Perhaps this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, me talking about grammar, but my own shortcomings in this area make it all the more sensitive. Commas and I have agreed that we don’t know what the hell we’re doing, but for the most part I think that I have a fairly good grasp on basic grammatical rules and am therefore driven to distraction and often rants about the ill-usage of certain words. The biggest pet peeve is the homonym triad of the theres.
Here’s how dictionary.com defines each of the three theres:
contraction of they are
(used after an indefinite singular antecedent in place of the definite masculine form his or the definite feminine form her ): Someone left their book on the table. Did everyone bring their lunch?
in or at that place ( opposed to here): She is there now.
at that point in an action, speech, etc.: He stopped there for applause.
in that matter, particular, or respect: His anger was justified there.
into or to that place; thither: We went there last year.
(used by way of calling attention to something or someone): There they go.
in or at that place where you are: Well, hi there.
(used to introduce a sentence or clause in which the verb comes before its subject or has no complement): There is no hope.
that place: He comes from there, too.
that state or condition: I’ll introduce you to her, but you’re on your own from there on.
(used for emphasis, especially after a noun modified by a demonstrative adjective): Ask that man there.
(used to express satisfaction, relief, encouragement, approval, consolation, etc.): There! It’s done.
As you can see, each word has a very different meaning and usage. We are showing our laziness at the very least, our ignorance at the worst, in using the wrong word when the information about the right one is literally right at our fingertips. What use is it to live in an information age when so few people actually use the things so easily in our grasp to better ourselves? Perhaps Bill Maher is right, and we are proud to be stupid!
Next time: Gotten, and why I want to strangle myself every time I hear the word.