A Word is a Word is a Word, Damn it

Sitting near the back row of pews at church (are protestants even allowed to sit near the front?) the congregation burst into song because the program told us to. Otherwise we just sit there and try not to make eye contact.

The hymn bothered me.

It wasn’t the message, nor the melody. It wasn’t even that the song had too many verses (some hymns can last as long as a sermon). It was because of a simple, easily avoidable grammatical error that made me nearly shout something I usually only shout during football games. I’m told shouting in my denomination is frowned upon because it’s not in the program.

I might be able to handle this misuse of the English language if it was a one-time deal, but it was in the refrain. The refrain.

The composer used “I” when he should have used “me.”


My grandmother was an English teacher, so growing up the use of language was something I had to pay more attention to than silly things like math. That kind of attention turned me into someone who’s not very much fun to talk with at parties.

Or at the grocery store.

Standing in a grocery store checkout line one day, perusing magazine headlines like “Kim and Kanye are Space Aliens from the Moons of Jupiter” (which I don’t doubt in the slightest), and “Sandra Bullock Channels Nostradamus; the End is Near,” I noticed a handmade cardboard sign on the credit card reader. It read, “This Machine is Broke.”

Really? Broke?

So, this device that is connected to every bank in the country is somehow out of money? I pulled a red Sharpie from my pants pocket and added an “n.” The man behind me laughed.

I can’t help myself. I’m OCD enough (my favorite rock band is OC/DC) to have been a newspaper editor, which made my head hurt. Here are some of the major offenders:

  • No matter how many times you use it, irregardless is not a word.
  • Pacific is an ocean, it doesn’t mean precise or exact.
  • Doughnuts are made out of dough. Donuts don’t exist.
  • Theatre is a British word meaning theater. Theater is an American word meaning theater. For all you theater types, stop trying to use the British version. That’s a level of pretentiousness that can only be pulled off by hipsters.
  • PIN number is repetitious. What do you think the N means?
  • Free gift is silly. If it’s not free, it’s not a gift, is it?
  • Fantastic doesn’t mean something is amazingly good. It means something is not real. If your dinner is fantastic, you’re going to be hungry later.
I’m serious about grammar. Don’t make me come over there.

But still, about that I/me thing.

“This composer is still alive,” I told my wife as I sat in front of my laptop. You bet I looked him up. “He has contact information on his website. I’m going to write to him and tell him he has a grammatical error in his hymn.”

She put her hand on my wrist. I looked up. She just shook her head.

Damn. What’s the point of being a grammar nerd if I can’t correct everybody?

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