Monday, August 27, 2012

Stump a Grammar Snob

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I’m not much of a normal collector. I don’t have a hundred salt and pepper shaker sets. Or ceramic figurines. Or stuffed animals.

But I do like words and grammar. I have several thesauri, multiple dictionaries (even two that are identical—that particular dictionary is my favorite, so I have to have a backup), and I have scads of grammar books, everything from the Chicago Manual of Style to Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite.

And I read them for fun. (Okay, I see you out there—you read them for fun too. Raise your hands. Now we’ll all sing “Kumba Ya.” Just kidding.) I also read phone books for fun. But that’s another story.

Anyway, Grammar Snobs is a sort of layman’s guide book to zingers for dealing with grammar snobs. Okay, I’ll admit to being a grammar snob. But only in dealing with my kids when they were little. “May asks for permission. Can refers to native ability. Say ‘May I have a candy bar.’” (Though my kids will probably mutter that neither usage got them a candy bar.)

In any case, I found a delightful tidbit in Grammar Snobs. One that almost everyone gets wrong. Are you ready? What is the shortened form of the word until? Think.

Are you one hundred percent sure? Okay. The shortened form of the word until is till. Yeah, I know. No one uses it correctly. Go look it up in your dictionary. I did and was shocked. I thought it was ’til. I know the rule that says when you abbreviate something (anything), you use an apostrophe to mark the spot where the letters have been removed. I thought it was a carved-in-stone-never-to-be-altered rule. But there’s an exception. 

What makes it even weirder is that the abbreviation for until is the same as the word that means “to plow the soil.”

So now you have it. A new party game. Stump your grammar snob friends.

BTW, I’m now off to do a global search of my novel for the errant ’til. Just in case.

And here's a link to the book on Amazon if you can't wait to get your hands on another grammar book. 


  1. I always get "until" confused. I would like to use the abbreviated form but don't know the proper way to use it. I try not to use that word often. It messes up what I'm trying to say.

  2. I share your love for reading phone books. When I was little and bored, Mom would hand me the Denver phone book to go read. It kept me busy for an hour or two. It was especially good because it also had several Denver maps in the back, plus all of the streets listed. I soon had them all memorized, but Denver's streets are easy...but I digress. Combine my love of reading the phone book with my love of maps and mom had easy entertainment for me :>)

  3. You know, I ALWAYS used to spell it "till," until (ha, ha) a teacher corrected me. The snotty nine-year-old in me is smugly pleased she was right after all.