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Grammatical Gaffes: A Linguist Looks at Language Peeves

Evening Program

Thursday, March 25, 2021 - 6:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2121
$30 - Member
$35 - Non-Member
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  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.


Are you someone who winces at the word “irregardless” or the admonition to “Drive safe”? Do you find it hard to believe someone who tells you, “I was literally climbing the walls”?  Do you wish everyone would use the Oxford comma in lists of three items? If so, this lively seminar on language is for you.

From her perspective as a historian of the English language, linguist Anne Curzan examines some of the most common peeves in grammar, including “between you and I,” the new(ish) verbs “to impact” and “to verse,” the pronoun “they” as a singular, the use of “that” for “who” in reference to people, dangling modifiers, and the use of “less” for “fewer.”

How long have speakers been doing this? Should we accept it in speech?  In formal writing? When does a “grammatical error” stop being an error?  Curzan explains how she handles these usage questions as a former member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage panel and as an academic writer and copy editor.

You’ll leave this seminar with a heightened awareness of grammatical changes afoot in the language and new online tools for exploring contested points in English usage.

Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English, Linguistics, and Education and Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan.


  • Unless otherwise noted, registration for streaming programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.