CSotD: A Catachresis Crisis

It’s National Grammar Day, and Day By Dave (AMS) celebrates it by dragging fingernails across a blackboard. Using “should of” for “should have” is not a grammatical error, dammit. It’s a usage error.

Or, if you really want to shut them up, point out that it’s a case of catachresis. And note, that, as it says in that link, catachresis can be intentional. It ain’t for the humorless.

Point is, grammar and usage are not the same thing, which makes it ironic to have self-anointed language experts calling out “bad grammar” in cases that are, rather, “bad usage,” or, just as often, “incorrect usage.”

That is, if you used the word “irregardless” in a term paper, it wouldn’t be incorrect usage — assuming you used it correctly — but it would be bad usage because it’s nonstandard and so shouldn’t be used in formal riting.

And my use of “riting” for “writing” is neither a grammatical nor a usage error. Misspelling is an orthographic error.

I find it ironic that people who are so very proud of calling themselves the “grammar police” don’t use the term “grammar” correctly.

But I am delighted that Grammarly’s celebration of National Grammar Day says “Former President George W. Bush sent a letter commemorating the day in its inaugural year” because it’s an excuse to celebrate the occasion by rerunning Richard Thompson’s compilation of Bushisms, a delightful collection of grammatical and usage errors, plus some splendid examples of verbal nonsense:

Having George W endorse National Grammar Day is like having Clyde Barrow praise the Ford V-8.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Carpe Diem (KFS)

I hear about people having out of body experiences during surgery, but I also hear about them slightly waking up during the process, which might produce a similar event.

I woke up early during a colonoscopy and got to watch on the video monitor. It was like “Fantastic Voyage,” which was cool, but I was completely conscious and coherent, so I didn’t see Raquel Welch or anything.

As for out-of-body experiences, I don’t believes in’em, but, den again, I don’t disbelieves in’em either. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies, after all, and there’s a difference between being skeptical and being dogmatic.

Pearls Before Swine (AMS) offers a laugh that coincides with a conversation I recently had about the early days of direct deposit.

My bank had an accounting practice by which they would pretend your direct deposit paycheck came in after you used your debit card at the grocery store on the way home from work. This allowed them to charge you for an overdraft.

Which isn’t as predatory as when you really do overdraw, and they keep piling up additional charges each day until you can’t catch up. I think that’s being outlawed in most places.

But I wouldn’t know. I work with a community bank now, and if I overdraw my account, I can make it good in a day or two without a charge.

Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill time, that, if you have more time to do something, you’ll simply take more time to do it. I think there should be an equivalent law about budgeting and banking, because more people live paycheck-to-paycheck than really need to.

Some folks buy the generic stuff, some folks buy the organic free-range artisanal stuff, but everybody is broke the day before payday.

Purchasing expands to fit salary.

The next step in all this AI business, as Speed Bump (Creators) says, is for Uniblab to begin to echo the self-defeating behavior seen in human artists and writers.

The hardest part of writing, they say, is applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair, and that has been true forever. Robert Benchley wrote a classic 1930 essay called “How To Get Things Done,” which includes what we might call “Benchley’s Law”:

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work
he is supposed to be doing at that moment.

Juxtaposition of the Day #2

There is a difference here, in that the kid in Grand Avenue is making a perfectly valid point, while the kid in Daddy’s Home is being a bit of a wiseass. On the other hand, they’re both right except for the part where they challenge the power structure.

Mostly, they answered a rhetorical question, or, at best, a question that had only one correct answer.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite sections of Catch-22, though I have many favorite parts of that book:

There’s a rule in parenting that you don’t ask a question unless you’re prepared to accept the answer. It starts at “Are you ready for your nap?” but, as the kids get older, the questions and answers become more complex and the results become more fraught.

Until we reach the point where the parents complain that their teenagers don’t talk to them anymore.

At least teenage Yossarian didn’t. Clevinger seems like more of a slow learner.

The kids in this Mr. Boffo will likely grow up okay. They’ve got a dad who answers their questions honestly, and in ways they can understand.

While the teacher in this Fiona Katauskas piece is being more direct in her frank messaging.

Alas, the poor little fellow in this Rubes (Creators) is never gonna get it.

This really cracked me up, but then I began overthinking it, as I do, and realized that kids still put money in those machines at the door of the grocery store, and they still never get anything worth what they put in, and rarely anything that lasts longer than the ride home.

What they like is the fun of putting in the money and getting something, anything, even if it’s not the really cool thing that never comes out.

Then, when they grow up, they buy scratch tickets.

Steve Martin and Harry Bliss, who collaborate on Harry’s eponymous Tribune strip, explain their working relationship, as seen in the full length version of this snippet at the New Yorker.

Finally, Off the Mark (AMS) reminds us that a good comedian is like a well-tuned car.

9 thoughts on “CSotD: A Catachresis Crisis

  1. I’d swear I saw an ad for a medicine for catachresis on TV. It showed lots of happy couples of various ethnicities enjoying outdoor activities while the narrator listed all of the possible side effects.

    1. I get a real kick out of those commercials. The illusion of health and happiness while they tell a side effect could be death. It really sells me on not using their products

  2. The biggest parenting flaw asking a question instead of giving a direction.

    I remember in exchange with my parents when I was younger it went some thing like this: Father: “it’s time for you to go to bed”, young me: “but I am not tired”, Father: Well, I am.”

    1. Ha. I have that exact conversation with my kids every night. Doesn’t work any better than asking a question though. XD

      1. My father asked how old I was when I told him 7 , he asked me if I wanted to be eight.

  3. For many, “purchasing expands to fit salary” is really “purchasing expands to fit salary+credit.”

  4. I think “should of” for “should have” qualifies as a grammar mistake. You’re trying to form a pluperfect subjunctive verb tense, and “of” can’t be used for the purpose. If that isn’t bad grammar, I never done seen any.

    1. So show me how “should of” is used properly. Use of the wrong word is not a grammatical error.

Comments are closed.