There are people who have pet peeves about English grammar. There are people who are peeved by the desecration of English grammar by people. And there are others who are vexed by the English language itself. Then there is me. I am a non-native English speaker and refer to it as my father tongue. Unlike the native speakers, especially those who are less tolerant to others, I understand that this language can be hard to deal with. Though wait till you see French. But this is not about French. This is about English and my specific peeve related to it.
I find it easy to let people off the hook for mistakes related to tense. Ask the Chinese. Their concept of tense and time in language is very different. So when they are translating a thought in their mind to convey it to you in English, they might just falter with the tense. This is pardonable easily and necessarily. They are quick learners.
In the same vein, mistakes in construction of sentences or punctuation, is pardonable. That is only as long as the meaning is not changed to something incomprehensible or hilarious. “Eats, shoots and leaves” over “Eats shoots and leaves” provides comic respite instead of being a source of irritation.
The queerness of the language and the queerness of people trying to use it can be an endless source of entertainment. As a challenge, I would rather take it upon myself to understand the intended message instead of trying to throw off a speaker by ridiculing him for incorrect usage.
So then, what is it that rankles me when it comes to English language? It is these four words: Than, then, lose, loose and all the associated use or should I say rather misuse associated with them. I don’t really know the history of origin of these four words, but whoever chose to give them a. similar sounds, b. similar spellings; is in my opinion the biggest moron of all time. And these happen to be used the wrong way around 9 out of 10 times they are used.
Nothing takes the edge off a message than the line, “If he can do it, than you can too.” (No I can’t because you and he are morons!). And then there’s the other one, “Than we realized our mistake.” (No you didn’t, you just made another). Even veterans tend to make this mistake then what can I say about the other not so fortunate ones?
I’d say that if I had a penny for every time I ended up losing my temper over the misused ‘loose’ I wouldn’t have to worry about having a job. A friend once wrote to me, “I think I am loosing her.” (Good for her, I wish you’d lose my email address too) Maybe I should loosen up a bit on someone asking me, “Should I carry some lose change?” (I don’t know. Can you carry something that’s already lost?)
Call it an esoteric allergy, like one to male cockroaches that gives you a nasty rash on the bum. But the misuse of these words is ever so prevalent like male cockroaches. And I hate rashes on my bum. To add to this, there are the consistent offenders who despite being corrected, continue to use the wrong ones in the same conversation. This makes them bigger morons than the person who made these words similar sounding. Alas, only the Queen of Hearts can scream, “Off with their heads” and have it seen to effect.
In conclusion, it is only fair to mention a trick for remembering the correct usage. Years ago Readers’ Digest put to rest any confusion that could arise around the two similar words, ‘stationary’ and ‘stationery’ by a simple trick. The ‘a’ in stationary stood for ‘action’. And hence, the pencil, ruler, clips had nothing to do with it. They would all be the loyal followers of stationery. In a similar way, here’s something to remember:
The extra ‘o’ in loose is the excess that makes your pants loose. With extra ‘o’ lost, you have no more ‘o’s to lose.
The ‘e’ in ‘then’ stands for ‘event’ and hence subsequently something else happens. The ‘a’ in ‘than’ stands for ‘another’ without which there can be no comparison.
Hope you have this memorized and tucked away in a handy corner of your brain. And if you happen to have any other misnomers about the usage of these four words, than please loose them right away! ;)