No, I’m not a grammar nazi, but damn it!


Alright, I know that language evolves and that contemporary expressions and idioms displace older ways of communicating using language. Still, some words and terms currently in use are just illogical, never mind that they’re not in conformity with the rules of the language.

I know, I know, rules are made to be broken but damn we insist on misusing some words so consistently and wrongly that we need to give our collective heads a shake. 

I want to give you just a few examples of the more egregious misuses of language so that maybe you, at least YOU, will not fall into the pit of folly and ever misuse these words again. 

First, a tenant is someone to whom you rent a house or an apartment. A tenet is a principle, belief or dogma generally held to be true by a group of people, an organization, movement or profession. A tenet of the Catholic faith is the three aspects of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Get it? The Catholic church may rent out apartments and spaces here and there in which case they would have tenants to go along with their many tenets. The difference between the two words is minimal if you look at the letters involved, but maximal if you consider their meanings.

I’ve experienced professionals, using overhead projectors and powerpoint presentations use tenant when they meant to use tenet. Not cool folks! Don’t do it! Ever!

Here’s another one of my very favourites: storey and story.

You could tell a story to someone while standing on the second storey balcony of your apartment, but don’t get the two mixed up.

Damn, I’ve seen architects use story when they meant to use storey once too often. They should know better. People in general use story when they mean storey all the time. I’ve got some glaring examples, but I don’t want to embarrass the circus in question. 

Data, damn it, is a plural noun. The character on Star Trek should have been called Datum, which is the singular form of data. Now this one is becoming mainstream. People, many of them scientists, even statisticians who really should know better, now commonly use data when they actually mean to use datum, but never the other way around. How often have you heard: “the data tells us blah, blah, blah…” It should be the data tell us. Truth be told, most people don’t even know the word datum exists, but that’s what five years of studying Latin got me. Got that one? Let’s move on to a couple more examples like it.

Media is a plural noun but is generally used as a singular noun.  The singular form of media is, wait for it… medium! Television and radio are communications media. The internet is another medium of communication. Please avoid using the phrase: “the media delivered the news today that it was not interested in how to use the word, medium, not even on the national news.” Well, you can use that phrase, but you get my drift.

Same goes for continua, continuum, agenda and agendum. Yes, I know that the world is changing, blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

The use of the word quality without qualification drives me crazy. No, you don’t sell quality cars, you either sell high quality, midlin quality or, frankly, poor quality cars. Got that? Stop telling me you sell quality anything. You don’t! Even college administrators get this wrong, some even deliberately!

Read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig, for God’s sake. It’s all about quality.

Alright that’s enough. I’ve got a cold and I think ranting helps me clear my sinuses. Thanks for indulging me, but I’ll be back!

By the way, post your own pet peeves when it comes to the misuse of language in response to this, on Facebook, Twitter, or even on here, WordPress. 

5 thoughts on “No, I’m not a grammar nazi, but damn it!

    1. Hi Chris,
      Sorry I missed your first comment post. I received it, but hadn’t checked my blog for a while. Yes, holistic. Such an overused, misused and abused word. I find that organic is another word in this category. I don’t know how we could have anything but organic fruits and vegetables, whether they are laced with pesticides or not. I certainly haven’t run across any inorganic fruits or vegetables.
      I don’t know why the food industry settled on ‘organic’ to mean ‘pesticide free’.

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