Even more gramatically related things that twist my knickers. Or some such.
1. I could care less. This phrase is so wrong, it’s wronger. The correct phrase is “I couldn’t care less” as in there is no way whatsoever that I could care any less.
2. Children is already plural. Therefore, you cannot have childrens’ because you can’t have more than one children. Makes no sense, and the thought of having plural children frightens me anyway. It is always children’s, as in children’s books.
3. ATM machine, HIV virus, PIN number…tell me what’s wrong with those? Redundant with a capital R. The last letter of each of those acronyms stands for the word that follows. So just drop the word. ATM, HIV, PIN will suffice in most situations.
4. Masseuse. Do you go to one? She’d better be a she, because that word is the feminine form. If you go to a male, it’s masseur. However, I would ditch both those terms in favor of “massage therapist,” unless your professional of choice rubs spots in more than a purely medicinal fashion.
5. Remember Cliffs Notes? There’s no apostrophe but there is an “s”. It is not now and never has been either Cliff’s or Cliff. Not that any of us used them. No, not at all.
6. A lot, as in a whole bunch, is a rather vague term but it is NOT one word. Another two-word beauty? All right.
7. The correct American English spellings of most words in America are preferred. But for today I’d like to be British. So I think we all should spell these words this way: moustache, pyjamas, colours…
8. Although butt naked is certainly vivid enough, how much more naked can one be, really, than NAKED. The term actually is “buck naked.” Although I don’t know why.
9. A masthead is the box on the inside of the newspaper that lists information about the publication – who the publisher is, when it publishes, etc. A flag is the name of the paper at the top of the front page. Despite what most people think, and even what some dictionaries have started to endorse, a masthead and a flag are not the same thing. Not sure it matters, though, since newspapers are dying a rather ugly death.
10. I’m just going to say this again because some people (MARK) protest. The past tense of plead is pleaded, not pled. I have intelligent English teachers and copy desk chiefs everywhere backing me up.
Thanks to Bill Walsh, copy desk chief for the business desk at the Washington Post, and his book Lapsing Into a Comma for reminding me of these tidbits and assuring me I’m not the only one.