Years ago I was at a cocktail party when a woman came up to me and offered her hand. As we were shaking she said, “I was walking by and I heard you properly use ‘fewer’ in a sentence. That is so rare these days that I had to meet you.”
We had a delightful conversation about our grammar pet peeves. What a shame that this happened before my grammar class class! I would have been able to contribute so much more. Perhaps that conversation subconsciously led me to that class.
All of this came back to me when I read an article posted on Facebook of words people misuse. Being a huge Princess Bride fan, any article entitled “Words that Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean” was going to get my attention. I was so proud of myself for knowing most of the 15 mentioned. The one I didn’t know was “factoid.” Check out the article to see if you are using that word correctly. I’ll wait.
What surprised me was one that was missing: Virtually.
I remember this word being on my tenth grade vocabulary list. This was taught by the same woman whose lessons on comma splices didn’t take until years later.
Most vocabuulary words didn’t stick. To be honest, I just couldn’t be bothered to commit those to permanent memory – for the test was good enough. Come to think of it, it is very strange that I felt like that – honor student/teacher’s pet and all. But I digress.
It was mid school year when “virtually” showed up on our vocabulary list. I remember the definition: in theory but not in fact. Those words didn’t mean anything to me until the teacher pointed out an ad slogan on tv, “For virtually spot-free dishes.”
“What exactly does that mean?”
“If virtually means ‘not in reality,’ ‘virtually spot-free’ dishes have spots.”
Oh! Now that was cool! Obviously since it stuck with me for more than 25 years.
What are some of your grammar pet peeves? or What unexpected lesson have stuck with you since high school?