n and adj
1- unbranded cattle
2- one who refuses to conform to the views of a particular party or group
3- a thing obtained dishonestly
Given this, who are you calling a maverick?
I admit it (though this will come as no surprise to my friends). Grammatical errors in signs and advertisements and labels irk me to no end. My rants on the topic have even caused me to put foot in mouth (like the time I told someone that I couldn’t stand City Mill’s slogan “Price Right Everyday” because of the misuse/misspelling of ‘everyday’, not realizing they were intimately connected with the company) or simply talk too much about it.
So it was with some delight that I read this article in the Guardian UK, which was at one point my hometown paper, about how:
“Britain’s baffling collection of ungrammatical, misspelt, out of date and plain wrong public signs is to have a national audit, with the public recruited as error spotters.”
Here’s one piece of accompanying photographic evidence:
And why is it that here in Hawai’i, Ka Lei Eggs must assert “”Ka Lei Eggs, country fresh, everyday”?
Is the only reason I care because it affects me personally, as when editors refuse to keep my spelling of “Thomas’s” in phrases such as “Read more of Christine Thomas’s writing here”?
Futurist Jim Dator might think I am being oppressive; after all, as he told me during our interview last year, he views reading as a form of mind control:
“For many years I’ve had a fight against teaching English. We are, as far as I know, the only society that teaches its native language at the University level and teaches it over and over and over. I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. … My criteria is: Can other people understand what you’re writing? If so, then you’re communicating and that’s all you need. The rest is style. … The emphasis on proper speaking and writing is really political oppression. … It’s a way to make thought conform to what somebody thinks is acceptable. It’s a way of intimidation.”
As someone who uses words as my toolbox, and who tries to communicate clearly and lucidly with these tools, perhaps I end up caring about them more than others do, just as the painter has a higher respect for treatment of brushes, the financial analyst for exacting percentages, and Cheney for ultimate secrecy, than do I.
But for once and for all: ‘everyday’ is an adjective only. ‘every day’ is an adverb.
Ka Lei Eggs are fresh every day.
City Mill is priced right every day.
My blog is available at an everyday low price.
All right (note the spelling).
I’m done now.
In a world where texting often replaces talking, emailing overtakes writing, and educating online instead of in-person is becoming the norm, words (especially written ones) are perhaps even more important than ever whilst also being largely undervalued as the English language is corrupted. (If I have to hear or read one more person say or write “I thought to myself”!)
Henry Hitchings, an author who was born the year I was, appears to agree, and has written The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English to encourage us to stop and think about the words we use. But he’s no grammar-disciplinarian–instead his book traces the history of English vocabulary and words’ witness to the past and social change to spin enchanting real-life stories of the people, places and things that shaped the words that fall from pen and tongue. (He also reminds us that English has co-opted words from more than 350 other languages – where does shampoo come from?).
The first chapter is Ensemble, and here’s a peek at the first lines:
Together, at the same time; the united performance of all voices
From the French, which derives from the late Latin insimul, comprising in, ‘in’, and simul, ‘at the same time’
‘All these trifling things…collectively form that pleasing je ne sais quoi, that ensemble‘ – Lord Chesterfield, 1748
On a smoky October morning in 1697, a Puritan magistrate called Samuel Sewall went to visit the Lieutenant Governor at Dorchester, which is now a suburb of Boston on the American east coast. Born in England, in a rural part of Hampshire, Sewall had arrived in American as an adolescent. He had studie at Harvard, had managed the Boston printing press, and in 1692 had been one of the nine judges appointed to hear the Salem witch trials. Not long before his trip to Dorchester he had publicly expressed shame over his role in the last of these, but that October morning this bulky, big-framed figure had more appetizing business on his mind.”
-Henry Hitchings, The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English