I can’t recall a time when I didn’t like words. Words in illogical combinations make oxymorons: the deafening silence. Words can stir emotions, enrage, soothe, comfort; you get the idea. A teaching colleague and I had many disagreements about language use. He appreciated the fact that our language was evolving to reflect the times. New words were created to express specific ideas – large became huge, gigantic, enormous, humongous, ginormous. My position was that we couldn’t abandon rules. We need a standard of excellence, a quantifying benchmark.

So began my frustrations with usage. The word “like” is a preposition, a comparison word appropriately used in a simile: her eyes sparkled like raindrops. It is not a substitute for “said” or “replied.” I’m like whoa! doesn’t make it in my lexicon.

“It’s” means it is. It is not a possessive form of it. A chameleon changes its color to match its environment.

The forms of “lie” are intransitive; they can exist without an object. The forms of “lay” are transitive; the word means put or place and it requires an object, something placed somewhere. Correctly, her socks were lying on the floor.I sometimes lie awake for hours thinking about language. I asked him to lay (put) the book on the table where it is still lying today. That one is so commonly misused I suspect my teaching friend would tell me to “live with it.”

Lately I’ve been hearing the misuse of “me” and “I” in conversations, on MPR, in speeches. “Please talk to Fred and me” is correct. The test is to leave Fred out of the request. One would not say “Please talk to I.” On MPR a week or two ago the moderator said, “It is hard for we non-scientists…” It is hard for us! It is hard for me!

I am controlled in my reactions to language misuse. I hardly ever correct people, except maybe my grandchildren. I do believe, however, that like the marines there are no former English teachers.