Unpaid merchandise

If you’ve been with me to a bookstore, you have probably heard me complain for 20 minutes about the fact that merchandise is always “unpaid,” unless someone has started awarding salaries to inanimate objects.  (Come to think of it, that could explain where some of the bail-out money has gone…  but I digress)

It’s a weird grammar pet-peeve, but just about everyone I know has at least one.  There are the common ones, like the “their-there-they’re” conundrum or, the related, “your-you’re.”  There’s its vs. it’s.  These are so common there are bumper stickers devoted to them on facebook.  It’s still an epidemic, though.  I know I cringe when someone makes the same mistake over and over again.

There are more specific and unusual ones.  One of my friends gets angry about people’s use of “addictive” vs. “addicting.”  And, because I must connect everything to a television show, I’ll also point out that the difference between “effect” and “affect” are one of two things Marshall is actually serious about, and that Ted does NOT appreciate Robin’s excessive use of the world “literally.”

One of the things I love about the blogosphere is that there are ENTIRE BLOGS devoted to violations of very specific rules of grammar.  There are blogs devoted to overuse of “literally,” there are blogs devoted to the misuse of apostraphes, there are blogs devoted to the misuse of quotations.  I think the last one is my favorite.  It reminds me (AGAIN with the television references) of the Friends episode where Joey completely misunderstands the use of airquotes.

It makes me wonder, though, WHY we pick the certain errors to obsess over.  I get angry about “unpaid merchandise,” but I am far from perfect (hell, I’m sure I’ve made grammatical mistakes in this post).  I wonder if there isn’t some kind of ownership of that mistake.  It’s MY pet peeve, after all, so I get to be sort of righteous about my anger.  It’s my job to police the world, leave post-it notes on signs, and get people to stop misusing “unpaid!”  I am a crusader for grammar; no, I am a crusader for JUSTICE ITSELF; I’m a vigilante, making the world a better place, one incorrect adjective at a time.

— carmhelga

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