Wordmistress Has Seen Enough

I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life and as soon as I done it I seen it. American writer, Carl Sandburg.

In her earnest efforts to eradicate verbal tics and minister to the conversationally challenged, Wordmistress must ever be a model of discretion.                                                                                      

Good breeding prevents her from rolling her eyes and sighing deeply when she hears you know people trying like to you know explain like what it was like you know when that like happened.

She smiles graciously while struggling through the linguistic maze.

And then she hears someone blithely say, “I seen it.”

Now, a confession is in order. Wordmistress has great affection for movies such as “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” The improperly conjugated past tense of the verb “to see” appears frequently in that fine and funny film.

She is invariably amused.

But this is not the 1930s and we are not in a movie.

Time was when elementary schools were called “grammar schools.” Why? Logic would suggest that it was because those early years are when the basic structure of language is most easily grasped by young minds.

Wordmistress fondly remembers laboring over verb conjugation on her homework sheets as a young girl.

Sometimes, however, verbal burrs like “I seen” stick to the Velcro of our mental interior. They must be firmly grasped, removed, and replaced with the much more attractive Proper Conjugation.

In his useful Common Errors in English Usage, Paul Brians writes: “Errors in usage are a lot like errors in table manners. There are tiny deviations from standard practice few people will notice or care about, like using your salad fork to eat a steak.”

While agreeing with this simile, Wordmistress must gently add that saying “I seen” when you mean “I saw” is like trying to cut that steak with your spoon. It is unnecessarily clumsy.

It has been said that language:

  • expresses thought
  • conceals thought
  • takes the place of thought

Wordmistress is ever ready to help with the expression of thought.The finest language,” said writer George Eliot, “is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.”

Those simple, unimposing words are most effective when correct in usage.

Should you know someone who has difficulty in this area, kindly direct them to this post. Here, in an amiable tone, Wordmistress will help them.

Perhaps when they’re done, they will say with enthusiasm, “I saw the light!”

Could one ask for more?

Are there other improper conjugations that annoy you? Share them here.

 

 

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Erin Smith on October 25, 2012 at 8:42 am

    🙂 As always, Wordmistress leaves me with a smile and a few very funny mental pictures… one of which is wordmistress in a cape with a blinged out WM emblem, orange and black in color, of course;)

    Reply

  2. WM agrees, and will look for such a cape.

    Reply

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