Thursday, May 20, 2004

Woes of a closet prescriptivist.
I've just identified the three things that most cause me pain in this world, and they're all fairly common spoken grammatical structures:

"The thing is, is..." The phrase "the thing is" has become such a common saying for many people that the words have become glued together into one morpheme, and the "is" no longer has meaning. These people need to add another "is" before it will make structural sense to them. Unfortunately, I am not one of these people.

"As best as I can" or "as best as possible." I heard this one last weekend, in the dialog of the movie "Troy." Grammatical errors in supposedly classical settings are the ones that irk me the most (don't get me started on "from whence"). "Best" is a superlative, and traditionally superlatives can't occupy this position: You can't say "He ran as fastest as he could," or even "as worst as I can." The "correct" phrase is "as best I can" or "as best is possible." To use a comparative structure, you have to use a comparative adverb: "as well as I can."

"The reason being is that..." "Being" is already a progressive verb, and insertion of the "is" verb makes this ungrammatical. Traditionally. A correct phrase would read "the reason being that..." However, in the popular mind, "reason being" has become yet another phrasal noun, which results in the necessity of another verb to take over for the "being" that stopped having any constructive value.

Having said all this, I'm a linguistics student, and we're supposed to be descriptive about all this, instead of telling people what to say. And besides, I do stuff all the time that isn't grammatical historically (like starting sentences with "and"). It's not so much that I think I have the best grammar, but once I get a handle on any one point, its misuse drives me crazy. I think what causes me the most mental anguish is the knowledge that knowing everyone is "doing it wrong" only shows what a lame snob I am!

2 comments:

robb said...

joel,

my new blog is http://staff.washington.edu/stankey/

Tia said...

Well, the thing is, is that I've been doing as best as I can to get good grammer and I just can't do it! The reason being is that I don't read the dictionary oftener.