Insights and commentary on language and creative writing.

Monday, April 9, 2007

I or Me?

Parents have been patiently correcting their kids on the use of “I” over “me” for ages. Few parents explain why “I” should be used over “me”, though, and thus kids have no way of remembering when to use “I” or me”.

Consider the following examples:

John and me are going to the movies.
John is going to the movies with Bob and me.

In the first sentence, “John and me” should be corrected to “John and I”. The second sentence, however, is correct. Why? In the first sentence, “John and I” are SUBJECTS. (Who is going? John is going. I am going.) Therefore, the pronouns used must be SUBJECT pronouns.

In the second sentence, “John and me” are OBJECTS. (With whom is John going to the movies? With me. With Bob.) “Bob and me” are OBJECTS in this case. Therefore, OBJECT pronouns are used.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The C vs. S Dilemma

Defense or defence?
Offense or offence?
Practise or practice?

This distinction may be fast becoming an extinction, but it appeals to the English scholar in me. Most people either use one or the other regardless of the situation; others make the distinction as a result of a lesson crammed long ago, however, the rationale behind that distinction has been forgotten.

The suffix –se applies when the word is being used as a verb.
Example: I will practise the piano today.

The suffix –ce applies when the word is being used as a noun.
Example: Will you attend piano practice today?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Colloquialism vs. Slang

Colloquialism and slang – the same thing? I think not.

Colloquialisms enrich a language, lending to the identity of a people and a culture. Slang waters down language, like static on a radio station. The language is still there but diminished due to laziness and lack of effort.

Coming from a Caribbean upbringing and having lived in Toronto and Vancouver, I have been exposed to several dialects of the English language and found there is no shortage of colloquialisms and slang.


“Give me a toonie.” “Tonnie” is a Canadian colloquialism for the Canadian two-dollar coin.
“Gimme a toonie.” “Gimme” is slang, slurring two words together for the sake of brevity.

“I’ll buy milk one time when I’m coming home.” “One time” is a Trinidadian colloquialism for “at the same time” or “while”.

“I pickin’ up milk one time.” Leaving “am” out of the sentence may shorten the sentence, and is common in Trinidad, however, it sacrifices grammar by destroying the verb structure in the sentence.

Language is a cornerstone of identity, regional, provincial or national. Every language has its own unique vocabulary, formal and informal words and expressions that distinguish the language from other languages. We wouldn’t scribble all over our national flag, so why are we diluting our language with words that will leave no national legacy?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Winter Weather Phenomenon

I’ll take a break from giving advice to point out interesting wordplay right under our noses. Think of the frozen desserts offered in fast food chains. The Blizzard. The McFlurry. The Frosty. The Iced Cap. These names conjure up thoughts of refreshment on hot summer days. Wonder who coined the first winter-inspired treat? And did each succeeding marketing executive realize he was following a naming trend or was he just focused on making his cold product more appealing on a hot day?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A versus E

Accept vs. Except

The confusion between these two words is a product of pronunciation. I was trained under a British education system and, to me, the "a" in "apple" is totally distinct from the "e" in egg. However, as my speech becomes more "Canadian", I realize how these words can seem like homophones. Here is a simple way to distinguish the two:

Accept implies agreement
Except implies exclusion

Than vs. Then

The same pronunciation snag explained above applies here. Here is a simple way to distinguish the two:

Than implies choice
Then implies consequence

Saturday, March 31, 2007


I haven't read the Harry Potter series yet (I know, and I call myself a nerd) but I heard that J. K. Rowling uses the word "disorientated" in her writings. I've heard a lot of people using that word and I have to bite my tongue to refrain from correcting them. So the next time you use "disorientated", consider the following, explained by basic English grammar rules:

Original word: orient
Prefix signifying opposite meaning: dis
Suffix for past tense: ed
New word: disoriented