There’s a peculiar sound you can hear in my house, whenever the TV is on. It’s a little sound…something like…”muh.” You’d hear it more often during news broadcasts and unscripted shows than at other times. It wouldn’t take you long to realize that it comes from me.
I have an affliction. It’s called speakproperlydammititis. The symptoms include facial tics, guttural mumbling, involuntary moues, and the small Tourette-like exclamations of “muh.”
If you want to drive me crazy (and sound like an uneducated rube in the bargain), do two things.
- Drop the word “whom” from your vocabulary.
- End any sentence having to do with location with the word “at.”
Hemingway did not write For Who the Bell Tolls, nor did Maurice Sendak write Where the Wild Things Are At. I mean, come on people! These are not difficult rules to grasp.
While (sadly) I rather expect who/whom errors from regular folk, I hear it more and more from journalists and pundits. And every time they screw it up, I twitch. They say “…with who?” and I say “Muh.” They say “to who?” and I say “Muh.” Seriously, if you can’t tell a prepositional phrase from a subject-verb agreement, I can’t take you seriously.
As for “at,” I looooong ago gave up on the “No prepositions at the end of sentences” rule. Frankly, I found it unnecessary and, if Shakespeare can end a sentence with a preposition, I shouldn’t complain of it.
But we Americans now feel compelled to put stick the word “at” on the end of any sentence having to do with location. “Where are you at?” is a simply stupid sentence, since “Where are you?” is perfectly clear. Of course, the seed of all this woe is the ’60s phrase “Where it’s at,” conjured up, one must think, because the phrase “Where it’s” just doesn’t scan very well. The use of @ as a preposition hasn’t helped, either.
I don’t usually maunder about grammar, but sometimes it bubbles up, and like “muh,” I am incapable of withholding my ire. I have speakproperlydammititis, and I can’t help myself.