Anyone feeling a little more annoyed lately?
If you ask my 10-year-old daughter what her pet peeve is she’ll say it’s power walkers. Something about people doing more than strolling but less than running drives her nuts. And the arm-pumping just sends her over the edge.
We all have our peeves. In the time of coronavirus, we all have a lot more of them. My shoulders tense daily when I’m trying to focus and hear loud chewing or slurping or tapping or breathing:
ME: “Could you please keep it down? The breathing is, like, a lot.”
HUSBAND: “I shouldn’t breathe?”
ME: “Breathe. Just quieter.”
I had a robust list of annoyances before the pandemic. Many of them had to do with grammar. I’ll be the first to admit I’m no expert on language. I’m sure my writing is riddled with all sorts of errors from misplaced commas to split infinitives to words left off the end of a
But if you’ll cut me a little slack, we can have some fun:
DON’T FEAR ME
This goes back to grade school when every time we’d say, “Me and Michael are going to the movies” our parents would jump in with, “Michael and I”. It happened so many times that it was imprinted on our brains that we should never, ever, under any circumstances use the word “me” in a sentence that includes another person because then we’d sound dumb.
But there are actually a lot of brilliant people out there who are making themselves sound dumb — and peeving me out — by not knowing when to use “me”. There’s a simple way to figure it out. If the sentence makes sense when you remove the other person, you have it right. If not, it’s wrong.
Michael and I are going to the movies.
Take Michael out of the equation and see what makes sense:
I am going to the movies
Me am going to the movies.
ANSWER: I is correct.
Try this one:
That little dog just ran by Michael and I.
Again, remove Michael and see what makes sense:
That little dog just ran by I.
That little dog just ran by me.
ANSWER: ME. That little dog just ran by Michael and me.
Some people who are afraid of“me” hedge and use “myself”, which is just as peevy.
If you have questions, come to talk to Michael or myself.
No. No, no, no, no. Come talk to me. Or come talk to Michael or me.
Interesting may be the least interesting adjective of all time. It’s a word we use when we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings:
Question: “Did you like my book?”
Answer: “It was so interesting.”
Translation: It blows chunks.
Statement: “I noticed there are a lot more squirrels in the park.”
Translation: I could not care less.
And if you’re describing an article you read or a piece of art you saw or an idea you heard, skip “interesting”. Dig deeper. Be specific. As the song says, “Tell me something good. Tell me, tell me, tell me.”
HERE’S THE THING
I listen to a lot of podcasts. Like a lot, a lot — and I hear the phrase “a thing” all the time.
It’s kind of a thing.
That’s not a thing.
He’s trying to make it a thing.
STOP. I BEG YOU.
Please also stop beginning every interview question and beginning every interview answer with, “So…” Fear not. Just go right in.
OF GREAT IMPORT
Every time I use an adverb, I feel a pang of guilt and lameness as I remember what Mark Twain said: “If you see an adverb, kill it.”
Also, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
When I see “ly” in a sentence like this, I want to delete it and then kill it.
The children planted flowers, which made the garden beautiful. More importantly, it added life and color to the neighborhood.
Some are agnostic on this. In 1982, William Safire wrote, “More important” is my preference, but if “more importantly” turns you on, go ahead and use it.”
Merriam-Webster says you can go either way, “When wanting to comment on the degree of importance of the content of a statement, you may safely choose important or importantly.”
Not in my house you can’t.
Maybe it doesn’t bother grammarians, but this makes me insane: “We have to consider the way traffic has impacted the city.”
Your wisdom teeth are impacted. The city is not. Try this: “We have to look at the impact traffic has had on the city.”
ODDS AND ENDS
• Please don’t use “task” as a verb or “ask” as a noun.
• Please don’t say “welcome in”. Welcome is fine.
• Please don’t ever use “circle back”, “bandwidth”, “let’s be clear”, or “pivot” (exception for the episode of “Friends” where Ross is trying to move a couch up a flight of stairs. Classic.)
• Please teach me how to use affect and effect. I always get confused.
• Please don’t come after me. As I said, all in good fun.