The interesting thing is...


Society has phrases that invade everyone's speech patterns.

Some are obvious and gratuitous, mostly because they are so out of place in everyday conversations that they stand out. "Simmer Down!" and "That's what she said!" and "Who dat?" are a few of these obvious ones.

Others are obvious when they start and just fade into common speech patterns so that they become unnoticeable. "Like" is one of these, as in, 'And she was, like, "No, I'm not going to do that."' If you don't emphasize the "like," you likely won't notice it, especially if you aren't listening for it.

The most insidious of these speech patterns, however, are the ones that never obvious: they invade everyone's speech with very few people noticing it. Two years ago, the pattern "what it is is" was one of these. You could listen to someone switch from saying "It is this" to "What it is is this." This pattern invaded the entire cultural spectrum in the United States. I heard it from educated elderly woman and punk-ass kids, from well off to not so well off, and all sorts of ethnic groups (trains and airports and buses are great places to cross socio-economic barriers), and I heard "what it is is" in all of them.

I used "what it is is" until Kris pointed out I was saying it, and then we both pointed the pattern out to other people, usually causing it to stop in the people we informed. The pattern, like most patterns started to fade. I don't hear it very much these days.

What I hear, instead, is "The interesting thing is..." as a lead-in or transition phrase. I can't go one conversation these days without hearing "The interesting thing is..." When you first started noticing it, the interesting thing is that you can find it EVERYWHERE. While I'm sure that there are a lot of interesting things, "the interesting thing" is not one of them. It's just annoying.

And now, I'm just waiting for the phrase "What the interesting thing is is" to start up.

Linking verbs

Full list of linking verbs


Feeling badly


Kris sent me a link to a Yahoo article today. The article was announcing that Tom Brady was out for the season with the knee injury that had occurred the day before. I look at the link, reading the article, wondering why Kris had bothered to send me the link. Did he mean to send the link to anothet IM contact? I'm not a football fan any longer. I don't follow the Patriots at all. Maybe Brady is on Kris' fantasy football league and he was sharing the news?

And then it caught my eye.

"We feel badly for Tom about the injury," Belichick said Monday. "You hate to see anyone go down. No one has worked harder or done more for this team than Tom has."

In particular, the "we feel badly" part.

Feel is a linking verb (want a full list?). That means when the sentence's complement refers to the subject of the sentence, the verb is a linking verb and the complement should be an adjective and not an adverb.

In plain English?

If you say you feel badly, you're making the statement that your nerve endings don't work well, and that you are physically less sensitive when touched or touching.

If you say you feel bad, you're making the statement that you are saddened, ill or otherwise have negative emotions.

So, while Belichick may have broken nerve endings, I suspect he meant to say he is saddened by Brady's injury.

Kris, on the other hand, really was just sharing the news. No, Brady isn't on any of his fantasy leagues. He thought I'd be interested in knowing. Either that, or he was preempting my sending him the link.

Grammatical peeves


I'm sitting in one of the last panels of the day, and I have to say my hunger is contributing to my annoyances with the speakers' grammatical errors. I know that English (and all languages) are ever-changing, and when I was kid, you didn't say bad when you meant good or have run on sentences or non-parallel sentences. No really.

But these two peeves have reared their ugly heads, and they're annoying me.

One panelist said something like,

"it's not about me abandoning one service for another..."

The correct use of the personal pronoun is not the objective case, but actually the possessive case when referring to a gerund. Specifically, in this case, the speaker should have said, "MY abandoning," not "me abandoning". The "me" refers to the "abandon."

Not 10 seconds before that statement, a different speaker made the comment

"It's about sharing data between different networks..."

when referring to a group of six or seven networks. "Between" is referring to a connection of two objects. "Among" refers to a connection of more than two objects. The speaker should have commented about sharing data AMONG different networks.

I'm pretty sure that very, very few people noticed these, or that anyone notices them much any more. As the language evolves, grammar will also evolve, specifically when the common usage because the rule. We don't use thee or thou or, sadly, the subjunctive case in common speak anymore. It happens, the language changes.

Doesn't mean I'm going to stop complaining about it.

The rein's reign's rain


Okay, people, the next spelling and grammar lesson of the day. Today's lesson is with homonyms, or each of two words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins or spellings.

With that said, rain, rein and reign are all different words, with different meanings and, hence, different usages:

rain = water falling from the sky
rein = a strap used with horses
reign = the length of time a leader rules

Saying, "turn over the reigns" makes no sense.

Gender Neutral

In junior high, my favorite English teacher was Mrs. Webb. She was not only a good teacher, she was also a good person, helping me through some rough times in early adolescence. Much of my "good grammar" was the result of her teachings. A good example is the previous sentence's use of the possessive pronoun before a gerund.

Many of the examples I can give, however, are considered "classic grammar," or "antiquated grammar," as they are older rules that have fallen out of common usage by the growth and transformation of the American English language. The biggest of these antiquated grammar rules seems to be the use of male possessive pronouns when referring to a group of people.

When using possessive pronouns, you want the pronoun to match the number and gender of the noun it references. The number matching part of that possessive pronoun select rule often confuses people.

If you are referring to individual items owned by the individuals of the group, for example, the singular possessive pronoun should be used.

The ownership of a specific item:

Each of the participants shook his head.

versus the group's ownership of the many items:

The participants shook their heads.

The use of the "his" in this particular case indicates the group of people contains at least one man. "His" is used when referring to individual items owned by the individuals of the group if the group contains one man. If, and only if, there are no men in the group, "hers" can be used. This rule means you can have 99,999 women and one man in a group, but you'll still (antiquated grammar speaking) use "his" and not "hers."

Apparently, this is not politically correct in this (post-)feminist era. Instead, "better" grammar is to ignore the noun's number, and use the gender neutral plural possessive pronoun "their" in both cases:

Each of the participants shook their head.

Personally, I disagree with this venacular use of the gender-neutral plural possessive, and continue to use "his" to indicate singular possession.

To me, "his" is as gender neutral as "their."