Monday, March 23, 2009

MISSPELLING MONDAY for March 23, 2009

One of the reasons I find the DEAR ABBY column to be such a charming read is because the grammar--both Abby's and the letter-writers' grammar--is usually excellent. Sure, the language is often a little more formal than in most other things I read, and I don't always agree with the advice, but I do think it's a charming, well-written column.

I've often wondered how much Abby or her "people" edit the letters that people mail in, because I'm certain that not all Abby's readers are grammarians and that those letters must show up in Abby's mailbox with some mistakes in them. From a letter posted in today's Dear Abby column, it looks like my theory holds true--nope, not all Abby's readers are grammarians. "Severally" isn't a word*, but apparently today's letter-writer thought it was. I'm certain the person meant to use the word "severely"...but that's not what the letter says!

I'm surprised that Abby and/or her people didn't catch this mistake--as I said, they're usually really good about keeping grammar/spelling errors out of her column. But this just goes to show that even people with excellent grammar/spelling aren't perfect all the time! (Hell, today it took me three tries to type MISSPELLING MONDAY as the headline for this blog. The first time, I typed "MODAY" and the second time I typed "MONDY"...sigh.)

* Note: It is a word (see Oliver's comment), but it also appears to be used weirdly at best, or (at worst) in the wrong context.

10 comments:

ChicagoLady said...

It's possible that the person who was re-typing the letter was the guilty party, not the person who originally wrote the letter.

Anonymous said...

The way this started out, "I'm almost 40 and single and my friend is 20..." I thought this was going to be an entirely different kind of letter.

Our writer is not only "severally" spelling challenged but offers up way too much, completely irrelevant information.

-April

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Very true, ChicagoLady! We don't quite know whose fault "severally" is, but it's somebody's fault, dammit, and it looks really silly! :)

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Ha! True on all counts, April. :)

Oliver St John said...

"Severally" is a little archaic, but is actually still clinging to wordhood by a thread. According to the full OED, at least.

"Wordhood", on the other hand, is probably more correctly indicative of the wrong side of the lexical tracks, where good words are corrupted into bad. Irritating trends such as verbing and (my current pet peeve) nouning probably have their origins in the wordhood.

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Ooh! Oliver, you're right, it IS still a word. But I just looked it up and I'm not even sure the context of it fits the sentence it's in...it seems to mean something along the lines of "separately," and if there are a bunch of kids in the car, and none of the kids have seat belts on, I'd imagine that although they'd have separate *injuries*, they'd get injured *together* (ie, in the same car crash). Weird.

On the topic of "verbing"...I have to admit I'm guilty of this sometimes. For instance, instead of saying I'm going to Sephora, I'll say I'm going "Sephora-ing"... ;)

Peter said...

I agree that straying from the dictionary can make bad writing horrible, but now and then, in capable hands, it adds wit to good writing.
"They were yung and easily freudened," wrote James Joyce. Now, *that* is verbing!

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Ha! Indeed, Peter.

Also: I'm reminded of how I really am the Lousiest English Major Ever (TM). I've read nothing by Joyce, although after learning a little bit about *Ulysses* in a recent Lost episode, now I want to check that out. Haven't read any Hemingway, either. Or Steinbeck. I constantly shock people with what I *haven't* read. Sigh. (I think a trip to the library is in order soon...)

tobwot said...

Sephora-ing isn't necessarily too bad. Indeed, verbing has been around long enough that it is substantially less offensive than nouning. Enough so that I have grudginglyendorsed a form of it.

Nouning seems to be common in the business world at the moment, or at least where I work - I frequently hear "this is my ask" instead of "this is what I'm asking for", or "controlling your spend" instead of "controlling your spending". Seriously, are a couple of extra syllables too big an 'ask'?

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

@ tobwot: I think my ears/eyes are bleeding after learning that people actually say things like "this is my ask." Wow! And...YIKES!