10-ish Things that Annoy Me about the Way People Use English (and 10 Things I’m Just Fine With)

Look at that, a list! Such clickbait. But I’m not sure how much of a list it’ll be: at the moment I can only think of three or four things to put on it, though perhaps I’ll think of more as I write. Because you see, I’m not sure there are so many things that really annoy me about the way native speakers use English. I’ve been thinking about this recently while looking round the internet to see what other people are writing about the English language. And there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there, but I noticed that a lot of people like to write about things that annoy them about the way people use English. Reading what they wrote, I realised that I don’t seem to get so annoyed about things like that. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher so I’m used to understanding the reason behind a mistake. Maybe I’m just curious about why people say things the way they do.

I understood why these people got annoyed of course, and I know why we naturally don’t like when people say something differently from how we do. So I thought to myself: Are there things that annoy me? Let’s see what I can come up with…

  1. Could of, should of etc. A mistake I understand of course, but I think what annoys me is that it looks so obviously wrong when written down that I’m surprised people don’t realise they’re making a mistake.
  2. Lose/loose: again, easy to understand, but very annoying to read, because in my head I pronounce the word that’s written, so it sounds awkward.
  3. Any public error that went through a lot of people before being published: for example, in my hometown there are posters on some bins that read Be Proud of the City Your in. Not only is the your wrong, but the whole sentence sounds really awkward. But of course the your is the big mistake. I just can’t believe that multiple people reviewed the poster and no-one spotted it. And it seems particularly galling because it’s an official publication of the City Council.
  4. People consciously trying to change their accent in order to fit into a group, or because they’re embarrassed by where they’re from.
  5. Erm…
  6. Oh yeah, people making mistakes by being pretentious, like using whom because it sounds formal, even when who is correct.
  7. New words when perfectly good words exist, like emoticon becoming smiley (which was just fine) becoming emoji. I know languages naturally evolve, but if the existing word works, why bring in another.
  8. And…
  9. Um…
  10. I think that’s it really. I suppose I just don’t get annoyed very easily. Perhaps it’ll be more interesting to make a list of things that annoy other people, but I don’t really mind…

  1. Your instead of you’re: even though I sometimes worry that this mistake could have a negative effect overall on people’s understanding of grammar, I can still understand why people make it. I’ve often made it myself in writing simply because both sound the same in my head.
  2. Accents: natural accents. We’ve all got one, and don’t have much choice in it. Even if they don’t all sound beautiful to our ears, isn’t it just great that there so many different types?
  3. “Street” English: like slang, or dropping one’s G’s or H‘s. It’s one of these things people complain about but can never explain why, beyond saying It sounds bad. It’s just their own prejudices at play: it’s the people speaking they have a problem with, not how they speak.
  4. Smileys: or emojis, if you will. Ok, maybe they might have a negative effect if they replace words in someone’s vocabulary, but I actually quite like using them in sentences. They’re very useful for conveying tone in writing :-).

There are probably lots of other things that bother other people that I don’t mind, but I’m not really sure what things bother most other people, and I don’t want to dwell too much on negativity. We all have our own ways of speaking, and even if use English differently from me, I probably don’t really mind. But I understand that we all have our little bugbears, and I understand why, so if you’d like to share those little things that annoy you about how people use English, please feel free to share below.

23 thoughts on “10-ish Things that Annoy Me about the Way People Use English (and 10 Things I’m Just Fine With)

  1. Regarding #1, I think my mom was annoyed once because my brother’s elementary school teacher (!) wrote a note home and used “Could of/Should of” instead of “Could have/Should have.” No, she wasn’t referring to my brother’s grammar.

    Regarding #4: A lot of people’s accents probably change subconsciously…I’d be more concerned about someone attempting a dialect shift. Can you imagine someone using double modals (incorrectly, probably) to sound Southern?

    #6: In addition to incorrect usages of “who” and “whom,” “from whence” annoys me. Is the “from” really necessary?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t mind people’s accents drifting: it’s hard to avoid, and I like when I hear an immigrant who’s been here for a few years who’s got a bit of an Irish accent 😊. You’re right about “whence,” I think because it feels like “where,” people instinctively use “from” with it.

      Like

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