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Boinnngggg.

You could practically hear last week's topic hitting a nerve, one in-house English major at a time.  After I inquired which staffers claimed English as an academic concentration, "No" replies landed in my inbox; "Yes" folks responded in person.   They needed to vent. 

En route to other missions, fellow EMs veered over to the reference desk, confiding their pet peeves: mispronunciations, improper usage, acceptance of "impact" as a verb.  One colleague confessed to embarrassment when he'd been asked to share which book he was currently reading--zombie fiction.

"Good for you!" I responded.  English majors should embrace popular favorites.   We reference this noble motive as we virtuously indulge in frothy romances, serial mysteries, and supercharged thrillers along with literary fiction.  Despite our contentions that Middlemarch and Silas Marner are page-turners, we're fun people.

Because no one deserves a curmudgeonly co-worker, we save our venting about subject-verb agreement, comma splices, and the like for other EMs.  If, however, a patron appears likely to submit that cover letter with errors beyond Spell-check's powers of recognition, we intervene.  That's different.

Here's a verbal glitch you've surely heard: the assumption that nominative pronouns (e.g., "he and I") are always preferable to objective pronouns ("him and me").  Actually, when the element  in question follows a preposition ("Oh, she's downstairs, waiting FOR _____ .") the objective "him and me" is the proper choice. 

Oh, I see what happened just now.  When "pronoun", "objective", "preposition", etc. registered, your brain cells commenced to fold their figurative tents and (say it with me, English majors!) "silently steal away" to any other topic. 

Apostrophe errorMore creative grammar grouches have packaged elucidation into hilarious but useful lessons.   Based on the Facebook page, Sharon Eliza Nichol's I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar furnishes amusement for all (and balm for EMs) with photographs chronicling missteps:  grocery store sign hawking "personnel watermelons", zoo announcement for a "birds of pray" exhibit.

Columnist June Casagrande's Mortal Syntax and Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies deliver expertise with attitude.  William Safire's How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar entertainingly considers which grammar edicts may be disregarded (and when) with memorable chapter titles:  Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read; Never, ever use repetitive redundancies; De-accession euphemisms.

Venturing beyond mere grammar, engrossing treatments of language history and evolution include Ralph Keyes' I Love It When You Talk Retro:  Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech and Don Watson's Death Sentences: How Clich├ęs, Weasel Words, and Management-Speak Are Strangling Public Language.

In deference to Mr. Watson's condemnation of trends in rhetoric (a view with which I agree), I should probably not suggest that, at this point in time, you elect to engage in a book-perusal event in order to qualitatively diversify your knowledge base with regard to jargon symptomatic of messaging entities...

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