Rosie Right: Peeves Again 

Our language and how it works.

If I want to realize how important my copy editing job is, I have only to look at the number of peeves that are waiting out there in our group of readers. They signal me to be alert and careful.

Style reader Alexander Crump sent an e-mail with two of his grammatical pet peeves: "(1) Lately, weather forecasters refer to chance for showers when it should be chance of showers. Why did this start happening? It drives me nuts! (2) Car dealership ads touting 25 to choose. I don't want 25 cars. I only want one."

Anne Woodlief, who taught English at Virginia Commonwealth University, writes: "As I used to tell my students, there were two things guaranteed to get under my skin — the vanishing/added apostrophe (as in its time to go or it's time has come) and the non-word, alot (which is pretty meaningless anyhow). I've given up on nouns used as verbs, especially impact; it's hopeless. (Or was that its hopeless?)!"

Friend Earle Dunford sends the following admonition: "I have a lot of peeves (and I could add many since I am re-absorbed in James Thurber's book, 'The Years With Ross'), but here are a couple:

"1. He is friends with (whomever). That's an impossibility. What we have here is what my wonderful high school grammar teacher called a predicate nominative (I think). In any case, he is singular and the noun that follows must agree in number. He certainly cannot be plural. How about He is friendly with or A and B are friends.

"2. Everyone is happy with their. … This, of course, is an outgrowth of feminism, which I will not put down automatically. Today it is not politically correct, although grammatically correct, to say Everyone is happy with his. ... You can say his or her, but that can get awfully stuffy. One way out is All are happy with their. As I used to tell students, whenever everyone are her is correct, I'll buy the new usage."

Enough already!

Let Rosie hear from you by mail (1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, VA 23230); by e-mail (rozanne.epps@styleweekly.com); or by telephone (804-358-0825).

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