Friday, March 19, 2010

Vexations and Cockleburrs

Are there things that pop up in your reading that just pop out at you as wrongwrongwrong?  They aren't terrible, egregious things.  They're just enough to irritate.

 Kind of like picking those little burrs* off your socks after a hike,

as opposed to losing a shoe in a mud hole.

 For example, I recently came across the phrase "just assume" in a place where "just as soon" would have been the thing to say.  And "taunt" instead of "taut".

 I think someone has changed the rules of irregular verb tenses for certain words since I learned them, because I consistently come across "sunk" where I think "sank" should be used. Am I the only one who does a little head shake when that happens? I've googled this and discovered there seems to be no definitive answer out there.  Who knew?

Finally, and this one really bugs me, is the use of "could care less," as in "Joe could care less where Phil dropped his pants."  Darn it, but if Joe could care less, wouldn't he?  Care less, I mean?  It should be "Joe couldn't care less..." showing that Joe has met his end of caring. Right?  Or am I sitting alone on my branch of the language tree?

*English language brought to you by Chris, and K.Z.


  1. LOL - do I admit that I don't think those are nettles (nettles are itchy!) but some sort of burr thingie?

    I know that could/couldn't care less is a hot button for some people, but *resists urge to tweak wren here* not for me - I don't notice it.

  2. *heavy sigh* I thought for sure you'd be on my side in this, Chris. *sniff*

    Yes they are burrs but I liked the word nettles better. And if that isn't irony considering this post...

  3. Could I make a point for cockle-burrs instead of nettles? ;)

    I bet KZ's on your side. Truthfully, my verb tenses are shady at best and dicey at worst...

    Here's one that bugs me: using "firstly" and then "second" instead of "secondly" or vice versa.

  4. Oh thank God you have at least one...cockle burr! I was starting to worry.

  5. Makes me crazy. Accept instead of except. I know sometimes when you are typing what your brain says in your head and what your fingers type out don't match. It happans. But I see it fairly often in books that you think SOMEONE should have picked it up. I know not likely the author because we read our stuff so many times our brain skims it, but editors are there for that no? If I, lax reader caught it, someone should have.

    So you are not alone. Those little things smack me everytime I see them. And couldn't care less is definitely one of them.

    Not sure about sink, sank, sunk because it doesn't com up often.

  6. I do have others. :)

    Like Tam, accept/except
    Also, then/than, its/it's, your/you're, there/their/they're

  7. Tam - yes! Glad you're in the care less boat! I feel better now.

    Chris - loved your list. Especially then/than! I figured that someone who won't crack a spine had a few nettley things!

  8. Great post, Wren! The word mix-ups that Chris mentioned are pretty minor because we all can slip up from time to time (with its/it's probably most annoying for me, followed by pique/peak /peek), but what truly annoys the @#$!$&$ out of me is the ignorant misuse of phrases with no regard to the meaning. Your "he could care less" is a great example of that.

    The biggest ignorant misuse of a phrase that is going to make me implode someday is when people say, "I'm schizophrenic" about something when what they really mean is that they have "split personality", (schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder are completely different things) which is itself an overly dramatic and inaccurate way to say that they're of two minds or undecided on an issue. Whew! Thanks for letting me blow off steam!

  9. LOL, ditto! My issues were covered by what you wrote and by Tam and Chris' comments. Great post! :)

  10. Val, I'm so glad I was able to give you an opportunity to vent :) I don't think I'd ever use "schizophrenic" when I just meant a simple bout of indecision!

    Lily - Thanks for stopping in!!

  11. Toss me right off my groove when that happens..

    Always at a crucial point as well...

    I had so much issues with that years ago when I moved to this side of the pond - where it's S instead of Z and U miraclously appears in words...

    But I do get what you mean - some of it is really annoying..


  12. Hi EH!
    The "s" and "u" don't bother me, because they're still correct. Although I imagine they'd be hard to get used to full-time!

  13. Oh, kiddo, I could go on and on...

    One of my BIG pet peeves is "he thought to himself." If I see that in a book -- and, yes, "could care less" as well as a thousand other irritants -- my regard for the writer plummets. I can easily excuse these kinds of screw-ups if they appear in character-appropriate dialogue or letters, but not when they appear in the narrative. That means the author doesn't have a very solid command of the language.

    By the way, Chris is right about the cockleburs. Stinging nettle is a different kind of weed -- an infinitely more evil weed that delights in inflicting dermatological suffering. I'd rather have burs on my socks than fire on my skin any day!

  14. Hi K.Z.!!
    If someone had ESP, then he could think to someone else, but barring that, I'm with you on the thinking.

    You and Chris will be pleased to note that I have edited the post to reflect your copious knowledge of weed-like growths. Mea culpa.

  15. What can I say, I grew up on a farm and had a lot of experience with both nettles and cockleburrs...

  16. I live in the country, and I've done a lot of gardening. I'm super sensitive to stinging nettle. (Just thinking about it makes me want to start cussing!)

  17. There is no teacher better than real life!


Talk to me!