Acceptable English grammar/semantics that you hate

I’m fine with split infinitives and sentences ending in a preposition. I’m even grudgingly accepting that the meaning of “literally” has changed to simply become an intensifier, because the reality is that language changes and I don’t want to be one of those reactionaries that people will laugh at a century from now (as I laugh at grammarians who once thought the word “handbook” was an affront to the civilized world).

However, I gotta draw the line somewhere. For example, this construction was traditionally considered wrong:

As a valued member of our team, our CEO wants to invite you to …

But apparently, the grammar mavens are conceding the point, since from context the meaning is clear, even if it technically it’s wrong because “valued member” is not the same person as “CEO” is.

I don’t like that one bit. But the construction that I really loathe, even though I inadvertently use it all the time myself, is:

If you’re hungry, there is a sandwich in the fridge.


Context be damned, I like precision in language. What about the rest of you?

I read that with an unexpressed middle part: If you’re hungry, [it might benefit you to know that] there is a sandwich in the fridge.

I understand–and basically share your antipathy to the first example, but totally disagree with the second. True, there is a sandwich in the fridge whether you’re hungry or not, but from a strictly logical point of view, the proposition P |==> True is always valid whatever P. Just like the sentence, if the moon is made of green cheese, then I am the pope. False |==> P. (That operator is called implies.)

Which grammar mavens? This incorrect construction featured in numerous “Copy Edit This!” quizzes (as an error) in the NYTimes ran from 2016 - 2019.

I understand what both examples mean, so they don’t bother me a bit.

In general, I don’t hate non-standard variations in language if I can parse them.

interesting, but I feel almost exactly opposite of you. The use of “literally” to literally mean “figuratively” is a constant annoyance to me. And the use of “minute” to mean “a long time” (as in “I haven’t seen you in a minute”) is equally infuriating.

Who says that? Never heard of it. Wouldn’t surprise me to find it’s done and I’ll start hearing it all the time now.

If something is unique, that means it’s one of a kind. Period. Thus one thing can’t be more unique than another, and a unique thing isn’t “very unique”. It’s just unique. The way that people misuse the word “unique” bothers me at least as much as the fact that it’s now acceptable to (mis)use “literally” to mean something besides “literally”, and I fear that that’s another point the wrong side has won.

And then there’s “irregardless”. It’s not even a word, even though the dummies seem to have won that point too and gotten it in the dictionary and everything. That un-word just makes my skin crawl when I read or hear it being used.

Oh, well. It seems that in these egalitarian times the wrong, less-intelligent side is favored in most language disputes. It ain’t right but what can you do about it?

This. In what ignorant dialect is “minute” a synonym for a long time?

At least hapax legomenon is less likely to be modified. Because very hapax legomenon is just silly.

I’ve always taken “haven’t seen you in a minute” to be a deliberate understatement.

I hear it frequently in people who are anything but ignorant. Why on earth would you characterize it that way?

I hear it more in younger folks, but that just might be a coincidence. Idk if it’s a regionalism or what. The first person I heard it from was a 20-something from Lafayette, Louisiana about 10 years ago. Just Tuesday night I heard it from a 30-something from the Seattle/Tacoma area. And I heard it from a 30-something bioengineer not too long ago.

ETA: I’ve also heard “in a little minute” to mean a short time for real.


Very typical construction around my peers and parts (Chicago) as in, “man, it’s been a minute!” I use it frequently enough.

You and some of the others in this thread will really hate the hot new usage book.

Curzan, a bonified linguistics professor with a podcast, splits the sides into grammandos, who want to police the language and stop the slide into incorrect or casual usage, and wordies, who accept the changes as part of the age-old trend in English.

As you should be able to tell just from the labels, Curzon is a wordie. In every chapter, she lays out a language dispute and tells the grammandos to get over themselves. In much more polite language and with a welter of examples and explanations.

I’m a wordie and halfway through I couldn’t stand it any more. Why waste a whole book? Just say that language changes and be done with it.

Her personal bete noir is Byran Garner, who writes style guides of the sort the grammandos favor. His take on most everything is that you should keep the language precise. The crowd here would undoubtedly love him, although his books are more expensive.


I understand language changes and evolves (devolves?), but if the word ‘literally’ loses its meaning, what word do we use when we want to convey we mean something literally?

Using “substitute X for Y” to mean “replace X with Y” instead of “replace Y with X.”

“defuse a situation” has been supplanted by “diffuse a situation” and I hate it. People will insist it’s always been “diffuse” and it’s fine, like diffusing a vapor or something. But it diminishes the evocative metaphor of a tense situation being like a ticking bomb that needs to be artfully defused.

Ah well. I’m sure it’s not the biggest or last thing I’ll ever hate.

Oh for heaven’s sake! Yes, of course language changes over time. And yes, yes, I understand that the only completely static language is a dead one.

However, let us not lose sight of the fact that language is, at its very heart, a convention, and must be or else no communication can take place. Humpty Dumpty said, “when I use a word . . . it means just what I choose it to mean.” But if you call it a “table,” and I call it a “chipmunk,” we will not understand one another.

“Literally” already has a specific and precise definition. If I “literally slaughtered my opponent,” the police should be summoned.

And when I read, “face down in the river, the searchers found the body in a short time,” I conclude that they were searching in a very unusual fashion.

Following another language’s rules for no reason whatsoever. Looking at you, fiancé and split infinitives.