S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: From New York City, this is Lexicon Valley, a podcast about language. I’m John McWhorter. And this week I want to talk about linguistic pet peeves, not yours, but mine, because people often ask a linguist. We linguists are seen as so permissive about what are widely seen as language errors were permissive, were benevolent. And we’re often asked, well, what bothers you? Do you not like any of the things that you hear people saying all the time? And the answer that question, at least from me, is, of course, there are things that I don’t like hearing in terms of people’s grammatical constructions, et cetera. But we consider it our jobs to work against our feelings like that and think of them as understandable but unfortunate biases, because as I’ve often tried to get across on this show scientifically, there is no case for the idea that someone who’s speaking fluently and with nuance is somehow doing something wrong. Our sense of what’s wrong and what we’re talking about an outright grammatical error that nobody else makes is conditioned by sociological and socio historical random misses. So what about my pet peeves? What do I not like? I don’t like spending long times cooped up in a closet as I am now. But other than that. What are some things that people say that I can’t stand? Well, let me share my main one with you. And it’s something that I don’t get the feeling most people even notice. But this drives me crazy. It’s like an eyelash in your eye. And people do it a lot. And so it means that I have something to be handily annoyed about all the time. Here is a clip from the slightly under song live action Disney movie from the 60s, The Happiest Millionaire. Here is Fred McMurry talking. And just listen to him. You’re not going to hear anything at first, probably, but just listen to what he says.
S3: I was a sickly child, Mr. Duke asked. And then when I was 10, I came down with typhoid fever. I said, they said, you’ll never make. But I did make it. And somehow the fever killed the asthma. It was like a miracle. And you know what I learned at that early age? Mr. Duke, that life is precious and wonderful thing, but you just can’t sit there and let it lap around you. You have to dive into it. You have to taste it. You have to feel it. You have to use it. And the more you use, the more you have. That’s the wonder of it.
S4: Now, probably you don’t know what bothered me. Well, how about this? Here is an episode of Loose Hill Balls. Second sitcom. Yes. I couldn’t resist. This is the Lucy Show. This would be 1967. Here is something that Lucy says.
S5: So you went shopping and you picked up a few things? Well, more than a few. More than a few. Let’s see now. Three’s Dee Myers, a little bottle of Cologne, a pair of current EU territories. And, oh, I found a new eyelash curler and a floor lamp fallen. Where was that? It wasn’t in the bag. Well, of course not. You just can’t walk out carrying a Phar Lap. It’s being delivered.
S6: To hear what it is that bothers me. It’s just can’t. I don’t like that. It should be. You can’t just. What do I mean? OK. So, for example, he went in, right? He simply went in. Okay. He can simply go in right now. He simply can’t go in. He can simply go in. We’re talking about him going simply. And then we might want to modify it by talking about kindness so he can simply go in or make it negative. He can’t simply go in. OK, now how that was just he just went in. All he did was go in. He just went in. Oh, don’t worry. He can just go in or he can’t just go in. But no, the way most people put it is he just can’t go in there. He can’t just go in is the way I feel like it should be.
S2: You just can’t above above applause what people say when they mean you can’t just come in and it’s just this little blip. I don’t know what its history is, but for some reason when it comes to the auxiliary can and just they flipped. For some reason, it’s like some sort of mitochondrial DNA error that’s crept in with the order of the nucleotides or something like that. And there it is. Now everybody knows what it means. People know when you say you just can’t do that. You don’t mean you simply cannot do that thing. It’s just unthinkable that you would do that. What you mean is you can’t simply I eat without thinking casually. Go in. We all know what it means. Nevertheless, it’s always struck me as a contravention of order. But, you know, I’ve got to stop being bothered by that because all languages have endings. It’s like any car you have. Unless you basically never drive, it is gonna have dings. It has to be part of why you love it. All languages have little things mandarin because I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The way that you say not if you’re in, say, the present or the future is the way you say. Not if you’re in the past is May. Okay, that’s fine. Now with to be and to have. However you have to use bu no matter what you’re talking about. And so it has to be boot shoot. OK. But there’s no such thing as may shoot. That doesn’t mean was. You just can’t do that through. You have to use boop and then with the verb have yo. You have to use the past when you have to say maillol. There’s no such thing as Budo. You just don’t use bood with yo whether you’re talking about the past, present or future. There was shit. It’s always that present one with yo. It’s always that past one and you just kind of have to know. I don’t think that has kept anybody who speaks Mandarin from doing whatever they needed to do, including communicating. And who am I to say there’s something wrong with it? But I don’t think that many Mandarin speakers are thinking about it either. It’s just kind of that’s the way it is or there are other things that make just as little sense as the just can’t thing that we don’t think about at all. So, for example, I am a man, OK? I am a man, Amitai. No, no, no. I am a man, aren’t I? But I would never say I are a man that makes no damn sense at all. And yet we handle that all the time and we don’t think anything of it. Now, as a matter of fact, as you might suppose, there are kinds of English where you do say ammend. I mean, why not? That’s what makes sense. You would assume that that’s how things started. And frankly, they did so today, even today in Ireland and Scotland. You can say &mut. Now, of course, wouldn’t you know, the thing that actually makes sense, that makes the language logical is considered quaint and so quaint that here in America you can’t imagine ammend at all.
S7: It seems like, you know, some sort of joke. I hate to admit I probably shouldn’t admit this, that 20 years ago I would bring this up occasionally and just say ammend is impossible. And I actually didn’t know back then that across the pond people actually say it. And I would just say, notice how it sounds like American. It’s not emersion, it’s Scott. Then, for example, here is Ivor Cutler, kind of a Tom Lehrer? Asked Singer over in Scotland. Least that seems to be a comparison that come to my mind. Here he is singing something. And notice this is just straight. He’s not trying to sound buffoonish. This is part of that variety of how we speak this language called English.
S9: When I go walking the roads of the world, tenderly looking for you. What do I find you clutching your nose, mending your nostrils with?
S8: I’m entitled Lucky Like you, but gee, I’m entitled Lucky Lucky.
S2: Isn’t it the funny thing, the logical thing became the illogical thing. So think about ammonite and think about saying it the way people over there say it rather than here. Well, if you say Arment enough, pretty soon you’re saying aren’t aren’t. That’s what it became. Right. Well, if you say aren’t and you are on those islands instead of over here, notice how you might start to think that art is the way you say something that’s written R and it sounds like R. And you know, if you’re not thinking about writing, you’re thinking, well, aren’t. Isn’t that like they are? We are in. And so pretty soon, you know, it probably started with young people who were too young to know any better. This aunt became, aren’t I? And so I am a man on. And pretty soon it was written. Ah, and I that’s how that started. Funny thing. Now then, also this same aunt is where 8 comes from. And so it ends up that this aunt creates two mistakes, so to speak. The auntie is a mistake. Then many people think of 8 as very slangy, very vulgar, very incorrect. All it is, is a normal development from ammonite aunt and then ain’t because of course, aunt couldn’t come from a not. There’s no to be form a like I do or something like that. It came from this. So it’s a matter of ordinary language change really. If there were no sociological values put on these things, we just think of it as dazzling developments like the Cambrian explosion. It’s just like a kaleidoscope where Aman is and is armed. It’s ain’t. It’s rather fabulous. It’s like it’s like a kaleidoscope like in the opening credits of the Lucy show by nineteen sixty seven. And even the music under those credits gets it across. Mike, can you play it for a second. Hear that musical kaleidoscope, that’s how ain’t an Aunt Ty were created, by the way, I’ve always wondered. I don’t know the answer to this question. Why in the world was that man’s name, Gale? That was no more normal then than it is now. Why would he give himself a name that might as well have been Patricia or Harriet? His name was Charles Gale. How about another one? Someone I knew. And they were not alone. But someone I knew. This is when I first noticed it. Used to say shrimps. Instead of shrimp. You want some shrimps? Not like that. Shrimp. Want some shrimp? Why can’t you master the nuances? Well, you keep saying shrimps and you know, I really needed to get over that. I honestly deep, deep down, I would feel the same way today. No, not shrimp. You must say shrimp. But really, that’s not a nuance in the language. It’s a blight. It really is a blight. I mean, think, for example, that we already have senselessly irregular plurals. And so man men, goose geese. But then not moose. neace louse. Lice but not house hice. Just louse lice. Child children. Person pay. What in the world are those? But it’s actually worse because we have other irregular plurals as in the nouns that capriciously just don’t take any plural marking. And shrimp is one of those things are like dear three dears. No, you’re not supposed to say that. That makes you cute. It’s three deer. Well, why? Now, you’d like to think that things are in a language because it makes the language clearer, OK. But it certainly doesn’t aid clarity for us not to say shrimp’s when there’s more than one of them. There’s one shrimp. Now they’re four little fuckers. And you’re gonna say they’re for shrimps. What’s wrong with that? Because you’d say for dogs, but no for shrimp, man. You just kind of leave it there. And if you stick the s on, then some little snot nose kid like me is thinking why he’s saying that. Well, clarity just isn’t the issue here. And then what about consistency? We often think about consistency and these little grammatical rules where you think, well, you have to keep things consistent. And so people like the Billy and I Billy and me rule. Well, you would never say me goes to the store. So you can’t say Billy and me go to the store. OK, if that’s true, then are we saying shrimp out of some kind of consistency and you might think, well, OK, like krill, which might as well be shrimp in there, something that, you know, whales that are too big to be believed somehow survive on? Well, there are billions and billions of them. And you don’t talk about Krystle’s. You say that they eat krill. OK.
S7: So you think, well, maybe it’s that when you deal with something that’s in big giant groups and probably isn’t very intelligent and therefore not very individual, well, then you don’t use that. And so like sheep, sheep and I’m sure you know, lamb are cute. I imagine some of you have an affection for sheep, but frankly, they’re not the sharpest knives in the drawer. And I’m not a farmer. I’m not a shepherd. But I’ll bet sheep don’t really differ that much in personality. But the point is that you refer to sheep, not sheeps.
S2: Hey, look. Three sheep. That’s not right for some reason. You’re supposed to not use the plural, but it’s quite inconsistent. And so, for example, deer three dear do dear travelling what you call herds. Now I’m thinking of antelope and I guess you. Well, that’s eight antelope coming or eight antelopes. I don’t know, dear. How many of them do you see? I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than, say, six or seven in the wild. And really, I’m pretty sure that in terms of any deer that I would have experienced in my native land, they don’t travel in herds of five hundred. All like, oh my God, there are five hundred deer coming right at me. They don’t exist in groups that big and yet deer. Are you thinking, well, maybe it’s things in the water, things in the water maybe that are kind of disgusting to look at, but good to eat. But then that doesn’t work either. Oysters. You might as well be mucus on a shell. But notice I didn’t say oyster. It’s not. Three oyster or like an eel. Good God. You don’t want to meet one, but it’s three eels, not three eel pelicans. I mean, they’re not under water, but boy, they’re ugly animals. And yet you don’t say 18. Pelican. It’s 18 pelicans. And so really, it’s just this irregular thing and gets worse, like with fish. You know, once again, we’ve got kind of non individuated things that often travel in huge groups under water. And so you’re supposed to say three fish, but then fishes is an impossible to the festival of the seven fishes. You don’t say the seven fish or something like, well, we’re gonna examine the evolution of various fishes. Probably you’d say various fishes if you’re talking about the rate tooth fish and the cartilaginous fish, et cetera. It wouldn’t be a various fish. You could say it. But to me as soon as you say fish, you start to get a smell and a taste. You start thinking about eating it and you know you don’t want to eat the fish that you’re examining the evolution of usually lampreys and stuff like that. They’re fish, right. So you have fish and fishes and to be a native English speakers to know exactly when you can get away with fishes. How is any of this a matter of clarity? How is any of this a matter of consistency? And so what it means is that if somebody says shrimp’s they’re making the language better. It should be shrimp’s it isn’t. And so you just kind of get used to hearing shrimp. And by the time you realize it doesn’t make sense, you’re too old to change your ways. But really, shrimps is better. The person who used to say this was improving the language. And, you know, by the way, a little quick sidebar, why we’re underwater. You know what eel was in old English? Fisk OK, as risk. Well, you know what? Another word for eel was in old English in many documents as sticks. So to get away from the silly old English voice there was Al Fisk and I’ll fix this is that shoe thing that I was talking about last time. So you could talk about an Al Fisk and eel fish or an Al fix? An eel fix. And so there were many people who took that skirt and made it into a goose. That is your ask an axe again. So we hear axe. That would be many people’s pet peeve. People saying, I’m going to axe you. And to these people, it sounds so illiterate. It sounds. Deliberately distorted, but really it’s just the same thing as E.O. Fiske and Eel Fix. There were ask people, there were X people, there were ash people, X happened to win out in a great many places. Think something else that doesn’t make any sense. Wake up y up what’s upward? Why wouldn’t wake do the whole thing, you know, awaken? There’s no reason language doesn’t make sense. Frankly, this is fake. That’s not what I’m really thinking about. I’m going for a transition. This is a song called Wake Up Brother and Dance. Wake Up, Brother and Dance is George and IRA Gershwin. This is from their 1937 movie Shall We Dance? Except it wasn’t used. The title song Shall We Dance began as this wake up brother and dance. This is not it with the words. This is Kevin Cole, a great pianist in that style, except we’re hearing it in modern sound. Playing Wake Up Brother and dance. Of course, the sustain pedal on my piano broke as soon as the shelter-in-place order came, so I can’t play anything that requires that you be able to hold your notes out. But that means that I can only play it like wake up brother and dance, which is why I decided to share this with you. Isn’t this catchy? Or here’s another one that bothers me but shouldn’t. And this is one where it bothers me to the point that I know I will never not be thrown a little bit by it. And it’s just intellectually, I know that I shouldn’t be. It’s. There’s books on the table. It’s supposed to be. There are books on the table. I feel just like a lot of you do that. It’s supposed to be our books because it’s plural. Whereas there is a book on the table. But very often when you hear colloquial English, people just say theirs. Even with plural things, there’s books over there. There’s lots of reasons to think that to me that is every bit as off putting. And I don’t mean in terms of how I feel about the people, but it feels messy in the same way as the Billy and Me thing does to a lot of you. And here’s why it shouldn’t. Languages work like that. They are never perfect. Often what we’re hoping will match really never did. Or if it doesn’t now it doesn’t in lots of other languages and nobody blinks an eye. So, for example, let’s move over to German, which is kind of like English. And so there’s a house steeped on house. OK. Is it? That is it gives. So a house gives is kind of like what it means. So it’s keep that house gift is gives a skip done house. OK. Let’s say that there are lots of houses. Let’s say they’re a heuser. Okay. You would think. Well it gives a house. A house. Gives over there. Well lots of houses give over there. Lots of houses there. There give lots of houses. You’d think well to pluralized give in Germany. So Gabe. Gabe. So you would think that if it’s escaped on house that it gives a house. Well then presumably if it’s there, many houses feel a lot. So then it’s gonna be as game. Fino Heuser escaping Villahermosa. No, you don’t say that. That makes you sound like you have a disease. It’s it’s geek Philo Heuser same thing. Skip FUTA Heuser So it gives many houses even though the many houses would. Gabin They wouldn’t gift. That’s just the way it is. And if you think our plurals in English are bad, you should think of Germans. So for example, house that’s house. Heuser is houses, but then mouse mouths and then for the plural is Moyse. Well, why not Moyse? Xur. Well, German don’t care. Another example. I usually don’t do Finnish on this show, and I’m not sure why. Because for about 10 minutes I spoke Finnish very, very, very badly. I locked myself out of a building and managed to get myself back in with a monolingual fin. You know, I had like a hundred words, had a kind of a sketch of the grammar that was a long time ago and one moves on. But Finnish is a neat language in many ways. It’s also relatively easy to not pronounce horribly. I don’t know why I don’t use it more. But in any case, suppose you want to say there’s a book on the table. The way it comes out in Finnish is on the table is a book. So a book is Kildea is is on on the table is paid Detlef. Now I have to come up with a Finnish voice. Estonian and Finnish are very close, and Estonian always has that soft voice. So Finnish should have a soft ish voice. OK, so book is herea and is is on and on the table. It’s pay Detlef. So there’s a book on the table. On the table is a book payday loan Kildea. Okay. So what about their books on the table. So on the table are books. Well, books isn’t Kildea. It’s clear to Julia you now pay Idella. That’s the same on the table. So to say on the table are books. You say pay data on Kildea. You notice that the owner didn’t change it’s pay. And that’s that. What’s the Kenneth Diesel pay? That’s on the table and then on. It’s just is. And then kids go, yeah, it’s books. And so books is on the table in Helsinki. The third person plural for on will be all that. You do not say pay a dollar over killelea or at least you usually don’t. It’s on and nobody in Finland is running around complaining about this. Or at least I spent five weeks there and no one profits up with me. And so really what it is is that in English we have this word veirs. It’s called an existential. And it did start with this verb to be third person singular form at the end of it. But now there is ness of it is largely gone. It’s just a chunk. You learn that it’s there is later, especially because we have writing. But really there’s this word that could be spelled TAVR easy theirs. And it does not change according to singular or plural. So there’s a little bit of Finnish in all of us. Of course, there’s a show tune that begins with. There are actually quite a few. One of my favorites is from Bye Bye Birdie. This is from the film of Bye Bye Birdie, which gets knocked a lot. But I actually don’t tell anybody I said this, but I like it better than the stage show. This is got a lot of living to do. This is the beginning of the song and then pretty soon. And Margaret and Bobby Reidel are up there dancing. But this is just the first lyric, very catchy little song. I arranging to their man. Child who is behind them?
S10: Some men. From Yei offered do. Oh, man. Bam! I have gone up the wine, have my own way. I made break today.
S2: Quick pitch here for something that is very important. No, it’s not. Slate Plus, you know, the other day I was reviewing the story of Hittite, which is an Indo European language that is very dead spoken in what is now Turkey. And there’s an interesting story as to how it was rediscovered. And when I want to know something like that and I want something besides Wikipedia, then where I have often gone is the Linguistics Research Center site, which is generated at the University of Texas at Austin. The Linguistics Research Center is a wonderful, wonderful resource and you can learn all sorts of things and this is not obscure. So actually at this point, about thirty thousand people are using this each month and they’re from one hundred and thirty six countries. That’s basically that might as well be every country in the world. I know it’s not even close, but that’s a whole lot of countries. And there is so much on this site. It’s the sort of thing that a lot of you who write me want to know about and written accessibly in a way that often outdoes Wikipedia. Lots and lots of stuff about the ancient languages that you want to know about. You want to know about old Persian. You can find out about it without getting confused on this site. Old Irish is something I don’t think I’ve ever talked about on the show. It is just gobsmacking, fascinating. You can learn about it without getting a stroke on this site. Also, a lot of you want to know about proto-indo-european goodness. The sources on proto-indo-european can seem almost designed to ward off anybody who isn’t clinically insane. But there’s this online Indo European lexicon, as they call it, that actually lays things out clearly in a way that I’m not aware exists anywhere else. And they’re also about to expand all this to Semitic languages for those if you want to do the Hebrew and the agritech. Not to mention Arabic, et cetera, and the Mayan languages, which are fascinating for reasons I need to share on this show at some point. So much is on this. And wouldn’t you know that the suits at U.T. Austin are withdrawing funding from this linguistics research center site and it costs money to keep things like this going because it’s put together by really concerned experts. What I want you to do, if you care about this is frankly, they need your money and it doesn’t have to be 500 dollars. Every little bit helps. Go to Facebooks, you t l r C site. You can find this on Facebook. And if you have a little bit to spare, pitch in to keep this valuable educational resource going. However, still, you want to know why I cannot stand listening to a certain renowned chef because he keeps calling Rahman Rahmi and want to know why. Then you have to get. Yeah. I knew I was going to go here. You have to get slate plus slate plus allows you to get a little tag like, you know, on an old sitcom. After the show where I discuss some bite-sized issue, it never has anything to do with the show. It’s just extra information. But to hear that, you have to pay a nominal fee. And it wouldn’t only be then for my show would be for all of the other Slate podcasts. And the idea is quite simply and openly to help fund all of these wonderful shows. I don’t mean mine. I mean to others. But here’s what you get. Not only do you get the extra bit, but you also get not having to listen to any ads, not read by May, not read by anybody else. You just get the show plus your extra a little bit for a nominal fee. So I’m not going to say during this show what my problem with Rami and is to know about that. You have to listen to a little bit after this, which is Slate Plus. OK. Another one that I don’t like and I’ve mentioned this on this show, I think or maybe it was somewhere else. But I feel bad about this one because it’s very, very common. It is practically universal in some quarters. And really, nobody should have any problem with it. Language changes, slang changes. It just is. But for me, it’s. Can I get. Can I get a Coke? I feel it as having come in about 20 years ago. I could be wrong. People may have been saying this in 1940, but to me, it’s something that happened sometime in the late nineties, maybe even after. But can I get a Coke? And I always think to myself that a little pushy, like, get it? It’s like you’re gonna gonna be grabbing it or something. I just always think to myself quietly, No, you may not get it. And I’m not sure what I wish people would say, you know, I don’t want it to be formal, but this idea can I get it always sounds to me a little bit. I hate to say it, but, you know, it sounds a little vulgar and the people who use it are not vulgar. Everybody says this these days. And I really understand that I’ve got to get over it because it’s not. Can I grab a Coke? That’s not the meaning that can I get a Coke springs from? Can I get a Coke? Is could it be that I receive and this business of couching it as me receiving takes the person giving it to you out of the equation? Can I get. And you’re imagining yourself getting it, but you’re not specifying who is doing the giving it to you such that you have this getting this what that is is polite. It’s actually a very civil way of saying give me something and then I’ll give you some money. Can I get. Could it be that I receive? In other words, is this softening that I’ve talked about? So it’s just like I’m gonna head out instead of I shall leave now. Or how often people are using sort of these days, you know, like gets more press, but sort of is really almost replacing it in some quarters, that hedging of what you’re saying. All of it is a kind of politeness impression mystically. I would say and I haven’t done a real study of this at this point because it’s very hard to hear much casual speech before a certain time. But American English is ever more acknowledging of other people’s space and point of view for reasons that it would be interesting to investigate. Now I’m actually going to start doing it. It’s funny just spitballing it. The whole thing of can I get is kind of like politeness marking in language, just like Japanese where how you use pronouns and how you use verbs changes all over the place depending on who you’re talking to, depending on who you are, depending on whether it’s a man, whether it’s a woman. That kind of thing in Japanese is really complex. Japanese and Korean have a lot of that. When children in America grow up speaking Japanese and Korean, but don’t learn that part, it embarrasses their parents. And yet Japanese and Korean grammar overall, what we think of as grammar, it’s only moderately complicated. English is about as moderately complicated grammatically as Japanese and Korean. But the truth is, we are becoming very polite. It’s almost as if when a language is only so complicated in some areas, it kind of starts reaching out, becoming more complicated in other ones. And as I said, politeness is a kind of grammar. So Japanese, Korean and English modestly complicated, but the politeness ends up getting ever more elaborated. And it’s interesting, Slavs Slavs often think that the way English handles politeness could you open the door, etc. is kind of weak sounding, that it’s kind of prissy, that it’s overdone, that it’s fake. And this is what I mean by spitballing. Sometimes I wonder if the relative bluntness of a language like Russian or Polish, it’s because the grammar otherwise is so absurdly complex. And there’s only so much that a brain is willing to handle. Javanese as opposed to Japanese is easier grammatically than English, Japanese or Korean. You almost wonder really is this? Is this it? Javanese is like that. And yet it has so many different levels of vocabulary based on politeness. Five, if you want to make it seem showy. Definitely three that even native speakers find this challenging. They’ll tell you the last Japanese person I knew actually said, Oh yeah, I speak Japanese, but not that high kind. I don’t know those high words. That’s how hard it is. So can I get a coke? It’s so normal. People will say it at a fancy restaurant these days.
S7: I hear it is a little bit vulgar for very arbitrary reasons, but it isn’t. It’s actually very refined. You give a little. You get a little. It’s 1951. You might sing about it. You’re Delores Gray. This is two on the aisle. This show is with Burt La and her. So if you want to listen to the Cowardly Lion not doing lie anythings and not all that long after The Wizard of Oz, listen to the otherwise rather evanescent cast album of two on the aisle. This was Dolores great song. This was the catchiest number in the show on The Bee.
S11: And then seven things to make. Three little get. Morning, smile and evening kids can be the pillars of the nation, don’t cramp your style. But this a little. Get a little. Oh, no. Paul Van, IBSA Dungeons. So roll the sponge in with. So take. And share the fun and keep the cold from this old constellation. It’s everywhere for everyone. Make a little take a little, take a little little. Give a little get.
S4: All right. Here is the last one. And with this one, I’m ashamed. I really am ashamed. I wish I didn’t feel this way. I’m going to tell you why I shouldn’t feel this way. But I do. Yes. Linguist have pet peeves. And because a lot of them for us are in writing. I’m gonna make an exception. Yes. Language is casual expression and writing is something else. But writing still is a very prominent and very immediate to us way of using language. And there are a little things and you know, one of my pet peeves in writing and I hate to say this because frankly, they’re issues of education, they’re issues of class. But one where I must admit that I jump a little bit is it’s business. So somebody writes everything has its place and they have an apostrophe in the hits. And I must admit, I think to myself. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Don’t they know that you don’t use the apostrophe with that? It’s can’t they differentiate the two? And so it’s a great day when that’s an apostrophe, because it’s short for. It is. But everything has its place. It’s not everything has. It is place. And so, of course, you don’t use the apostrophe. Oh, hey. But really, it’s not fair. It’s just not fair. Why don’t you use the apostrophe with even though everything has its place one? I mean, think about it. So my. And his those possessives. Well, there is no other word in them. It’s not, say, Mieze. So you don’t have to write any apostrophe in his. It’s he’s. But now it’s his. And so it’s not H.E. apostrophe s. And remember that in earlier English there was no such thing as an apostrophe. It creeps in. But with it’s well there is a word it. And so if you’re talking about Andrew’s book, if you’re talking about the nation’s catastrophe, then why not it? Who’s it? Apostrophe s place? Why not? Right now, I am teaching my youngest how to read. And it is so sad when you run up against things like was of and said, in other words, the shittily spell words. I look into Vanessa’s big brown eyes, and I have to say that one is just bad. And I can tell that she’s thinking why? And she just kind of goes along with it. And I think, look at how she’s learning that life is hard. First, from just learning how to read during this virus crisis, you just have to deal with it. Well, what about an apostrophe like this? That really doesn’t make sense. How much of this sort of thing do we need in our lives? Because think about this. When is it ever not clear when you leave out the apostrophe? Everything has its place. That’s fine. Suppose you added the apostrophe. What? Wouldn’t be clear. It’s a mistake in terms of the conventions that we have. But to tell you the truth, it’s quite clear what it means. If somebody writes everything has it is place. Well, what would that mean if you meant that it is? What would it mean to say it? Is is the only way to do things. You can’t even wrap your head around it. You know what it means. And if somebody writes something like it’s a great day today and they don’t use the apostrophe, are you really thinking that that it’s meant the possessive one, which would make no blessed sense at all? Really? The apostrophe is useless. Leaving it out is like just not doing the right dance step just because that’s not how people do it or it’s something like I think about 15 years ago I learned that you’re not supposed to wear tube socks. You know, if you’ve got short pants, you’re not supposed to have these white tube socks and then your sneakers instead you’re supposed to wear ankle socks. Now, I didn’t know that in the 70s and the 80s and not the 90s. But apparently I was kind of tacky.
S2: I was putting on these socks because they make them and they seem to be designed to go all the way up to about halfway to the knee. But now you’re not supposed to do that. Now why? That makes no blessed sense. Why are you all of a sudden, grandpa, if you have your tube socks and you’re wearing them? It’s just arbitrary fashion. But now I wouldn’t be caught dead without the ankle socks. It’s is kind of like that. Now, I have to be careful. I wrote a piece once somewhere. I forget where where I argued against the Oxford comma. And somehow a lot of people got the feeling I was saying there should be no such thing as a comma at all. Italy was particularly angry. What’s there word for comma Veeru golla or something? There were these articles and like Corriere della Sera professor says there shouldn’t be commas. He’s a motherfucker fucker or something like that. Well, I did not mean that about commas, but apostrophes. Frankly, we don’t really need them. So for example, German John’s book. Well, let’s make it Johan Yok. Let’s pick it John’s John’s book because German has a deep. Jones Boule, you do not have to put some little piece of pasta in there to indicate that it’s poss.. It’s just. Jones with an S at the end, as if you’re talking about Glynis Johns, who was in The Happiest Millionaire John’s book. Simple as that. So everything has its place. I don’t like to seeing it, but I really need to get over it because the apostrophe is frankly just like ankle socks, you know, that got a lot of living. That number goes on to one of the greatest dance numbers ever put on film. Yeah. Fred and Ginger. Gene Kelly. But really, Bye Bye Birdie has a really great dance scene here with really great music. So you don’t have to see them doing their little head tipping thing. But just the boogie woogie. Imagine being a saxophone player doing that pattern on the bottom. This is conducted by Johnny Green. Al Woodberry, does the arrangements. People deserve credit for this. Let’s go out on just the instrumental of got a lot of living to do from the Birdie film.
S10: Music to play, places to go, to see everything for you and me to know it.
S2: You can reach us at Lexicon Valley at Slate dot com. That’s Lexicon Valley at Slate.com. To listen to past shows and subscribe or just to reach out, go to slate.com. Slash Lexicon Valley. Mike volo is karma as always. Karma the editor karma. And I’m happy to have an apostrophe in there because otherwise you might think that line. Is that other word in that apostrophe, John, the.
S4: You know, asparagus is an interesting word. I had some asparagus the other day and it’s fine. English has wanted to make asparagus a normal word forever. And the insistence that we have talk about politeness, the insistence that we often have on keeping things classy has kept that word from being normal thing. But what an odd word did its asparagus. Not only is it a slightly odd food, but that word is a little weird in English because I’ve always felt that way and we always get slapped down when we try to fix it.
S7: So it starts with asparagus in Greek and it’s quite normal in terms of how sounds and words work in Greek. So asparagus. OK, great. Well, Latin so has had Greek envy. They took the word from them. And so asparagus. OK. Asparagus. Good. Now middle English takes in asparagus. But in English, the sur is plural. So you hear asparagus in Latin. If you think about it, you can imagine hearing that as plural, even though in Latin it was singular. So middle English has asparagus, and that at first is supposed to be a singular word. So Latin, a piece of asparagus. English a piece of us Farage’s. But naturally, especially for those who weren’t exactly people of writing, which back then was most people ask for marriages. Sounds like a bunch of things. And so you’re going to have an Esparra G as one thing. So give me an asparagus. Can I have one more asparagus? These are pretty good asperity. Thank you very much. That’s what it was supposed to be, an asparagus and then not gone down disparage. So we’re going to have spirited tonight. He gave me this Berridge. We’re gonna have spirit can be used both in singular and plural. It’s like spinach. Give me some spinach. Give me some spirit. And that’s what asparagus would have been. It’s not kind of the way it should be. To the extent that asparagus was hanging around. People thought they were hearing sparrow grass, which makes a certain sense because asparagus looks kind of like grass. Guess and spent whatever that was. But it was sparrow grass. That’s called a folk etymology. So saying asparagus.
S2: It’s technically a pretentious ism from another language like if you want to say bah instead of bark or if you want to say cool soul instead of Chris aunt a whore, if you want to say Rommy in instead of Román, because in Mandarin what the word is is pulled noodle. And so it is love. Min pulled noodle. Now you could anglicised that to Lami, and that’s not how it came out. We call it Román, and we don’t need to show off that. We’re aware of the Mandarin form. Nobody is gonna call it Rahmi. And except for, well, the people who were saying asparagus back in the day when everybody else wanted to just call it spirits. So we should be referring to not only Román, but spinach and spareribs is as a matter of fact, I’m gonna go make some lunch and I actually mean it. I have all of these things. I’m gonna have Rahmon, spinach and spareribs.