The Path to Crotchety is Paved with Typos

26 Jun


I’m having a hard time taking part in daily life with other humans without their blatant spelling and grammatical errors making me feel all funny inside.

This has been an issue for me for quite some time. I’m a lover of the English language, a relisher of commas, a juggler of prepositional phrases. I need things to be in their proper order.

For those of you unawares, a prepositional phrase is basically anywhere a squirrel can be in relation to a tree. Up a tree, down a tree, around a tree, in a tree, on a tree – squirrels can be lots of things to a tree and most of those things are the beginning of a well-formed prepositional phrase.

Some of you are going to mull over this for a while and come up with some things that squirrels can do in relation to trees that are not, in fact, prepositional phrases. Some of them might even be a little dirty. But you’re going to have to take that up with Mrs. Bennett, my 7th grade English teacher. Besides, this isn’t really an English lesson. Or about squirrels in trees (or inside trees or beyond the trees…) It’s about how I need to stop being so judgy mcjudgy about people who genuinely can’t get a handle on whether you make something plural by just slapping an apostrophe “s” on the end.


I’m sorry.

I’m not sorry.

I’m trying to be more sorry.

I think it all started around 1994. It was during this year that Ace of Base descended upon America with its hit The Sign from the album Happy Nation. My older brother had just spent his hard-earned George Washingtons on one of his very first cassette tapes (if you’re under 15, please click here) in order to listen to its Swedish pop glory any time he wanted.

After a bit of rewinding, of course.

I was giddy with glee at the idea of holing up for the evening to listen to it and had convinced him to let me. I shoved it in my cassette player (again, here) and began to sing along to each song, using the cassette insert to follow along to the lyrics.

That’s when my stomach began to feel funny. There were several…adjustments…that needed to be made for the lyrics to be accurate. Some of them were, I’m sure, Swedish quirkisms and lyrical liberties. But there were without a doubt several typos and oversights that made me feel as if some terrible injustice had taken place and so I set out to correct them. One by one. In pen.

My brother was so ungrateful.

I tried to show him how I’d improved his life; now he could listen and read and not feel funny in his stomach.

As it turned out, he was totally fine going about life as the owner of the inaccurate, typo-ridden lyrics enclosed with Happy Nation. In fact, since I’d marred his previously pristine cassette tape, he washed his hands of it entirely and bequeathed it to me out of what could have only been disgust for grammatical perfection.

The upside is that over the years, my brother continues the practice of bequeathing items to me in favor of better items for himself. The downside is that I’m staring 27 in the face (July) and I’m pretty sure I’m just as much of an asshat now as I was when I white-knuckled that pen in my hands at the dewy age of 8.

I’m plagued by a need for grammatical correctness. I don’t frequent restaurants that don’t demonstrate proper command of the English language on their signs or promotional materials for fear the menu would send me into a tizzy. I can’t enjoy a stroll through a neighborhood without proofreading sandwich boards. Everywhere is an improperly pluralized noun; lurking behind each corner is a homophone misunderstood.

I’ve begun to work out these anxieties in my work life by applying myself as office proofreader wherever possible. Recently, this has escalated to post-it notes on the mistake-containing materials with personal insults directed at the marketing manager and left on his desk for discovery later in the day. In my personal life, however, I’m finding it more difficult to exact vindication.

I have to do everything I can to stop myself from morphing into a crotchety old hermit, and while I’ve put certain safeguards in place to help prevent this (Lollipop Tuesdays, not working from home, my mother calling me at least every 3 days to make sure I’m not playing World of Warcraft again), I’m going to need to wear myself down on the proofreading mania. People will always make mistakes. Lots and lots of eye-burning mistakes.

I’m thinking of conditioning. I can collect menus, mass mailings, and other printed publications that offend me and go through them like flashcards each morning until I’m so numb to typos and spelling errors that I feel nothing. It’s going to be a long, hard journey but in the end, I’ll be able to eat at a slew of ma and pa restaurants I’ve always wanted to try but couldn’t bear the risk of error-ridden menus.

The key to every goal is a food-related motivator; I just have to find it.

Feel free to start my conditioning by writing error-ridden comments.  I know you’re going to anyway because you’re all so clever.

No, but really please don’t. I can’t bear it. I’m not ready. I’M NOT READY.

Heaven help me. Here I come, crotchety. 



49 Responses to “The Path to Crotchety is Paved with Typos”

  1. Jill Foer Hirsch June 26, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Oh, I feel your pain. I was devastated when I learned that it’s now OK to end a sentence in a preposition. What is that about? And it breaks my heart that s’s is now not just acceptable, but standard usage. And I’m 48 so I still can’t get in the habit of just one space between sentences.

    I don’t want to overreact, but I believe we are losing that which makes us human.


  2. Dylan Hearn June 26, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! I remember hearing a comedian once say that a clear sign that you are approaching middle-age is when you find yourself mentally correcting the grammar of teenagers you overhear on the bus. I’ve been that way since my twenties.


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

      man, it came so much faster than I anticipated…


  3. parentsfriend June 26, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Language lives and changes. Change is particularly hard for some. Language changes are particularly hard on editor-types. I have a learning disability called dysgraphia. Sprinkles errors that drive editors crazy. When I catch one on something of mine that has been published, I also go crazy.

    My philosophy, a combination of radical acceptance and the belief that both change and restraint are needed so that in the end things balance out. I do think texting has accelerated the rate of change which makes those trying to maintain the good of the past. The advent of do it yourself menu and sign printing without proper editing have also accelerated the number of errors.

    Much of this to say, don’t beat up on yourself, point out errors as sweetly as you can, but not all, practice living a bit with what gets your goat, which it sounds like you are trying to do. I suggest focusing on correcting grammar where it really matters and that means mostly in formal writing.

    Stay strong, it is not always easy as I well know.


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

      Sound advice and well said. I have no complaints. 🙂


  4. Lynn Harris June 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Crotchety is not so bad. I am 40 years older than you and I still flinch when coming across some grammatical ‘error’ that I was taught in school. Then I remember that our/my language is very dissimilar to that of the 18th or 19th century English writers. If I can determine the ‘gist’ of the communication, I just ingest the meaning and move on. Of course there are the blatant substitutions of words for other words with completely different meanings that I find quite annoying. I blame those on an early version of AI and predictive word placement from Apple’s ‘Siri’ and a complete laziness of mind OR so-called ‘multi-tasking we were all encouraged to do in the ’90′s. I, for one, believe multitasking just leads to doing 2 or more things rather badly in the mistaken striving for some elusive goal of ‘efficiency’. Just please don’t speak or write in a manner that sends me to the ‘urban dictionary’ for definitions or translation. I struggled with so-called Ebonics many years ago.


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

      This is so much truth I don’t even know what to say except Amen.


  5. mid-life crisis June 26, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    I’m conflicted. On one hand, I am in full embracing my crotchety-ness to the point where my wife pats me on the arm when I say old man stuff about ‘kids these days’, and when I take WAY too long to send a text because of all the punctuation it should have.

    On the other hand, I want to pull down my blog until I get it thoroughly proofed, since grade 10 English class was one of the most memorable 3 years of my life…no lie!


    • mid-life crisis June 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      See? I even screwed up my reply….sheesh! Bloggers these days!


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

      oh man, I don’t reserve the same scrutiny for texts (or comments, obvs). that’s a good realization to have. now I have a safe space 😉


  6. July June 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    Here’s my list of rage:

    -then for than
    -their for they’re
    -… for .
    -your for you’re
    -should of for should have
    -loose for lose

    and last but not least… yolo.

    Okay. That doesn’t really count, but I’m going to make it count.


    I’ve also picked up a casual MMO called Guild Wars 2. No more raiding for me, so I fill that time with trading commodities. Pretty much a game within a game. Might as well call it Gold Wars 2 when I’m done. Trading post czar here I come!


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

      Guild Wars!!! Enjoy 🙂 And I totally agree with your list of complaints. Mine looks slightly different and yet they’re all the same.


  7. pfstare June 26, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    Jackie you are far too young to be sitting grumbling in pedants corner. Get back on the dance floor 🙂


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      which I just found on twitter. yesssss


  8. vgfoster June 26, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    We are cut from the same cloth! Typos jump out at me everywhere, and I have to bite my tongue/sit on my hands to keep from correcting people on a daily basis. I feel your pain 🙂


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

      The worst is when people put flyers in the bathroom stall. Then I feel like I can’t even use the bathroom in peace.


      • vgfoster June 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

        I cringe most when I see permanent signage at a place of business with a misspelled word. You know they kick themselves every time they have to look at it.


  9. philosophermouseofthehedge June 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    If it’s written down, it should be written correctly.
    But there are apparently comma people and non-comma people. Mixed groups are so daunting.
    Funny post


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      I’m a comma person. Commas are a beautiful thing.


    • Ice_Badger June 28, 2013 at 5:59 am #

      What is a non-comma person :-S I am slightly scared by this concept; unless you are talking about the Oxford Comma, in which case I am a non-comma person. To put it another way, I am a comma person but a non-Oxford Comma person.
      I feel I may be a non-making-sense person…


  10. Pleun June 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Well, Jackie, there is a simple solution: learn another language and then start writing in it! Different punctuation rules; words that are similarly written, yet still different etc. You’ll see that you’ll make mistakes that are an eye-sore to native speakers, but at least they’ll give you credit for trying.
    Added benefit of speaking a foreign language on that level, is that you have to go there regularly to keep it up 😉
    (With apologies for any mistakes I may have made in spelling or punctuation)


    • Jackie June 27, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      I don’t count comments. Comments are casual. In fact, I usually don’t bother to capitalize but now I feel so formal…

      I’m proficient in Spanish but I don’t ever write in it. Maybe I should give it a go 😉


      • Pleun June 28, 2013 at 8:43 am #

        Trust me, it is much harder than it looks. I do it all the time (being Dutch) and I wrestle with things native speakers seem to think are ‘normal’. Anyway, good luck! Hope to see some Spanish soon 😉


  11. Ice_Badger June 28, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    A concur! I too am a grammar pedant, destined to rant forever over the incorrect use of an apostrophe or the wrong use of your rather than you’re.
    I have too blogged about a similar subject:
    I felt I should stop when I was advocating mindless cartoon style violence against those who use text speak when real language exists.


    • Jackie July 10, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

      Ughhhhh text speak. I can’t stand it. I admit I’ll drop cases and speak in fragments and cut words short when necessary but “8” is not a substitute for “-ate” , “u” for “you”… This stuff keeps me up at night.


  12. Anna Lea West June 28, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    I feel pain all over my body even reading this and “going there” in my mind. I’m with you … ohhhh I’m with you, Jackie. I’ve also written about it and I think you’ll see we are kindred spirits 🙂


    • Jackie July 10, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      I should have just linked your post instead of writing this. Where were you when I needed to vent? 😛 Nicely written, nice tag line 😉 and I agree about our kindred spirits now that I know you wish terrible things on people who don’t respect the language.


  13. pmahaney June 30, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    Jackie I love your post, but I plead guilty. I will likely get a ticket for reckless writing any day now. No doubt I will be arraigned for crimes against the English language (other languages too if I knew any), prosecuted for punctuation, or lack thereof, and locked up for attempted apostrophe’s. I humbly apologize for contributing to your crotchetiness, and that of others. I promise to work on serving my sentences better. While I will be serving time in solitary refinement, I suspect you will be supporting my suspended sentence and paragraph efforts, however I shall continue to read your post as I enjoy them.


    • Jackie July 10, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

      Well I appreciate your confession. And your use of an apostrophe to pluralize apostrophe in a sentence where you’re admitting you fail and pluralizing without apostrophes. 😛 Thank you for reading!


      • pmahaney July 12, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

        :o) I am on my way to rehabilitation of the English language.


  14. mistressofpoetry July 4, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    You could try putting your grammar anxieties to use and sign up with one of the numerous translation websites out there, listing your language pair as English to English (strictly proofreading). You could then make some money on the side. 🙂


    • Jackie July 10, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

      If this is a real thing, I must.


      • mistressofpoetry July 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

        It is. If only there were a private message thing on here, I would send you at least one link directly. 🙂


  15. mllaurie July 4, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    I feel your pain.

    -Could care less
    -15 items or less
    -bed’s for sale

    These are just a few of my pet peeves. I can’t stand the misuse of apostrophes, which is rampant in England, even on professionally-made signs. I’m a comma-lover, too; they make a sentence so much more reader-friendly, as do semi-colons. I’m working on a degree in creative writing and French, and I study grammar, vocabulary, and Latin in my spare time. For fun. I’m a big nerdy nerd.


    • Jackie July 10, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

      I just fixed my problem with less and fewer this past year. It never even occurred to me. Creative writing, grammar, Latin – how gorgeously nerdy! I love it.

      Could care less reminds me of irregardless. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll flat out stop conversations to tell someone to never use that word again. I’m terrible.


      • mllaurie July 11, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

        Irregardless is just blasphemous. Fortunately, it’s not hit the UK. Yet. I’d probably stop a conversation for that one, too.


  16. kitchenmudge July 8, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    Your teh best, Jacky.


  17. quickstepp August 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Loved this post! While I’m far from perfect (I catch my mistakes on a regular basis and cringe every time), I’m guilty of being quite the Judgy McJudgerton myself.
    Conversate is the absolute worst!!!!

    Also, I’ve never been a user of the Oxford Comma, but here’s a dandy song about it!


    • Jackie August 7, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      Thanks for the share – I’ve long been a fan of the song and the one-shot vid.


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