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September 28, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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homofones

tehgrammerz

Read this! It’s ‘important’!

As you’ve learned in teh grammerz over the last few weeks, the English language* is pretty shit. Seriously, it’s all over the place, just vomiting everywhere. Every English grammar rule has so many exceptions that it’s just completely random and makes no sense. Even I, a self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi, Grammar Nerd and Master of Language, have not completely mastered the English language, despite it being my native tongue.

I’ve tried to write this damned column to advise you about English, give you knowledge* for you to practice it correctly. But we still screw it up. We’re all still dependant on something, something inherently flawed in the language—the assumption that English should be written the way it sounds. That writing should be as easy as speaking. Well, it’s not.

Yeah, I make mistakes. In fact, I made two* in the last paragraph—two mistakes that, thanks to the simultaneousness* of the presentation of the written word, I can safely say were intentional. And did you see them? Did you pick them up as you were casually reading this? I think not. Does it matter, then, that I made these mistakes? Did they distract from the clarity or unclarity** of my statements?

I think not. It shouldn’t matter. But we still strive for perfection, for unity, consistency. And we get farther* away every day. I’ve given up. I’ve written all I care to write about the English language. And what am I left with? This column to write, and some obscure shit nobody picks up on, save for a few. They’re probably not going to tell you about it. We’re through the looking glass.

So. Mistake number one. Practise/Practice. These two words are pronounced the same way, but serve different functions. I might have written about this before, but to be honest, I can’t be bothered asking Jackson to send me the www.lmgtfy.com link. Here’s the explanation anyway. Practise is a verb, and practice is a noun. The same goes for license and licence. You know the difference between nouns and verbs, right? Right? Right.

Instead of going into the whole noun/verb thing again, here’s a useful trick (that Rory taught me) that will let you know whether you should use the –ise or the –ice form. I’m going to advise you of some good advice. The useful thing about comparing these spellings is that advise and advice have the same corresponding suffixes, but the pronunciation between the two words is different. Advise is the verb and advice is the noun. You should be able to compare how these two words are used to figure out their function, relating it to the practise/practice example.

Mistake number two. Dependent/Dependant. Once again, these two words are pronounced the same, but have just one letter different. And they serve different functions. FML. FYL. Fortunately, 99 percent of the time you’ll only use dependent, as in to be dependent on something. The –ant form is used for describing people who are dependent on something—dependants, such as beneficiary dependants.

Here’s another one. Compliment/Complement. Until recent times I wasn’t even aware of these two different spellings. The verb compliment means to praise something or someone, whereas complement means to go well with something. If you compliment the waiter, he might recommend a wine that will complement your meal.

The most important thing about these minor differences is that if you get it wrong, nobody will care. Your spell check probably won’t even pick them up. So why bother? Spell it how you like, and maybe one day English spelling will one day actually make sense.

In conclusion, fuck English. Fuck English grammar. Fuck English writing. Scheiß auf Englisch. Lass uns alle Deutsch sprechen.

* What the fuck kind of word is that? Just look at it.
** Not an actual word.

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About the Author ()

Mikey learned everything he knows about English Grammar in an MSN chat room when he was 13. Believing that people don't say "LOL" enough in everyday conversation, he has made it his mission to teach the world about grammerz one person at a time.

Comments (18)

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  1. Renee Lyons says:

    I’m sure it was I who informed you of the advice/advise thing? Or maybe we both did … “We” being Rory and I; not me and Rory – never “me and anybody“!

  2. Mikey says:

    Nah it was definitely Rory. You told me about the dependant/dependent thing though. Props!

  3. Rory Harnden says:

    Oh phew, I’m glad we got that cleared up so quickly. No hard feelings, Renee!

  4. Shirrleey says:

    I like to think of it like this: Ice is a noun, so therefore practICE, AdvICE is a noun! Make sense???

  5. Jemima says:

    Mikey is teh man-ro-tang!

  6. Matt says:

    ahh, but to the mafia, “ice” can also be a verb, as in, “you wan’ me to ice dat mothafucka, boss?” And because the whole point of any language, especially English, is that it should never, ever be ambiguous at all (right? right? English majors, you with me right?), it’s best to follow the original advice.

  7. AnneofGreenGables says:

    I am completing an English major and I am not with you I’m afraid.

  8. Mikey says:

    Fine by me. You can write teh grammerz next year.

  9. Matt says:

    Sigh. Ah well. I meant no offense, ’twas just feeling boisterous.

  10. Tomer Guez says:

    > Your spell check probably won’t even pick them up.

    And for this there is Spell Check Anywhere (SpellCheckAnywhere.Com). It adds spell check to all programs, and comes with an optional grammar check.

  11. Mikey says:

    The thing is though that these aren’t spelling mistakes, they’re just very similar words with slightly different usages. As with the compliment/complement example, if we used it wrong each time the sentence would still be grammatically correct, just the meaning would be quite strange.

    If you complement the waiter, he might recommend a wine that will compliment your meal.

    This means that if you go well with (complement) the waiter, he might recommend a wine that will praise (compliment) your meal.

    This is just bizarre. Grammatically speaking, however, the sentence is correct, as the two (transitive) verbs each take a subject. Therefore an automated grammar or spelling check wouldn’t pick up on this confusion, as it is entirely dependent on the meaning.

    As with the practise/practice example, the spell check would have to recognise the grammar in the variety of English (i.e., American English or British English) it is checking. As both practise and practice are words in British English, American English only uses practice for both the noun and verb form. The most basic spell check would probably not do this, although I cannot say as I don’t use them much, and not for AE/BE differences anyway.

  12. Renee Lyons says:

    Spell check is evil. Evil I tell you! Do not trust it.

  13. Matt says:

    Spellcheckers are pretty funny/evil. After having used one for pretty much, well, since I could write, I’m now writing essays and whatnot with a program that highlights mistakes but doesn’t offer suggestions. The number of words that I would’ve sworn blind that I knew how to spell, but am actually mostly clueless about, is somewhat embarrassing.
    But hey, it does provide an excuse to read the OED online, and being a nerd, I kinda like that.

  14. Mikey says:

    That’s another dangerous thing about using spell checkers/word processors (i.e. Microsoft Word)—the fact that it automatically corrects your mistakes sometimes means that you will not learn from these mistakes and will continue making them.

  15. f u mikey im tha english master

  16. Michael Oliver says:

    ^ An ironic comment. Watch me go.

  17. Renee Lyons says:

    Bad grammer: Its to common!

  18. Jemima says:

    homofone: n a device used by The Gays for communication purposes.

    Here is a totally SFW picture of someone who has overused their homofone.

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