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.

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  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.”)

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  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*.

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  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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