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Grammatical Gaffes: A Linguist Looks at Some Pet Peeves

Weekend Program

Saturday, September 26, 2015 - 10:30 a.m.
Code: 1M2800

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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”? Does a phrase such as “The point is is that…” make you wonder what is happening to grammar? 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 pet peeves in grammar, including “between you and I,” the new(ish) verb “to impact,” 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 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 of English usage.

Curzan is Arthur F. Thurnau professor of English and associate dean for humanities at the University of Michigan, where she also holds faculty appointments in the linguistics department and the school of education.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)