I may need help. I just told off the nice announcer in a Mercedes commercial. Yes, I realize the people who reside in my television can’t actually hear me, but it still feels good to get things off my chest. So this week I’m going to unload another month’s worth of pent-up criticism into this column. (Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy.)
So what was the nice man’s crime? He had the nerve to tell me (and millions of other people who probably didn’t even notice his mistake, or care) that I could “go further” in a new Mercedes SUV. (Which he assumed I could afford, by the way). “Further? Further?” I asked out loud. “I’m sure you meant to say ‘farther,’ since that’s the word that applies to linear distance.” At least it used to. These days who knows, maybe they mean the same thing and I just didn’t get the memo.
But you know what? I’m not going to let the fact that I could be wrong keep me from railing against grammatical errors I come across, be they real or perceived. I’ll start with the always touchy subject of politics by noting that “primary” has evidently become a verb (if it’s always been one, then I didn’t get that memo either).
It seems that a certain ex-president has threatened to “primary” any members of his own party who voted against him during the recent impeachment proceedings by running candidates of his choosing against them in the upcoming primaries.
In case you were worried about how to address Vice President Harris’ husband should he happen to drop by for coffee, Merriam-Webster’s got you covered by way of the recent addition of the term “First Gentleman” to their online dictionary. That started me wondering, if the president’s wife is the First Lady, then wouldn’t that make the veep’s hubby the Second Gentleman? I don’t know. Discuss among yourselves.
Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. recently penned a piece whose headline read “US no longer in unpresidented time.” It was a reference to Donald Trump’s misspelling of “unprecedented” in one of his thousands of tweets. Pitts went on to extend the ex-president’s coinage by opining that “For four years, America had been an unpresidented nation.”
That’s enough political stuff. On to other things that currently irk me. For example, there was a recent TV news story about the construction of a controversial electricity project. At the bottom of the screen, it said something about the “first poll” being set into place. Obviously that should have read “first pole,” unless the power company is in the habit of sticking the results of its surveys into the ground. Shocking? Maybe.
Earlier I had mentioned my quixotic campaign against grammatical errors. The funny thing is that sometimes when I’m doing research on the internet, an ad for something called Grammarly pops up and announces that it can help me “Eliminate grammar errors.” Trouble is they should be saying they’ll help me eliminate “grammatical errors,” since “grammar” is a noun. Even saying “eliminate errors in your grammar” would have worked. I reached out to them regarding their slip-up, but the ad remains unchanged. Guess they didn’t get my memo.
Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.”