Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mind your language!

As a language trainer, i think i am more sensitive to the use of language than most other people. And i can’t help but notice how some erroneous usages have become apart of popular language. No one seems to know that it is wrong or care about what is right. i find such incidences amusing and sometimes, irritating, in that order.

One of the most common errors is in the usage of punctuation. Apostrophe and exclamation mark in particular. And i have seen it being wrongly used even by people who you’d think had sound basic schooling. What’s more irksome is that this can totally distort the meaning and the person doing it has no idea! I got a lot of messages on “Happy Friendship’s day”!! Or Like the sentence “The bank’s loan helped us a lot” Oh my God!! (a la Janice!)

An apostrophe shows belonging and adding at the wrong place makes weird things belong to each other! Like “Richard’s book” (the book belong’s to Richard) or “Laurie’s fault” (the blame is pinned on Laurie). Apostrophe is the critical difference between its and it's. Guess it'll make better sense now!

Exclamation marks seems to be in fashion for weird reasons. What with the chat language making them pretty famous. It seems as if when a message with just words looks bare, exclamation is added for company. “Hi!! Just left home! See you in 10 minI!!”. If you were to read this message aloud including the effect the exclamation is supposed to produce, it would sound pretty funny. But it doesn’t really matter because no one pays attention to those little standing lines!

It also doesn’t matter how it is used. i once got an email whose subject line declared a “job opportunity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” i couldn’t see why someone offering a job would be so excited in the subject line itself! i guess because he had no clue about the meaning he was going to convey. Imagine. if. full. stops. were. to. become. fashionable. sometime. in. future.

The exclamation mark is used to show wonder and surprise. And it should be used exactly at places where it makes sense. Like “i had an amazing day!” or the school time grammar classic “Hurray! We won the match” 

Moving on, one question that seems to be a great conversation piece in polite social situations is “Where do you stay?” i really have no problem answering the question. It’s just that i don’t ‘stay’ where i do. i need to correct it while answering that i live in Mumbai. i can confidently say that not one person has ever asked me where i live. Stay and live are two different words with separate usage befitting each. Stay is used for a short duration when you visit a place or temporarily station yourself at a place. Live is used when you are settled in one place and that’s where you live. Like “i live in Mumbai but I stay at hotels when i am traveling”

The next one is beyond me! We were taught in school that a tall person was so because of the height. A variation, of course a wrong one, is developed from the word height - heighted! (you see, the exclamation here expresses my surprise at the existence of such a word) When i first heard it, i thought that it was an error made by the individual speaker. But repeated use of the word by people, who spoke English not too bad, convinced me that the word is current as an accepted one. Even though no such word exists!

i could go on and on since to my grammatically trained ears, a lot of phrases are an anomaly. So it’ll be more better for me to stop here.

I am sure most of you didn’t find anything amiss in the last sentence above! Good luck!

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