Dear Mr. Dad: A few years ago, I read a column of yours that talked about grammar mistakes. I thought you were overreacting, but it seems to me that they’re getting more and more common. What’s worse, schools are contributing to the problem, sending out emails and newsletters that contain basic errors. If the schools can’t get it right, how are our kids supposed to learn? Should I just give up or is it worth fighting for proper English usage?
A: Don’t give up. Please. English is under attack and needs all the help it can get. Just to be clear, I have nothing against progress. If you’ve ever tried to read Chaucer or Shakespeare, you know that our language is constantly evolving. The way we use words changes over time and new ones are always cropping up (the Oxford English Dictionary adds or revises the definitions of hundreds of words every year). Just a few years ago, had you ever of hangry (being angry as a result of hunger), selfie stick, emoji, microaggression, butt dial, fatberg, or manspreading?
Personally, I love that our language is always growing and developing. And I’m all for learning new vocabulary and usages. At the same time, like you, I find myself rolling my eyes and groaning when native English speakers make mistakes on things they should have learned in third grade. Sometimes the results are funny. Sometimes they completely change the meaning of what’s being said. Let me give you a few examples: