Embrace your internal nit-picker!

lemonhead101May 16, 2014

I would bet that some of us can relate to this...

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This is my only fault ( cough, cough):

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 5:28PM
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. . . or not so silently sometimes, depending on the culprit.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 7:55PM
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My daughter, correcting her son's grammar, then said in horror " Oh no, I am turning into my father!"
My husband was a radio news editor and was known to tear up a badly written and ungrammatical report and demand a rewrite before it got to air!
However, I was very touched by how many successful reporters who had worked with him mentioned in their tributes in our State newspaper's obituary column what a good mentor he had been to them in their early days.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:41PM
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When I see spelling errors or grammatical errors in library books I am sooooo tempted to write in pencil the correction in the actual book. I really have to restrain myself.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 11:33AM
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Woodnymph, I have done just that (in pencil, always). I've also seen corrections others have made in library books, so I don't feel guilty at all.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 11:38AM
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If I see poor editing, I correct it.
And I do it in PEN !!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 12:02PM
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At least I am sure posters here will be correct in their correcting.
I was very annoyed to see one in a library book, written in ink, which was wrong!
Can one correct Cliffs Notes? I was checking something in "Vanity Fair" and was directed to their website. I read the summary and found a couple of mistakes.
I believe that these notes are read by many students, according to US TV programs (Charlie bought Jake one for "Moby Dick", which he never read anyway, in Two and a Half Men) so would expect them to be accurate.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 10:22PM
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I found this comparison between Italian Moms and American Moms and had to laugh:

American kids: When their Mom visits them, she brings a Bundt cake, and you sip coffee and chat.

Italian kids: When their Mom visits them, she brings 3 days worth of food, begins to tidy up, dust, do the laundry, and rearrange the furniture.

Another form of editing !
I have to admit that I'm more inclined to be like the second Mom scenario.

It goes right along with the saying:
Unasked for advice is never as warmly received as you had imagined it would be.

Are MIL's nature nit-pickers and editors, whether or not they act upon these thoughts?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 8:56AM
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Yoyo, . . . but that's my kid who is having to live like that! Of course, if it's your kid who doesn't know how to arrange the furniture, that's different.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 2:43PM
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I could nit-pick for England. Not for spelling/grammar which I never seemed to have leant (or should that be learned?) but for misinformation, wrong facts that crop up in films, on TV etc.
Was watching, on last night's TV, a play about the last drunken days of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who died of booze etc while on a 'reading' trip to NYC in 1953.
At one point he has an idea he wants to jot down on paper and asks his assistant/mistress to hand him a biro. I realise Liz knows what that is but 99.9% of Americans refer to it as a ball-point pen. Even had the woman known what Thomas wanted, it is unlikely she would have owned such a pen, as in the early '50's they were seriously expensive.
Can anyone pick a more extreme nit?

But don't be put-off by my ramblings; it was an extremely good play.

Here is a link that might be useful: A Poet in New York

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 9:09AM
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Vee, I get annoyed also with wrong facts. I recall getting really angry at a scholarly tome about the different British cultures as reflected in early America. The author maintained that witches were only tried in Puritan New England, not ever in the south. I wanted to write him a message telling him of Grace Sherwood, tried as a witch in what is now Virginia Beach, VA. In fact, there is a road named for her: "Witchduck Road". The residents even put up a statue in honor of her memory. (Apparently, she was an eccentric old woman who had dabbled in medicinal herbs, etc.)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 9:43AM
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Part of my job is editing and proofreading and I know it is very difficult to proofread a book in such a way that it is completely error-free. I'm not just referring to grammar and punctuation, but also typing errors, wrong word usage and factual errors. The last two are particularly insidious and difficult to catch. I still get annoyed when I see more than one error (especially grammatical) every 50 or so pages and I have been known to correct really bad ones. I still recall a book I read many years ago that had so many obvious typing errors in it that I suspect that an uncorrected version got printed by accident.

What seriously annoys me is when I see grammatical errors on signs. Fortunately Icelandic words don't have apostrophised forms so there are no grocers' apostrophes to annoy me, but I have found misplaced commas, missing accents that change the meaning, and wrong forms of words. Many times I have been tempted to whip out a Sharpie and correct something especially heinous, but somehow I never seem to have a Sharpie on me when I need one. I do occasionally find myself typing it's instead of its, but I usually catch it before anyone sees it.

Vee and Woodnymph, I agree that factual errors can be annoying. Sometimes they can be downright enraging. When they are so blatantly obvious that they reflect badly on the person who wrote them I get embarrassed on their behalf. I recently translated a paper, written by academics, that had a number of embarrassing factual errors in it and although it wasn't in the job description, I couldn't bring myself to turn it in with the errors in place and sent in corrections I hope I my client put into the source text as well as the translation.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 10:49AM
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As a grower of heirloom roses, My favorite nit to pick is the use of Hybrid Tea roses in period films. Drives me bananas.

I also just enough about historic costume to be irritated at serious errors in period costume. In the past couple of decades, costumers for the most part have done reasonably well. Movies in the 1930's, 40's and 50's tended to be simply dreadful, costuming in period-inspired but contemporary fashion-influenced costumes. I'm sure this is a generalization, and that there were exceptions of which I am unaware.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 2:29PM
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Rosefolly, I know what you mean about those costumes. I remember the P&P film which put the story into the Victorian era to avoid dressing the women in the bosomed Regency styles!
I had to have a gown once for a Regency event and converted a Laura Ashley Country print 'middle waisted' long cotton dress into the correct style by adding a wide sash.
I am not a great dressmaker and it saved me having to make a gown just for that one occasion!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 10:03PM
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Add me to the list of nit-pickers!

My picks are usually of the grammar and sentence structure type, although I did find a book where the US author set some of the action in Australia, and had Darwin in Western Australia. It was a pity, since I thought she did a good job with the vernacular, which is harder to get right.

On the other hand, I am always amazed to see lists of mistakes in movies, and that people see things like 'the glass was to the right of the book in one shot, then on the next it was on the left'. Who watches that closely?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 5:11AM
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I suppose people are out there who don't have that much to do to pick up those tiny details? I'm not bothered by that kind of detail, but ooh - typos and grammar make it tough to enjoy something. Can't turn my editor head off sometimes. Perhaps they are the same with such visual details?

For example, saw this pic from road workers in my neighborhood the other day. Apparently, something is not working.... :

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 4:38PM
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Here's a touchy one........I cringe when I hear someone say that they " axed a question".
Have you never read a book?
Or listened to others speak?
Or watched a news broadcast?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 5:05PM
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Axed: Old English from acsian.

Reading Chaucer, Hardy and Dickens would introduce one to the word.
The word is also found in the Coverdale Bible.

It is a long established word in many dialects.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 10:05AM
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It must be very old English as here in England I have only heard 'axed' used occasionally by West Indians.

My family get bored with me complaining about books read/films watched that are full of inaccuracies.
My dd suggests that I should concentrate on Sci-Fi novels and movies where the 'future' contains whatever the author/director wants. ;-)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:49AM
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"Axed" is very common in some African-American dialects here in Texas... "Where you at?" is another one that pops up a lot here. (They sound incorrect to me, from an academic writing perspective, but it's perfectly ok within the bounds of this particular dialect.)

One phrase that I wasn't sure about (grammar-wise) was the phrase "outside of" (i.e. The dog was outside of the house.) I've seen in it in such esteemed outlets such as the NYT and The Atlantic, so wanted to check up on it as it sounded wrong to my ears. Turns out that it's an accepted thing US grammar/writing in quite a few style books (AP, APA, etc.) Well, well, well. You learn something new everyday.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:14PM
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I doubt that reading Chaucer, Hardy or Dickens introduced the word "axed" to most who use it !
At least not to the ones that I hear say it..

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 12:39PM
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I would agree with Liz that "axed" for "asked" is heard frequently in the deep South, ' specially in African-American dialects.

As for "Where you at?", I know it is bad grammar, but everyone here says it and I say it too. The standard answer is "Behind the 'at'!"

Another term indigenous to parts of the south: instead of "He gave me a ride to --", we hear "He carried me down to---".

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:58PM
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A phrase that I have to rearrange mentally is "Lucked out" because to me it indicates not being lucky but seems to be in US usage as the opposite. I just think "Got lucky" instead!
Also "third time" is "lucky" to me, not "the charm".
Still, luck is good however expressed!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 8:31PM
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Ann, I've never heard of the expression 'The charm'!

Mary we don't say "...gave me a ride" we say " . . .gave me a lift." eg "so and so gave me a lift to work " or "If you are driving into town would you give me a lift please?"
I don't know where the term 'lift' came from, unless it is the equivalent of a 'leg-up'. I've never thought about it before . . .
Using the word 'carry/carried' makes sense if you think of the old 'carrier carts' that country folk used before trains/trucks/cars etc. Also the term 'carriage paid' when a package/parcel has been paid for in advance.

Liz, 'outside of' sounds wrong to me too.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 1:21PM
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Liz, every time I hear 'outside of' I think of my eighth-grade English teacher. She gave her students prolonged rants about 'double prepositions' and successfully convinced me (and probably some of my classmates) that there was something wrong with them. She was particularly incensed with The Rolling Stones' song 'Get off of My Cloud' and Mick Jagger pronouncing the ungrammatical 'off of' as 'offa'. I thought she was a bit unwired to be offended by a silly popular song, but that's the way of a pedant, I suppose. Pity the poor pedants, because they have their way for only a short while and then the world moves on in spite of them. ;-)

Annpan, I am so accustomed to hearing 'lucked out' and knowing what it means to Americans, that I never gave it any thought. But I think you're right: it means the opposite of what it intuitively should. Idioms often don't make complete sense, though, etymologically.

I've heard both 'third time lucky' and 'third time is the charm' and I assumed the 'lucky' one was British and 'the charm' was American, but apparently they are both of British origin with 'the charm' predating in print, appearing in The Cabinet Album - 1830. 'Third time's lucky' appeared three years later (1833) in The Port Admiral by William Johnstoun N. Neale. Both are predated by similar sayings in Shakespeare's day. (So says Google, to which I can't seem to make a link to the pertinent discussion.)

You all make fascinating observations with your sharp eyes and ears!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 7:07PM
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Vee, I watch a program "Judge Judy" every weekday afternoon. It is a good source for me of US speech and current expressions.
I also like to guess her rulings on the cases!
I think that a number of formerly British expressions and words still are in use in the former Colonies where they have died out in the Mother Country.
This applies to other transposed things as well. A German visitor was surprised at some custom which is kept here with ex-pats and has become obsolete at home!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 8:55PM
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Ann, yes, I think there are a good many formerly Brit expressions that survive in the former colonies. I can think of two: I grew up saying "I'll have a wee bit of pie" instead of "a little bit". The "wee" being of Scots origin but said by all my family in the deep South, and others. The second is "I'm going down yonder". ("yonder" being one of those old English words, yet my father said it constantly).

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 11:28AM
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Speaking of who is to say what is "correct" wrt language (and I can be one of those prescriptivists at times), here is a TED talk (about 5 mins) of the thoughts of young poet on the issue...

I thought it very interesting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Jamila Lyiscott on language

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 1:56PM
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Mary, yonder is one of my favorite words because it fills a gap for indicating direction and distance when we would otherwise have to use a phrase such as 'over there' or 'out there somewhere' or 'down there' or 'up there'. I'm mystified that it has fallen from favor in American English and is even derided as being a word used by "hicks from the sticks."

Reckon is a similarly stereotyped word in the U.S., usually associated with laconic cowboys or farmers chewing on straws of hay, saying, "Yep, I reckon so." I'm delighted that my English friends use 'reckon' without pejorative connotation.

An example that always comes to my mind of American English retaining an older word when British English seems to have dropped it almost completely: fall, as in the season. Fall is beautifully simple and descriptive, and it is completely English, yet the English themselves adopted 'autumn' in preference, perhaps because French was considered the more refined and prestigious language. I ran across a young man in London who claimed he didn't know that 'fall' for the season was English. I say both fall and autumn, but I usually don't plan which one. I guess it just depends on how my mind is working on a particular day. Canadians, or some of them anyway, also say fall if Ian Tyson's song 'Four Strong Winds' is a good indication. Think I'll go out to Alberta;
Weather's good there in the fall.

Liz, I enjoyed the TED talk with Jamila Lyiscott. I get her point and understand her annoyance. I thought the audience seemed a bit uneasy. From my experiences, I have the opinion that the people most intolerant of language differences are the ones who have been most isolated in homogeneous bubbles (Ivory Towers, for instance). Living in the crossroads of the Pacific in a polyglot culture, I've learned that people who speak and write bits & pieces of several languages -- but none of them perfectly -- are less likely to be classists or racists or hierarchical snobs, at least linguistically.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:37AM
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Frieda -

Glad you liked the poet piece - she is a powerful young speaker, I think. And I think that you have a good point about how very prescriptive grammarians shudder at something that is said/written in the course of the normal day and not adapting to the times.

I agree, also, with the link between very conservative grammarians and their views of others -- one has to change with the times or one becomes a dinosaur. Such ideas have a place in academic circles, perhaps (for example, linguistic history etc.), but every day language is a living thing in many ways.

English, anyway, is such a blend of different languages that it's hard to justify it being given one name, historically speaking. UK was invaded by just about everyone throughout history: Danes, Vikings, French, etc. and now the ease of access of the internet makes a small world, linguistically speaking and otherwise.

Language is an evolving pattern of sounds, to me, and although in my professional academic writing life, I can be as nitpicky as the next person, in the course of a normal day and normal face-to-face interactions, people can say what they want how they want most of the time. I'd rather people talk to me when and how they want to talk to me, instead of worrying about grammar and word choice.

(I'm not sure that DH would agree with my claim to be laissez faire with his communication! I'm trying to be better though.)

It will be interesting to see how language has evolved in 50 years or so... What will be the influence on English (US or UK) of hip hop culture? Or the Latino culture? Or tech culture? Or who knows what...? Will we be speaking and spelling like texting? (C U L8R?)

I really love language history.

This post was edited by lemonhead101 on Fri, Jun 20, 14 at 13:55

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:54PM
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My mother said both yonder and reckon, as did her father. I grew up hearing both words all around me although I no longer hear or use them. I'm just so sophisticated since I've become a city girl!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 5:57PM
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Liz, I think it's natural to want to dissect and be critical of things you find especially interesting or already know a lot about (or even just a little about, as is usually my case). Besides that, nitpicking can be fun and educational when it sparks good conversation and debate -- done civilly, of course. I'm not a prescriptivist by inclination, but I realize that some rules make communicating easier. I've taken this advice to my heart: Learn the rules so you can break them with impunity. It doesn't always work, unfortunately, but it works more often than not for me.

Linguistics is my dream subject. If I could live as long as Methuselah, I probably still wouldn't have the time for everything I would like to learn about it.

My DH likes to get my goat, so he will deliberately mispronounce a word or say something ungrammatical and wait for me to correct him. If I don't, he knows I'm not paying attention to what he's saying! In tit-for-tat mode, he'll plop down a geologic specimen in front of me: "Do you know what this is?" I reply: "Yeah, sure, it's a rock." Then it's my turn to wait for a complete lecture on every aspect of that particular sedimentary/igneous/metamorphic rock. Ain't love grand?!

Oh, but Carolyn, is city sophistication better than the good old words? ;-)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 11:54PM
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I'm another one who, if I had another life to live over, would be a student of linguistics. I find the history of the English language fascinating, in terms of when the Normans invaded the Saxons and Celts, they brought not only Latinate concepts, but the Romance language that France had evolved from Latin, when France was Caesar's Gaul.

As well, I find the "Langue d'Oc" and the "Langue d'Oeil" of Southern and Northern France interesting.

I have a German friend who knows French quite well and has studied linguistics. She told me last week she went to Romania and was astonished at how much she could understand, not having studied the language. Then, she realized that, of course, Romanian is one of the Romance languages whose roots derive ultimately from Latin.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:40AM
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'reckon' is not an uncommon word over here. The dictionary gives it 10 definitions.
'yonder' is never used except in a old poetic way.

Mary I could take the nit-picking theme to extremes and say that the Normans who invaded England in 1066 did not speak French as would have been understood in Paris but a strange mixture of rural Germanic-sub French. It still can be heard among older people in the Channel Islands and in obscure corners of Normandy

Here is a link that might be useful: Channel Island Dialect dying out (Scroll down)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 5:52AM
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Thanks for posting the interesting information, Vee.

I grew up saying "I reckon" as a girl, also.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 10:38AM
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In the US the words " yonder " and " reckon" are associated with the rural mountain folk and generally not used outside those areas.

At least, that is my experience .

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 7:53AM
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I politely disagree with you, Yoyo. I did not grow up in the rural or mountain areas of the US nor did my parents. Yet my family said "down yonder" and "I reckon." I was a city girl, raised in Atlanta.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 10:22AM
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When we were growing up in SE England, it was common for people to say "I reckon..." (but without the Texas drawl)... :-)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 2:33PM
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Woodnymph........ I stand corrected, and enlightened !

Let me say that expression is rarely heard in the Northeast.
However, there might be some RPers who will disagree with that as well !

It just goes to show you that you're never too old to learn something :0)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 3:09PM
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Rural area for me, but not mountains.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 7:37PM
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Thinking about it, the movies frequently depict folks using " over yonder" and " I reckon" as the Beverly HIllbillies type ( remember that old TV show? ).

Back in the day the persona of Tennessee Ernie Ford routinely used those expressions and they defined him as a country rube.

Dolly Parton is another celeb who also uses those expressions and she proudly describes herself as just a country girl from poor rural Appalachia.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 9:19AM
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Jakob Dylan, Bob's son, has a song called "Yonder Comes the Blues." Jakob, who was born in New York City and has lived there or in Los Angeles most of his life, perhaps picked up the word and its concept from listening to the old blues masters. I think it is an encouraging sign that younger folk are keeping alive the expression, beautiful in its brevity, I think.

The U.S. Air Force anthem, of course, starts with "Off we go into the wild blue yonder/Climbing high into the sun."

Shakespeare used both yon and yonder, and if it was good enough for the Bard, I wonder why the English relegated it to archaism, except poetically, unless it was associated -- like it is to some in the U.S. -- with people of less social stature, because of the class consciousness of the English/British. Blame it on the snobs and their emulators. ;-)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 7:13PM
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I guess it's not the words so much as the context....and the twang !

Otherwise, they're just words :0))

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 7:22PM
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