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Being Precise

This is a re-post from 2011. Just not up to being clever right now. I know that language changes over time. It has to. I know that clinging to the old ways is futile and might make me seem cantankerous or even silly. But it was my job, for three decades, to guard the language, to see that people under my care used it clearly rather than sloppily, thinking about what they wanted to convey as well as what other people might make of it. So I'm going to list some things that seem to me worth keeping in our language. PLEASE KEEP distinctions between similar words. People who are aware of the differences listed here are disappearing, yet there is good reason for keeping their separate meanings.                 nauseated/nauseous-People become nauseated when they encounter something that is nauseous.                 might/may-I might call and ask you if I may take you out to dinner.                 farther/further-He went farther than anyone else to further grammatical a

Let's Fix English

I'm a staunch defender of correct grammar, but there are some things we could do to make our language easier to use. 1. Allow ain't. The reason we have so much trouble with it is that some subject-verb connections are done with the adverb not added to the verb: you aren't, he isn't, etc., and some require us to attach the verb to the pronoun and let not trail behind: I'm not, you're not. The simplest fix would be to let all pronouns use ain't for the negative: I ain't, you ain't, he ain't. Yes, it sounds wrong to those who paid attention in English class, but simple works, and in a generation, maybe less, it would be fine. 2. Forget whom and whomever . They sound stuffy and no one knows when to use them anyway. Once an editor tried to "fix" my usage, and I had to explain that "to whoever made the phone call" is correct. 3. Find a plural for you . I dislike yous , but I think I could live with y'all or even si