Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pronouns, possessives, and contractions, oh my!

I don't think there are any classes of words that give people more trouble than these three. Pronouns: words that substitute for a noun or noun phrase, such as "it" for the full name of whatever "it" is. Possessives: a word showing that something belongs to or is associated with, such as John's thing. Contractions: combinations of words joined as one, such as "can't", meaning can not.  These are pretty simple most of the time, but there are some cases where similar words, or similar sounding words get confused. And when you combine these, such as when you use a possessive pronoun, things can get even more confused.

In this post, I'll highlight the ones I saw today in some comments posted to news items I read over my morning coffee.

You, Your, You're

You is a pronoun that can be singular or plural (one of those English language things that make it difficult to learn).

The possessive form of a pronoun is always formed without an apostrophe, unlike most nouns. The possessive of you is your, not you're.

You're is a contraction for you are. For example, “You're the one that I want.”

Right: You're going to need your thinking cap if you are going to understand this.
Wrong: Your stupid if you don't know you're pronouns, possessives, and contractions.

It, Its, and It's

This trio gives many people trouble. I remember one day debating with my boss about the possessive of “it”. He was certain it had to be it's based on the rule that to make a possessive you add an apostrophe and s. This is true of most nouns but never with pronouns.

It is a third-person singular pronoun generally used to refer to inanimate things, or when the gender of the living thing isn't known. For example, “I ate the apple because it tasted good.” Or, “There is a skunk in the woodpile and it stinks.” (The other third-person singular pronouns (subjective case) are gender specific: he and she.

Its is the possessive form of it. There is no apostrophe. “Everything is in its place.” “The bear returned to its cave.”

It's is a contraction meaning it is. Like all contractions, the apostrophe indicates that two words are joined and some parts of the two are not shown. “It's a good thing that I'm so smart!”

These two are enough for now. I'll write about other pronouns, possessives, and contractions in another post. But feel free to do some research on your own. Wikipedia has a nice pronoun chart that you may find useful.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Forwarding Emails without checking

Note:  I include email, texting, and voicemail, along with sites such as Facebook and Twitter in "Social Media".

 I got my usual dose of forwarded emails this morning.  As usual, many of them were crap.  I don't really mind senseless stuff, but I do mind stuff that gets passed around and taken as fact.

One was about using a new Bayer aspirin product if you feel a heart attack coming on, along with a few other tips.  With just a couple of minutes of looking, it was obvious that the advice was bogus.  I usually start with, who somehow gets these things before I do.  (Actually most of this crap has been around for years).  I also scanned through the sources given at Snopes (they aren't perfect) and found that the FDA also disagrees with the advice in the email, agreeing with Snopes.

The second one was a very cleverly composed email about Groundhog day and the State of the Union Address.  There could be several ways to spin the cleverness, but unfortunately the author chose to try to improve on the facts by adding,
In the coming New Year, 2012, Groundhog Day and the State of the Union address will occur on the same day. This is an ironic juxtaposition of events.
That would certainly improve the story ... if it was true.  The fact is that the State of the Union Address in 2012 is scheduled for January 24 and Groundhog Day is February 2. The email I received showed more than 6 forwards, showing that nobody in the list took the time to check the facts.   Although I won't spend a lot of time checking the facts in stuff like this, I usually give it a minute or two.  And definitely don't pass something on without checking it out first.

It is stupid to:
  1. Accept as fact information you get from an unknown source without checking the facts yourself.  The amount of time you spend checking the facts depends on the importance of the information.
  2. Forward stuff without at least doing a little checking, especially if the stuff says, "send this to all your friends".
  3. Forward stuff that is of no value.  Is it really funny or clever enough to pass on?  Is there useful information in it? Will the person I forward it to be glad to get it?
If something is said enough times, it becomes "accepted fact".  The more bogus accepted facts floating around, the lower the overall intelligence of society.  Stop being stupid!

P.S. The punch line of the State of the Union Address and Groundhog day is:
One involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to an insignificant creature of little intelligence for prognostication. The other involves a groundhog.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Write Right

Yes, I know the title isn't grammatically correct, but I think it is an acceptable exception.

How you write, and speak, says a lot about you. It doesn't matter whether you are in a formal or informal situation, if you do not communicate well, you will be judged less intelligent. The key is to use language that is appropriate to the situation. Some things that may be acceptable in an informal situation might not be in a more formal situation.

Regardless, it is stupid to use incorrect grammar, spelling, and sentence construction.  Sometimes there is a fine line between incorrect and accepted deviations.  As an example, "C U tomorrow" is perfectly acceptable in a text or email message, maybe even in an informal letter.   But, "Your an idiot!" is just plain wrong.  (In case you are stupid, "Your" is the plural form of you.  "You're" is the contraction for "you are", which is what is meant in this situation).

When a particular error is used enough, it might become standard usage, and therefore correct. The English language has grown over the years, and rightly so.  But no amount of usage will make plain old wrong right.

In future posts, I'll cover errors I see and how to do it right.

High Heels are stupid

I came across a couple of interesting (i.e. disturbingly stupid) things today.  One is a Gallop Poll that says, "37 percent of the women surveyed said they would continue to wear high heels, even though they did not think them comfortable."   I wonder how many would say that they would continue to wear them knowing that by the age of 40 they would be crippled?  The second thing was an Q/A I stumbled upon where an apparently young woman asked whether she should listen to people who are saying high heels are bad for her and stupid.  The answer voted the "Best Answer" says, "Heels look great on any woman. Like others say ignore them."   Generally, I find good information at this site.  Not this time.

I'm rather fond of women, and not really a foot person, but I don't find crippled feed attractive.  Nor do I find bunions appealing, or women who can barely walk without pain.  On top of that, despite all the hype to the contrary, I don't think high heels improve the look of legs.
The facts are:
  1. High heels don't make your legs look better or improve your overall appearance.
  2. High heels will damage your feet, legs, and spine.  Most women over 40 who wore high heels most of their lives have serious problems.
While I'm on the subject, if you are going to be stupid and wear high heels, don't wear them with a bathing suit.  What in the world are the beauty contest people thinking! 

If you do something continuously that you know will cause you major problems down the road, you are being stupid.  Stop it!