Someone sent me via email “Top 10 Grammar Peeves.” They aren’t all grammatical errors; many are usage — or misusage, if there is such a word. But one phrase stood out.
I’ll get to that phrase later. But I remembered reading something earlier that really caught my attention, and I hope you’ll wonder about it, too. Some article quoted a person who was searching the four corners of the Earth. Now I applaud such diligence, but, let me ask you: Isn’t the earth round? Isn’t it an orb? Which leads me to ask: If it’s round, where are the corners? Nothing round has a corner! When we were little and played tag, maybe we got cornered and caught, but that’s different — that wasn’t the earth, it was a backyard.
When I posed this dilemma to my daughter, she diligently agreed. Then she said she also has a phrase she questions. It’s “Now then.” You’ve heard it; like me, you’ve probably said it. So what do you mean — now or then? It can’t be both, can it? Her husband, she tells me, feels like that when he hears or reads “jumbo shrimp.”
Do you harbor negative feelings about a phrase? If so, let me know. We’ll add it to our list of anachronisms. In the meantime, we’ll search for others but not to the corners of the Earth.
Now then: The phrase included in that list of 10 pet peeves is “I could care less,” which isn’t what the speaker really means. He or she probably means “I couldn’t care less!”
And a letter from a reader says she also loves the English language and remembers the fourth and fifth grade teacher who taught her back in 1948 that “It is always different from, not different than.” She then asks how many people know that. Somewhere I read that the British use “than” rather than “from.” She wrote on about incorrect word usage, saying she is particularly bugged when she hears “Have went.”
I understand; for some reason, I think that is a Hoosierism. Am I wrong? The writer, who didn’t include her name — only her address — also explained to me that red bud trees start out with tiny red buds before they become pink flowers, and possibly that’s why they’re called redbuds, not pinkbuds. My dictionary only referred me to “cercis,” which said nothing about color.
A letter from Don Didier reminded me of many things, including the USO lounge located during World War II in the Fox Garage at the corner of Washington and Harrison. He also wrote about the bus terminal on Jefferson. We often ended up there when Curt and I were dating. It was one of the few places that served food late in the evening, so after a movie we frequently went there.
But a major part of his two-page letter was a recounting of the servicemen who were stationed at Baer Field during WWII who married Fort Wayne women and then settled here after victory was declared. That was very interesting. I sometimes forget a virtue we have that attracts persons to my Fort Wayne. He wrote a brief summary about each of the men.
But one letter really deserves a column of its own. Well, the author almost had a full column once before because he composed a magnificent piece of prose using homonyms, as I had requested, and I used his treatise in “By the Way.” But sin of all sins, crime of all crimes, I attributed it to Matt, not Mort Holcomb. How could I have been so careless? So unprofessional? Mea culpa!
Finally, a year and a half after that heinous crime, he has written again. Actually, it is one of the most fun letters I’ve ever received. It is time I apologize. And I do. Mort Holcomb, MORT Holcomb, Mort Holcomb, I am truly sorry — but it brought me another of your masterpieces of writing, so there!