win a prize for anything,” you see there beginning the sentence and also designating where the dog is lying (see “Not Gonna Lie”).

The last word of confusion is they’re, which is a contraction of the words, they and are. Because we are lazy, contractions suit us quite well. We would correctly say, “They’re comin’ fer pa and they’re gonna kill him.” Try the test if you are ever unsure…substitute they and are for there or their, and if they work grammatically, then you’ve nailed it.

Remember, “There is no excuse for ignoring the rules of grammar when they’re written clearly and give their examples in a cogent fashion.” And there you have it, my spurious spellers, another grammar lesson in a jiffy. When you next receive a text message saying, “Dude, there party was so sick!” or, “Gotta run, their calling my burrito number now,” you will recognize that something is amiss with both of these fascinating sentences, and perhaps be able to correct them.

Until next time…

cartoon © by Mark Anderson

Your Welcome


Alright, kiddies, this hasn’t been so difficult, has it? To review, we’ve learned how to use “lie” and “lay” correctly (never to say again that you’ve been layin’ around all day), and how never to use an adverb before “unique” or “perfect.” Easy, right? My theory is that any nincompoop can consume and digest a passable amount of grammar when fed in small, palatable doses (note the really tight metaphor in this sentence).

Today’s lesson deals with two horribly abused and misused words, which I suspect fall victim to sheer laziness rather than a lack of understanding: to wit, your and you’re. If I am wanting to borrow a particularly cute pair of shoes from you, I might say, “Let me wear your shoes.” I would probably hear in return from you, “Girl, you must be kidding. You’re not stuffing your fat feet in my Louboutins!” “Your” is a possessive pronoun and must modify or describe a noun while “you’re” is a contraction of the two words, “you are,” a pronoun and a verb. As you can easily see, misuse of these two words can occur only in writing since both sound almost the same in speech (few people are capable of making that subtle distinction in pronunciation).

So, slow down your thumb texting, reflect a bit when making a comment on Facebook, and do a little editing before sending off an email to your boss, writing “Your an idiot,” because you do know the difference, and that difference can be critical. Your never going to succeed in business if you’re grammar isn’t really perfect.

And by the way, today’s title came straight from the internet. I googled it and it offered no correction, so be wary, dear readers.

Until next time, my little pronoun polluters…

image credit:

Who’s Really Unique
or the Most Perfect?


Simply put, the answer is no one. Why? Because, dear syntactical scofflaws, unique is one of those wonderful words permitting no degree of uniqueness. Like the word “perfect,” “unique” by its very definition, stands alone. To be unique or perfect is to be without peer or equal, to be unlike any person or thing. Therefore, there cannot be a “most unique” situation, nor can there be a “really perfect dessert.” Any adverb you may be tempted to add as a further description of “unique” or “perfect” marks you  as a linguistic loser. Yes, you do hear people saying and writing these words in combination with adverbs every day, but that hardly makes them correct.

The next time you hear someone say, “Man, that was a really unique hairball your cat just tossed,” or “She had the most perfect nose after her plastic surgery,” feel smug that you know how to use these words correctly. There is always that subtle temptation, that siren song of language, whispering in your ear that you must amp up “unique” or “perfect” because, otherwise, your words may go unnoticed. Fight the seduction and stay strong. Unique and perfect can stand alone quite well, thank you very much.

Until next time…

Image credit:

Not Gonna Lie


Today’s topic, my little rhetoric redactors, is a subject near and dear to my heart, and that is two of the most incorrectly used words in the English language…lie and lay. How could such innocuous and tiny words cause such grammatical confusion and abuse? Here, then, is a simple and foolproof way of testing the accuracy of your choice when both writing and speaking: lie is to recline or tell an untruth, lay is to  place or put. Keeping this rule in mind, you would never say or write, “Lay down beside me” or “Lie it on the table.”

My inkblot for determining one’s true level of education or knowledge is how he/she uses these two words. Even if you’ve been prattling on about Proust and referencing your undergrad years at Yale, but then let loose at your dog with, “Lay down, Marcel,” you’ve lost me. It is a foolproof and easy assessment, one that quickly weeds out the pretenders, if used incorrectly, and also a guaranteed entry into the inner circle of grammar snobs if used correctly. The key is to practice frequently and shamelessly until you become confident and correct. Flaunt your prowess at every opportunity…”Lie down, Biscuit,” “Lay the gun down now, honey,” “Lie to me one more time and I’ll have to lay down the law before I lie down for my nap.” See how much fun it is playing with words?

Till next time…

cartoon by Harry Bliss