Monday, April 7, 2014

solecism

In traditional prescriptive grammar, a solecism is something perceived as a grammatical mistake or absurdity, or even a simply non-standard usage. The word was originally used by the Greeks for what they perceived as mistakes in their language. Ancient Athenians considered the dialect of the inhabitants of their colony Soli in Cilicia to be a corrupted form of their own pure Attic dialect, full of "solecisms" (Greek: σολοικισμοί, soloikismoí; Sing.: σολοικισμός, soloikismós).

Here are some examples of usages often regarded as solecisms in standard English:

  • "This is just between you and I" for "This is just between you and me" (hypercorrection to avoid the common "you and me" form in the predicate of copulative sentences, even though "me" is the standard pronoun for the object of a preposition)
  • "He ain't going nowhere" for "He isn't [or "he's not"] going anywhere" or "he is going nowhere" (dialectical usage; see "ain't") and double negative
  • "Whom shall I say is calling?" for "Who shall I say is calling?" (hypercorrection resulting from the perception that "whom" is a formal version of "who" or that the pronoun is functioning as an object when, in fact, it is a subject [One would say, "Shall I say he is calling?])
  • Irregardless for regardless (nonstandard usage from analogy with constructions like "irreverent," "irrespective," and "irrevocable," where the negative prefix "in-" changes to "ir-" but becomes redundant because of "-less")
  • "The woman, she is here" for "The woman is here" or "She is here" (nonstandard usage with the double subject "she")
  • "She can't hardly sleep" for "She can hardly sleep" (a double negative, as both "can't" and "hardly" have a negative meaning)
  • "The issue is, is his attitude" for "The issue is his attitude" (see double copula)
  • "Substituting A for B" when the intended meaning is "substituting B for A" or "replacing A with B", i.e. "removing A and putting B in its place."
  • "The reason being..." for "The reason is..."

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