The funny part about learning grammar well is that it turns grammar mistakes into nails on a chalkboard. Honestly, the screech of nails on a chalkboard is less aggravating. Since perfect English usage is almost unheard of (in speech, online, etc.), most English lovers learn to live with some errors or go mad from all the screeching. At the same time, we inevitably have specific ones that we can’t stand: pet peeves for English usage.
Besides general homophone errors, one of my pet peeves is direct address misusage. If you’ve never heard of direct address, it’s exactly what it sounds like – it’s when the speaker directly addresses a comment to someone else and names him/her. The part that most people forget (or don’t know) is that there’s supposed to be a comma separating the name of the person from what is said to that person.
For example, “Merry Christmas Bob!” should be “Merry Christmas, Bob!”
Why does it matter? (*adjusts soapbox and steps up*) Well, it entirely changes the meaning of the statement. If you leave out the comma, you’re turning “Merry Christmas” into an adjective, as if you’re trying to differentiate which Bob you’re talking about (you know, the one who says, “Merry Christmas” all the time. Even at Easter.). That would be fine if it were what the person was trying to say. Usually, it’s not, but that comma gets left out all the time.
One of the biggest culprits is the sports fan. When rooting for a favorite team, it should be “Go, team!” (Replace “team” with the name of whatever team you’re rooting for.) Instead, this comma is omitted from sports paraphernalia all over the place from posters to shirts to billboards. No one seems to care that leaving out the comma makes the team’s name into a verb. Or maybe it’s a location. It’s really hard to tell when the word is used in a way it was never meant to be used. (“Go Wolverines!” – how do you wolverine? “Go Yankees!” How do you Yankees? It makes no sense.)
Of course, if you point this out to a sports fan who is not also an English person, you’ll get a disgusted/scornful look (like what are you talking about? Everyone knows what it means.). And maybe when it comes to grammar, ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately, once you learn the comma is meant to be there, it’s hard to ignore its absence (And the temptation to grab a marker or spray can and fix the error).
That’s the problem with learning English well. Once you learn the rules, you can’t help but notice when they’re blatantly broken, and unfortunately, no one else seems to care. We hapless English lovers must turn to therapy, bars, and online rants to soothe our poor tortured minds.
Speaking of which, want to rant about your grammar pet peeve? I can make sympathetic noises with the best of them.