With the exception of friends, I generally do not correct others’ grammar. Raised by an English teacher, I am aware how annoying and condescending that can appear. I didn’t receive any formal grammatical instruction after middle school, but I just have an intuitive acuity of the subject. When I studied and later taught philosophy, logic, e.g., symbolic logic, and analytic philosophy were two areas of keen interest. In general, the field reinforced the ideal of applying academic rigor to thought and communication.
How “bad” can I be in this regard? I love the Stones, and am always quick to point out that Keith Richards and I share the same birthday. Ergo, from an astrological standpoint, I should likewise be indestructible. If/when humanity gets wiped out, among the survivors will be cockroaches, Keith, and me. (Lamentably, the former will probably be easier to communicate with.)
Still, when I did “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” for karaoke many moons ago, I sang it as “(I Cannot Get) Satisfaction.” Some to most of the bargoers enjoyed my correction. (Actually, my only complete flop during a karaoke performance was when I attempted, at a bar where no one knew me, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”)
I don’t know if this expression is unique to Baltimore, but I’ve heard a lot of people say, “That don’t make no sense.” How ironic. I will joke to an intellectually inclined friend, “That is an irrational statement/action,” or “That is logically unsound.”
Surely we’ve all heard “I could care less,” which struck me as wrongheaded even as a precocious kid. Depending on my familiarity with the speaker, I will say, “I, for one, could not,” or “I could care more.”
But what really irks me, mainly because of its ubiquity, is the tautological “It is what it is.” I actually once heard an acquaintance say, “This is my life philosophy: it is what it is; that’s all that it is; and it ain’t a damn thing more.” Stressing that it was his “life philosophy” implied that much thought had gone into such a maxim.
I knew the guy well enough to add, “So you’re saying, ‘It is,’ or ‘It has being,’ which merely resulted in his reiteration of the motto. I thought that if we ever really hung out together, I could make banal observations like “There’s a tree” or “That house is yellow.” Perhaps he would be fascinated, whereas any passersby would think I was autistic.
Of course, sloppy grammar can be useful when one is trying to lie in spirit while technically being truthful. Slick Willie, a lawyer before he was a politician, erred in trying to explain why he wanted a blowjob by trying to parse the word “Is.” He would have done better to follow the example of this sage: