Sunday, June 8, 2008

This Red Pen, Inc. reader poll just can't be beat!

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that this picture presented a problem for me. Obviously I knew that "beated" was the wrong terminology to use here. But then I started wondering what the right terminology would be. Should it be the colloquial but grammatically weird-sounding "beat," or should it be the sounding-like-it's-overcompensating-even-though-it's-probably-the-better-grammatical-choice "beaten"? I wasn't sure, so the next day at work, I asked Amy, a fellow grammarphile, what her thoughts were on this issue. She, too, was a little stumped at first...and then after about 20 minutes of deliberation (during which I believe a number of co-workers were snickering at our very heated grammar discussion), we both decided that while "beaten" really is the grammatically better choice, "beat" is more socially acceptable and sounds less weird to most people (grammarphiles not included).

So I suppose if I were to change this sentence to make it grammatically correct, I'd write, "Even our floor tile price can't be beat!" But it took a while--a looooong while!--to come to that conclusion.

Thanks to RYAN for sending in this picture! If you think I made the wrong decision in how I'd change this picture to make it more grammatical (or if you think I made the right decision!), weigh in on the very first Red Pen, Inc. reader poll!



6 comments:

Mike Spoodles said...

I picked the top option. Once a word or syntactical tic becomes commonplace, I think it becomes grammatical. It's how language evolves, after all (although I have a sincere fear of "fo'rizzle" becoming correct in any form).

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

You've got a good point there. I didn't vote in the poll (since, well, it's my OWN poll, haha), but if I did, I'd pick the second option...the "*beat*, but i'm not sure if that's right" option. My inner grammarian hates that I think "beat" could work in this instance; my modern sensibilities tell my inner grammar geek to shut the hell up. You're right, this sort of instance is exactly the way language evolves...although I'm not sure I'm sold on a term "becoming grammatical" once it becomes commonplace. I think it starts to be "accepted as grammatical" whether it really is grammatical or not...and then *eventually* I think it can actually BE grammatical. :)

Beth said...

I totally agree about the evolution of language...but that doesn't mean that I won't go kicking and screaming all the way. :) I still think it should be "beaten"!

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Beth, you'll be kicking and screaming in good company, 'cause I'll be right there with you! Haha. :)

Becky said...

It should be "beaten," but slogans like "Our prices can't be beat!" have become so common that it's sort of acceptable by default.

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Even after reading everyone's responses and considering this issue again (and again and AGAIN), I'm *still* not sure. Sigh. I'm really not used to not being sure about these things...