The right words that sound wrong

I was listening to someone speaking on TV, and he had said, “I had drank some coffee.” It was an extemporaneous utterance, not a prepared speech, so I gave him a pass. I know it’s drink/drank/drunk, but the general public thinks of “drunk” only as being inebriated.

There are words that are correct that just sound incorrect. It’s swim/swam/swum, but seldom have I heard the word swum. Grammar Girl has, helpfully, described the the difference between lay/laid/laid and lie/lay/lain. Let’s face it: most people who use the word lain, even correctly, are looked at askance.

I think that, unfortunately, “whom” is on the endangered species list. It’s a perfectly good word, but to say, “With whom are you going?” sounds affected. “Who are you going with?” sounds natural. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for ‘whom’.”

What other legitimate words are on the endangered list?

5 thoughts on “The right words that sound wrong”

  1. I see the difference between “affect” and “effect” is eroding, as is the difference between “less” and “fewer.” I use “whom” all the time–it sounds off to my ears when people don’t use it–but I don’t hear it very often anymore.


  2. Learnt, burnt, whomever…

    A student sent me an email saying she “cutted it out.” I thought she was trying to be cute. She was a preservice teacher. O.o

    So irregular verbs in general are dying, even simple ones (e.g. “broken.”)


  3. Who and Whom seem to be the most confusing in writing. It does drive me crazy to see affect and effect interchanged. And a pet peeve of mine is using *over* instead of *more than*.


  4. Oh, here is another! “Its” vs. “It’s” is a pet peeve.

    “Insure” (involving money) vs. “Ensure” (not just the nutritional drink, but the idea of making sure something gets done).

    Referring to people as “that” makes me yell. When a newscaster (no longer journalists; talking heads at best) says, “There are so many people that think…” I scream, “WHO think!”

    These drive Lex up the wall, but he also says, “Anyways,” which is another… there is no winning for the grammatically picky! Thanks for this, Roger! Amy


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