Everybody loves the troublemaker. From Fonzy on “Happy Days” to Bart on “The Simpsons,” tricky characters have been glorified through generations. I thought I’d never be branded as rooting for the troublesome, that is, until I read Mignon Fogarty’s newest grammar book: Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time.
I seem to lack the ability to grasp spelling and grammar. I had to change that when I decided to write professionally. When I set out to become more grammatically enlightened, I thought the biggest hurdle I’d have to tackle would be their, there, and they’re. If I’d known how deep and dark the tunnel of grammar inaccuracies go and how many “grammarians” disagree, I may have never set out to better myself in this area.
I met Mignon at a writing workshop where she delivered the most shocking news I’d ever heard in my life: Alright is actually two words–all right. All this time, I’d been using it wrong. I was even sure that my trusty word spell checker would allow me to write it. I never remembered it being tagged as a problem before, but there it is, green squiggly line. She also suggests I not trust my spell checker.
After all my hardships through life trying to learn the English language (as a native speaker), I thought when I received a review copy of this book it might combust as soon as I made contact. The same way that matter and anti-matter would. It didn’t happen, and now I can’t unread all the alarming things I read in this book, namely that I pretty much fell for every one of the troublesome words’ tricks.
I’m in love with romance books, particularly the paranormal genre. A reoccurring theme in those books is that a secret world is taking place inside the world as we know it. I figured this must be the case with the troublesome words and Mignon is a superhuman with powers to force these troublemakers into public knowledge. She transforms an English teacher’s nerdy private pleasures into something interesting and fun.
I’ll be honest; when she told me that “alright” was two words instead of one I didn’t believe it. I went into denial, thinking she was just torturing me, or being a stickler. It had to be a commonly used word, right?
Finally, after months of suspense, I read the real reason behind why “alright” is troublesome. Apparently some words get misspelled over and over until they become common usage and accepted. Using the spelling “alright” has not reached that point as other words have like email (once spelled e-mail) or website (used to be Web site).
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, even as a grammariain’t who may never achieve spelling greatness. One of my favorite parts was the history behind what made a word controversial; it helped me feel better about being unsure of some of these words in the past. I tip my hat to the true super grammarians, like Fogarty, who fight the good fight, and making sure everything in literature is all right.
I love comments! Every time you leave a comment, Super Grammar Girl will banish a troublesome word from the evil forces of our English language.