I used to pride myself on being a language nerd, but that changed this week.
First I discovered coordinate adjectives. My understanding had been that separating adjectives with commas was always incorrect. Not so! “Coordinate adjectives,” that is adjectives that modify a noun in the same way, are properly separated by a comma. The easy way to determine this is to ask oneself whether the same adjectives could be joined by the word “and.”
“The old red car” is correct because “old” modifies “red car.” Joining the adjectives with the word “and” produces “the old and red car,” which doesn’t work.
“The tall, strong man” is correct because “tall” and “strong” both modify “man.” “The tall and strong man” works fine, though a comma works better.
Shamed as I was to discover this rule, my week was made worse today when I learned that the internet has apparently assaulted my beloved rules of language. Specifically, the double-space after a period is no more. So sayeth the typists and the graphic designers.
Today I came across the Wikipedia entry for “eggcorn,” a recently-coined linguistic term that describes one of my ultimate pet peaves. I know I should be forgiving, but to my mind few things make a person seem stupid than the use of a term they have mis-heard or misunderstood, an “eggcorn.”
A few examples:
“For all intensive purposes”
“Once and a while”
“The spurt of the moment”
…and, of course, the eponymous “eggcorn.”
My own pet peaves aside, what was really interesting to me was the list of descriptive names for other linguistic misuses. An eggcorn, you see, is defined as a personal (as opposed to culturally shared) misuse that results when the person misunderstands the term in question through similarity. “Acorn” in many dialects sounds identical to “eggcorn,” and hence the error – which usually only shows up in written form. Continue Reading