Professional Complainer

I consider both of my parents to be linguists.
Dad was a foreign language teacher for many years (spanish).
Mom was a librarian, and an indexer, and who knows what else.

I also spent some time on the telephone with them this morning.
We all have our pet peeves when it comes to language, or more importantly, the misuses of language.

My pet peeve is “Realtor.” In my case it is not so much misuse of the word as mispronunciation. “ReLaTor.” The word is RealTor.” For gosh sakes, just look at the spelling. (I actually saw a business card with the word misspelled.)

One of my mother’s pet peeves is the lie/lay confusion. And of course I managed to get it wrong during our conversation. And I admit to being confused at times. Because the tenses (past in particular) come in to play, there is no clear “ONLY USE IS WHEN” criteria that I might be able to master. My ears betray me. But it is not only me. My poor mother had a yoga instructor that would misuse the word. How can you relax, when your ears are tensed up in defense.

My father shared that a well-known author he was reading was having problems with the use of spanish, er mexican, words in the book. (Well known to some. Elmore Leonard. I was not familiar, but as soon as I recounted the story, Carl perked up at the name he knew.) The book in question takes place on the tex-mex border I believe. Some spanish words in used the singular form were not correct. Example: Tamales = plural. Tamal = singular. Tamale = wrong.

I suggested my father should write to the author and offer to edit his books that used spanish. He laughed off my suggestion, but then recounted that when he took a post army service test to identify the type of work he should look for, the proctor told him he should go to the Denver Post and offer to be their editor. Apparently a natural talent.

Carl and I were exploring these topics as we wandered the neighborhood in search of toothpaste and a haircut. Three of our four parents had professions that involved language. (The fourth involved numbers.) Our kids both have an ability to string several words together in their own style. Carl has a quick way with words (in my estimation), and I am a mean red-penciler of technical works at work. [I can take it as well as I dish it out.]

In the end we decided that editors have a job to do. But in the end the editor could be viewed as just a professional complainer. With that, let us lay this matter to rest.

5 Responses to “Professional Complainer”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Less and fewer. When I see LESS CALORIES on anything, I cringe. A student said “less friends” the other day and I retorted, “Fewer, unless the friends are missing some body parts.” Harrumph. I also correct French in books (mostly gender issues), and even I can tell that some Spanish words are incorrect. Not that difficult to match a plural article with a plural noun!

  2. Rey Says:

    I am all about less and fewer correcting. You can ask my coworkers.

  3. acourtois Says:

    I have always used lay and lie correctly (and it drives me nuts when others don’t) because The Commander INSISTED on the correct useage. She was not a linguist…

    Rey, I agree with less and fewer correcting. Life it too damn short 🙂

  4. acourtois Says:

    Er, life “is”, not life “it”…

  5. jane Says:

    I would say that ‘tamale’ is American. Dad would disagree, but what’s new about that?
    Lay/Lie – I’m sure I get it right about 50% of the time.

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