Since I know a lot of you care deeply about not letting language slide into the gutter or get too muddy to make things clear, John Epstein's article Language Guardian (Opinion Journal, December 7) led me to The Vocabula Review, which operates under the tagline "A society is generally as lax as its language."
Ooh, that tagline hit home for a reason you might not suspect. It wasn't until I got a job as a newspaper reporter that I learned the word its. My friendly editor went nuts until I learned to not use it's where I should have used its. To this day, whenever I use it's I stop to make sure I can turn it into it is or it has. Just to make sure. Just because I drove a lady bonkers in my former ignorance. Silly, I know. For those of you who are new to the word its, the way I remember to use it is to think of it as being in the same verbal basket as his and hers and ours.
Of course, the tagline hit home for other reasons. Words matter. Misusing words can make communications difficult and reasoning muddled. I'm far from being a good role model on matters of grammar or punctuation, I know, but it's not for lack of caring. I had a few too many teachers who had individualized ideas about such things, shall we say? If you think I'm original now, you should have seen me before I realized I'd been mistaught. Yinga. The relearning never ends. I haven't had a chance to take a good, hard look at The Vocabula Review, but at first glance it looks like it might be able to teach me a thing or two.
hat tip: Between Two Worlds (which I found from a link at Ponderosa Hill, which, appropriately enough, has a post today on a phrase that people seem to use without thinking about what they're saying. I know I've used it without thinking...)
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