Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Drink, drank, drunk. Think, thank, thunk...right?

In addition to enjoying Jack Eason's Onet's Tale this week, I'm perusing The Accidents of Style by Charles Harrington Elster. It's laid out like an encyclopedia of sorts, listing some 350 "accidents" in the form of misused words and phrases. What's even neater is he gives real-life examples of how these are misused in all sorts of media--newspapers, television, magazines, etc--some highly respected ones.

Many of them, I know already (patting my little back now), but a few of them, I've misused and still misuse time and again. Especially in my speech, but I don't count that. I'm a country girl, people. Always have been, always will be. If you're graced with the fortune of hearing me speak, you're likely to  hear a "Y'all" or, "Dejeet yet? (Did you eat yet?), and  "I ain't never done that." But, when I write, by golly, I like to use proper grammar. Sometimes, though, those little conjugations and such give me the hardest time.

For instance, (quoting the book here) "Accident 13--The pandemic confusion between lay and lie....the present tense of lay is the same as the past tense of lie"  Anyone have trouble with this one? You can lay down a book, but you can't lay down yourself--you have to lie down. Lay in the present tense has to have an object. But, the past tense of lie is lay. So, if you're talking about what you did last night, then you lay down to sleep. Pretty sure that one is a common mistake.

Here are a couple more I find myself misusing. "Accident 18--It's that big a problem, not that big of a problem" and "Accident 19--Write off, not off of"  That little "of" tends to get stuck everywhere, like "You aren't that big of a man." or "My son eats Cheerios off of the floor." No need for that "of" in either of these. Are you guilty of (notice how easy it slips in) infecting your writing with "of"?

I'm sure I'll never attain perfect grammar (especially in my speech--I stubbornly hold to my redneck heritage), but with this book, I think I can clean up my writing a little more.

Today's question: What are your "Accidents of Style"?


  1. Oh my, where to begin?
    I do the whole lay/lie confusion, plus the raise/rose/raised. And I can't believe screamed is a word just like sneaked. It should be scram and snuk. :p
    I speak correctly, seeing as I learned English as a foreign language - my only guilty pleasure is to say bestest and you brokeded it.
    I also always confuse sunk with sank, and wonder with wander (though I actually know the difference between the latter - they just come out wrong)
    These are off the top of my head - I bet there are many others!

  2. You're doing great Steph! You write a heck of a lot better in English than a lot of native speakers do.

    It's easy to mix up words like that. Occasionally, I even have guys wanting to tear other guys apart with their "bear" hands. :)

  3. oh my! I make these mistakes so often... I lost count...
    *twitchy eyes*

  4. You helped me see the light with those darn participles, Mysti. I never know when to use lay or lie, so I just use a different verb. Correct grammar is hard.

  5. Lindsey, I almost forgot how many times you rescued my characters when the floor kept eating them. :)I have a tendency to write "in the floor" instead of "on the floor".


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