Minority Opinions

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Hyper-correction

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I’ve been listening to my children make the same “me and my friend” mistake shared by every English-speaking child.  One of them even corrected “my friend and me” to “me and my friend” mid-sentence.  I’m starting to wonder whether there’s some underlying rule built into our brains that we each work to override for some distant social reason.

Sadly, for some, the “my friend and I” pattern gets drilled a bit too hard, unaccompanied by an understanding of the pronoun declension rules.  Fortunately, the cases where “my friend and me” would be more proper are few and far between, so this style of hyper-correction barely registers as an annoyance while I read.  It’s certainly nowhere near as prevalent as confusing possessive pronouns with their homophones.

More recently, I’ve been alerted to the fact that some people consider “different than” to always be wrong.  In contrast, I as an American consider “different to” an ugly turn of phrase.  However, correcting either to “different from” doesn’t always work; “than” in particular can introduce a clause with elided components, which require artificial-sounding replacements when “from” is substituted.  Fortunately, that form of hyper-correction is only used when a style guide is enforced, so the result is never ungrammatical.

I do get annoyed by the inclusion of commas around restrictive clauses, but I tend to attribute that to either a second-language effect or a lack of proper education.  Back when I used it, Microsoft Word was fond of suggesting inappropriate commas, so I’m not surprised that some people have internalized a bad rule.  Then again, “that” clauses are always restrictive, so I’m less certain how the bad rule grew to cover that case.

The hyper-correction that really gets under my skin is the use of “whom” or “whomever” as a subject pronoun in a nominal clause serving as an object.  These words are nearly dead; almost never will their subjective counterparts be treated as incorrect, so why are you using them in the first place?  If you have a good reason, do you truly understand how and when to use them correctly?  Hint: If one precedes a verb, it’s almost certainly wrong.

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Written by eswald

11 Jun 2013 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Lifestyle

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