Sunday, August 24, 2008

41. THEM and THOSE and the Problems They Pose

Welcome back, all of you grammarphiles! I hope all is well and that each of you is minding his/her beeswax :-) Today's lesson is another one we need especially here in southeastern North Carolina. Of course, we're not alone making these usage mistakes, but I don't believe other parts of the country could "outbrag" us and say this error is heard more somewhere else than here.

So...what is it? This one, unfortunately, is heard way too much-- the misuse of THEM and THOSE. (Have mercy!)

Okay. Let's see what the difference is between these two words:

THOSE can act as either a pronoun or an adjective.

Check out the following examples:

1. Where did you get THOSE sunglasses? (Here, THOSE is used as an adjective describing WHICH sunglasses.)

2. THOSE are amazing sunglasses! ( THOSE is used as a simple pronoun acting as the subject of the sentence.)

Actually, we don't normally have trouble with THOSE...But with THEM? Now that's another story:

THEM is always used as a pronoun...never as an adjective...Notice the following correct uses of THEM:

1. I want to go with THEM to Lake Waccamaw. (THEM is used as a simple pronoun acting as the object of the preposition
of "with.")

2. George told THEM that it would soon be hog killing' weather. (Again, THEM is a pronoun acting, this time, as the direct object.)

Now all of this should be super simple. Nevertheless, we have one little quirk that we need to be aware of, and it is this use that gives us so much trouble. Just because THOSE can be used two ways (as an adjective and a pronoun), it doesn't follow that THEM can also be used two ways.

Again, remember that THEM can ONLY be used as a pronoun.

Take a look at some of the mistakes we hear too much (groan)...

1. THEM boys are so lazy they couldn't say "sooey" if the hogs were eating them.( Because the word in question precedes a noun--boys-- only an adjective will work here and, therefore, only THOSE is correct. THEM can never be used as an adjective.)

2. Do you think THEM hunters will be ready to hunt on Labor Day this year? (Again, the word in question precedes a noun--hunters-- so only an adjective will be correct here. THEM is not an adjective, but THOSE is!)

All right. Here are a few sentences to help you practice your skills. Which word in each sentence is correct?

1. (THOSE, THEM) cats jumped around like monkeys on a barbed wire fence.

2. (THOSE, THEM) are the best boiled peanuts I've had all summer.

3. Betty told (THOSE, THEM) that her car was such a gas guzzler it would pass everything but a fillin' station.

Well, all right! I have a feeling that you did a great job with this little quiz. Here are the answers:

1. THOSE is correct because it is an adjective modifying "cats".

2. THOSE is correct because it is a pronoun acting as the subject of the sentence.

3. THEM is correct because it is a pronoun acting as the direct object.

Once again, we see that this commonly seen and heard mistake is very easy to correct! Just think about it and practice saying and writing it correctly. You'll quickly master this boo boo and be struttin' like a rooster.

Ah, yes, it's again time to close up shop. Thanks so much for your attention and have a wonderful week. Peace, love, and laughter to all! GG

Sunday, August 17, 2008

40. The Redundant Blunder

Hello, Everyone! I'm back again today with another rule concerning something we hear and read everywhere, it seems--and this one isn't peculiar only to Southerners :>)

Have you ever noticed how many times we repeat things in conversations and writings? This error is called a REDUNDANCY...or sometimes we'll hear a grammarian say, "Your remark is REDUNDANT!" Webster's defines REDUNDANT as ..." exceeding that which is necessary...excess...using more words than is needed...repetition..."

Now this kind of error is not normally a grammatical error. It is, however, an error that that weakens the impact of good writing and conversation.

So...what are some examples of this blunder? Actually, there are many being used around us all the time and most folks probably don't even realize it. Here are some examples:

One I used to hear quite often in my English classes was the following:

"Please repeat that again."

Okay. Think about it. When you say, "Repeat...again", aren't you repeating yourself? The way to improve this sentence would be to say, "Repeat that, please." Just leave out the repetitious word.

Redundancies can appear as short as two words:

1. New innovation...Just say "innovation". Including "new" with "innovation" is repetitious
2. Necessary prerequisite...Just say "prerequisite". "Necessary" is not needed.
3. Fellow colleague...Drop "fellow". "Colleague" is fine alone.

Redundancies can also appear as longer phrases:

1. We thought we had provided adequate seating with a chair for each person in attendance.
This sentence is wordy. One possible way to improve it would be to say something like this:

1. We thought we had provided adequate seating.
This time you have come straight to the point and not put your reader to sleep.

Here's another example of a longer redundant phrase:

2. Although Frank tried to keep his thoughts to himself, he suddenly thought out loud to the startled group.
Another wordy sentence. Try something like this to improve it:

2. Although Frank tried to keep his thoughts to himself, he suddenly spoke to the startled group.
Much better!

Becoming aware of redundant words and phrases will probably take some effort since we're so accustomed to hearing and seeing them, but if you work on it and stay alert, you'll greatly improve your speaking and writing.

Here are some more to think about:


absolutely certain... There's no room for doubt...It's absolute...
a.m. in the morning... If occurring in the morning, it has to be a.m...
and also... Use one word or the other...not both.
and etc... Etc. is Latin for "and so forth."
as an added bonus... If something is a bonus, it must be added.
ATM machine... ATM means Automated Teller Machine.
autobiography of my life... Aren't you writing it?
close proximity... You can't have "far" proximity. Delete "close."...
exactly the same... If something is exactly the same, it must be exact.
honest truth... If something isn't the truth, it isn't honest.
Kleenex tissue... Kleenex IS a tissue. Delete "tissue"
sum total... If you have a sum, you have a total. Delete one word.
true fact... By definition, a fact must be true. Delete "true".
Xerox copy... Xerox IS a copy. Delete "copy."

Well, that brings us to the end of today's lesson. There are many, many more examples of REDUNDANT words and phrases (and I've just used one--but here, it's for emphasis, and using them this way is occasionally acceptable if not overdone.) We'll look at some more of them later. Meanwhile, let me know if you hear any not mentioned here. I'm sure you have seen some of these in newspaper, magazine and sign ads. These types of expressions most certainly illustrate the "less is more" adage and should reinforce the necessity of our developing good writing and speaking skills.

Have a great week, enjoy doing lots of fun things, and remember that I love hearing from you. Peace and happiness to all! GG

Sunday, August 10, 2008

39. Is It Five PAIR or Five PAIRS of Socks?

Greetings again, all of you grammar lovers and I hope you're all doing well.

Today, I have decided to tackle another one of those very common errors we constantly hear that, I must admit, is going through some transition today. As I've said many times before, our language continues to change and certain expressions we hear many times today may have been considered terrible mistakes fifty years ago, for example. For this reason, Webster's now includes words in our dictionaries that are becoming semi-acceptable, and this is so because they are used so often. However, this doesn't mean that we should include these expressions in our own speech. After all, there are plenty of folks besides English teachers who cringe at the use of some of these bloopers.

One such error that is slowly creeping into the common use file today is the misuse of PAIR and PAIRS. Now we all know that A PAIR of something generally means ONE of a group of items:

ONE PAIR of shoes means exactly what it says.

ONE PAIR of shoes sit under the bed...meaning there are two different shoes under the bed--one for the right foot and one for the left foot...but together they are called ...A PAIR or one group.

However, if you were to say...

FIVE PAIR of shoes sit under the would be implying that there are ten different shoes under the bed, but you're not saying it correctly. Here, you should say...

FIVE PAIRS of shoes sit under the S is needed on PAIR to make it plural!

Remember how Webster's defines PAIR: two corresponding things designed for use together as one thing.

All you need to remember is to use the plural (PAIRS) when there are more than one groups of items, things, etc. Pretty easy, huh?

Advertisers in newspapers and on television quite frequently use these two words incorrectly. Watch out for ads that say something such as...


TWO PAIR OF PANTS FOR $14.95...0r...


Groan...Where have these writers been all their lives? All three of these sentences are incorrect because each pair refers to more than one group of items! Just place the S on the end of PAIR and you'll be correct.

Well, all right! What a simple rule to learn! Just remember that an S on a noun means it is plural and that's what you mean when you say...

I bought three PAIRS of overalls to wear when I work in the fields...AHHHH...such music to my ears!

Have a great week doing what you enjoy most. Peace and happiness, GG