Nonplussed, et al.

15 10 2012

Okay, I’m now officially reporting to grammar maven duty. There are a few commonly misused words, phrases, and grammatical constructions that (not “which”) drive me crazy and which (not “that”) I’d like to address for the record. Then I can go back to whatever else it is I do.

1. Nonplussed does *not* mean unconcerned, or calm, or not bothered. It means the opposite of those things. It means “confused, perplexed, confounded.” When you hear people using it in the wrong way — and this typically happens with people who think they’re smart — correct them on the spot and expose them for the intellectual charlatans they are. Or you can just be kind and inform them of the real meaning of the word.

2. It’s not “It happened to Johnny and I,” or “Just between you and I,” or “Do you want to come with Rachel and I to the movies?” The proper pronoun in all of those instances is “me,” “me,” “me!”
~ It happened to Johnny and *me.*
~ Just between you and *me.*
~ Do you want to come with Rachel and *me* to the movies?
Why? Because “me” is the object of the preposition (to, between, with, on, around, above…), and because Rachel and I are a barrel of laughs to go to the movies with. (And yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition, like I just did a sentence ago, and you can begin a sentence with the word “And,” like I just did in this sentence.)

3. Speaking of prepositions, “like” is either a preposition, as in “She looks like a mannequin,” or it’s a verb, as in “I like my dog.” It is not an adverb, adjective, particle, or conjunction or whatever else Wikipedia is saying it is. Wikipedia is (alert the media) wrong. I happily direct you to one of my favorite, and now dead, atheists who also happened to be a fellow believer (in good grammar, that is), Christopher Hitchens, who penned this nice little piece a few years back:

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/01/hitchens-like-201001

4. None of us *is* coming, NOT “None of us are coming.” None is a contraction of “not one” and is therefore singular. So it would be, in its non-contracted form, “Not one of us is coming.”

5. Do not begin any sentences with the word “so” unless absolutely necessary (as in, for instance, the last sentence of #4 above). I listened to a presumably literate commentator on NPR (of all places!) who could not begin a sentence without saying, “So,” as if she were about to lecture her listeners on something very important and thus had to verbally rock back on her heels before she proceeded forward with her sentence. Incredibly irritating.

6. The phrase (along with its proper emphasis) is, “I couldn’t care less,” NOT “I could care less.” If you could care less, then what you’re saying is that you actually do care. Get it? Get it?

Good. I’ll stop there. So I just had to get this off my chest before I could, like, hope to breathe normally again (just between you and I).

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