Well actually, I never actually knew him. I still have no clue who this person was, is, whatever.
Actually, it’s probably also unfair to call him a feller because this PP could have been of any gender. And, the more I think back on seventh grade and Mrs. Tomlinson, my seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher, I think that maybe PP was certainly more than likely a female rather than a male.
You see, PP would send the newspaper editor a packet every so often — once a month, once every six weeks — but “prit’ near regular like.” (I did that on purpose.)
Inside the little bulging, rotund envelope would be two things.
One, it would contain little — no, not little — miniscule snippets of individual words cut out from what looked and felt like newsprint paper. It wasn’t too far a leap to extrapolate that these word puzzle pieces were supposed to come from the paper at which I worked.
Anyway, PP was very unhappy with the newspaper and, I can only assume, must have found cutting up the paper gave him solace. Her solace. Whatever solace. Never mind that cutting out one little word didn't tell anyone the page, the story, the sentence, the context, sometimes not even the correct spelling. Can you say homophone? I mean, words like flair and flare. To, two and too. Carat and carrot. You know, words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have a completely different meaning. A homophone. You get the idea. Yes?
Anyway, where was I?
Oh, yeah — PP. I don't know what exactly PP was trying to accomplish, but the biggest, funniest, weirdest, most bizarre part of this story, I think, is that PP actually stood for something, according to PP, at any rate.
But I want to tell all you folks a few of my own English/grammar pet peeves first. After all, PP has nothing on me.
After working with words, day in and day out, and often having dreams — no, sorry, nightmares — about them, I have started to resent those who, first of all, criticize.
You try doing this day in and day out, and then we’ll talk.
Next, on the other side of the coin, I really resent, am horrified actually, at the lack of proper English usage that is prevalent these days.
Now, let me tell you up front that, despite the fact that I have copy editors to double-check my work, do not expect me to use proper English. I was a journalism major, not an English major. The two are diametrically opposed — or katywampus to each other — so don’t expect too much. (Actually, and this really is another story, but I just Googled katywampus and the definition is listed as meaning "in disarray" and not “diagonally across,” as I was told it meant in Wyoming! Oh, well! I guess I’m a bit katywampus right now!)
Now that I have given myself dispensation, and trust me, I will need it, here are my biggest English pet peeves — in no particular order of grievance.
- It’s and its. It’s is a contraction for “it is” and its, well, isn’t.
- And, while we’re on the subject, it’s either its or theirs. Its refers back to an inanimate object and theirs to living beings. What I get most of the time is something like the following: “The Daily Planet celebrated their 20th anniversary Saturday.” Their? THEIR? I get the word “their” used in this case all the time. It’s “its.” ITS! The Daily Planet celebrated ITS 20th anniversary Saturday. The Daily Planet is not a living, breathing person. The Daily Planet staff, however, is made up of living, breathing people, so, in this case the sentence would read: “The Daily Planet staff celebrated their newspaper’s 20th anniversary.” Understand what I mean?
- Next. I saw an ad on TV just the other day that emphasized the catch phrase “Drink Positive.” Now, what is wrong with this sentence? And yes, it is a sentence. It has an unspoken noun — a directive, I believe it is called. Then a verb: drink. And an adverb. Yep, the word “positive” is an adverb. Well, actually, the word positive is actually not an adverb. The correct adverb here is “positively.” Yet, this is a catch phrase on national TV for a major company. Why is the word “positively” an adverb? Well, because an adverb modifies a verb and the word “positively” should be modifying the verb “drink.” But this phrase has left off the “ly.” Why? I would think that a big, well-paid marketing firm should have highly paid writers who should have known that “positively” is the correct word and not the word “positive.” Wouldn’t you have thunk that too? (See what I did there? And, I really did mean to write it this way on purpose.)
- Another grammatical/English pet peeve of mine is proper nouns. Proper nouns are capitalized. Regular ole nouns aren’t. A proper noun is, for example, the Supreme Court, not the word court; the Postmaster General not the post office; President Obama, not CEO and president, etc. In other words, to be very specific, when press releases are written, half of the words are capitalized and I just have to wonder why the majority of these words are capitalized when only a handful are “proper” nouns. Why? It drives me crazy having to reformat all these capitals!
- I also recently heard another commercial with the tag line “Treat yourself good.” Good. Good? GOOD? Come on, now. Are people who are trying to part you from your money going to successfully curry a consumer’s favor by using improper language? How could that possibly convince someone to buy his or her product? I just don’t get it. Oh, and by the way, it’s “Treat yourself well.” Well, not good. No, really, that’s just not good.
- Another big complaint of mine is “over” versus “more than.” People constantly use the word “over” when 90 percent of the time, the correct phrase is “more than.” My best advice is that, if you can use the two words “more than,” then “over” is not correct. If the words “more than” do not work, then “over” is the way to go. Another way to decide is that the word “over” is used mostly in expressing ideas involving time, such as “over the centuries” or spatial relationships.
- Oh, and perhaps my biggest, BIGGEST pet peeve of all, is “which” versus “whom.” Now, it seems fairly simple, but you’d be amazed how often I see this mistake. Which versus whom. It’s really simple. Whom refers mainly to a person, but can also refer to an animate being. Which refers to an inanimate object such as a company, a school or a building.
I feel better, now, voicing these, some of my daily frustrations.
I hope you will continue to forgive me for my daily English and grammar mistakes I force upon you as well.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
But that’s another story.
Oh, and speaking of another story, I have kept you in suspense long enough, I'll wager.
PP, remember? I never did tell you what PP said PP stood for.
But I can tell you, after my above list of grammatical faux pas, that I understand PP a whole lot better now.
And, to finally relieve of the suspense, PP stood for — "Phantom Proofreader."