An Agent’s Curmudgeonly Rant

Sometimes I just have to rant. You understand, don’t you?

Maybe it comes with age, and you’re not yet old enough to understand. Or grumpy enough. Or OCD enough.

Nevertheless, I hope you’ll allow me to vent for today’s post. And I should say that I’m not asking you to agree with me, though my regard will certainly increase if you do. It’s just that there are some things that get on my nerves as I read things—not only proposals submitted to me, but all kinds of stuff. Here’s a short list:

1. “One of the only.” I know that it’s accepted usage to say something such as, “he’s one of the only people who still do that.” But every single time I see or hear it, I cringe, and wish the writer or speaker had used “one of the few” instead. I may be the only one, but “only” to me connotes “singular,” rather than “a small number.” Or maybe I’m one of the few.  

2. The Oxford comma. Yes, I’m one of the few who recognizes the clarifying power of the Oxford comma. But you know who agrees with me? My siblings, William Zinsser and God.

3. Psalm/Psalms. It’s not incorrect to reference a Bible quote as coming from “Psalms 23:1.” It is “The Book of Psalms,” after all. But it’s always a “bump” for me. I always use “Psalm 23:1.” Because I’m referencing one among many psalms. I know, it’s a trivial matter; but it does get “all my bones … out of joint” (Psalm 22:14 NIV).

4. “Beg the question.” I see this phrase used incorrectly by otherwise erudite and articulate people. But to beg the question is a phrase from Aristotelian logic that means to assume as true the thing that is being argued. So please, take my word for it, that when you’re tempted to say “begs the question,” you almost certainly mean “prompts the question,” not “begs the question.”

5. The placement of the words only and almost. Where you place the word only (or almost) in a sentence can change the meaning of the sentence. For example, a recent news story reported, “Almost found exclusively in people who were born female, this condition affects about 11 percent of women worldwide.” Unless the condition wasn’t found, which would make no sense, the writer intended us to understand that the condition is “found almost exclusively …” See what I mean? Or to say, “I only want a sandwich” (which is a common construction) technically means I don’t demand a sandwich; I only want it. Usually, however, what the speaker or writer means is, “I want only a sandwich.” Which is also different from “Only I want a sandwich.” Yeah, I know: only a small difference. But I’m allowed to have my quibbles.

6. “I could care less.” I know there are those who insist this phrase means the opposite of what it says, but I couldn’t care less. If you could care less, you care some, right? But most people who say, “I could care less” use it to mean “I couldn’t care less.” Which I admit I care way too much about.

I thought I would feel better after my rant. But doggone it, I fear I’m only one of the only ones who only feels worse after expressing myself. If only.

34 Responses to An Agent’s Curmudgeonly Rant

  1. Len Bailey March 9, 2022 at 5:17 am #

    I love it, Bob. For me it’s the “interchangeable” words nausious/naueated, or the misplaced and ubiquitous, “You’re kidding!”.
    There will be a special place in heaven for people like me, a corner in the Celestial City far enough removed where others cannot hear our shreking and devouring each other, where cannibalism is still allowed and the throwing of mud pies.
    Yes, that will be glory for me, ha, ha, ha!

    • Emily Brooks March 9, 2022 at 7:44 am #

      “My siblings, William Zinsser And God.” 😂
      I am a writing professor and teach the power of the Oxford comma. Most of my students don’t care, but maybe I can convert some.

    • Bob Hostetler March 9, 2022 at 10:05 am #

      Me too, Len. JK

  2. Tim Eichenbrenner March 9, 2022 at 5:21 am #

    Bob,
    What about the use of “myself” instead of “me,” and how “regardless” has morphed into “irregardless?” Maybe I’m just one of the only people worried about this.😉

    • Bob Hostetler March 9, 2022 at 10:08 am #

      Tim, that goes double for myself.

  3. Cole Powell March 9, 2022 at 5:31 am #

    Excellent pet peeves list, Bob! Viva la Oxford comma!

  4. Pam Halter March 9, 2022 at 5:32 am #

    To piggyback on Psalms … Revelations. When someone speaks of the book of Revelation and adds the s, I always cringe. And when a pastor says it, I mentally scream.

    Does it really matter? Everyone knows what someone is talking about if they add the s, but it always bothers me.

    • Gordon Palmer March 9, 2022 at 5:53 am #

      My Pastor hates that too, Pam. He emphasizes it whenever he teaches from there.

    • Bob Hostetler March 9, 2022 at 10:09 am #

      Oh, absolutely on “Revelations.” Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

  5. Gordon Palmer March 9, 2022 at 5:37 am #

    Thank you for that morning laugh, Bob. I couldn’t agree more (forgive the obvious begging for your regard). Number 2 had me rolling.

  6. Lori March 9, 2022 at 5:37 am #

    Psalm/Psalms. Oh my. Every time my pastor says it my skin crawls … not the effect I suspect he hopes his sermon will have on his congregation. Add to this the fact that my pastor is married to a grammarian (me) … sigh.

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 9, 2022 at 6:04 am #

    When pastor reads from Book of Psalms
    and adds ‘s’ to specific Psalm,
    I wonder, when he’s giving alms,
    does a single beggar get an alm?
    I truly want only to know,
    but this is merely a suggestion,
    but like I almost always go,
    here I’ve done and begged the question.
    One of the only, yea, perhaps,
    to whom this matters, I confess;
    for most ruddy gals, and chaps,
    they all really could care less
    about writerly minutiae,
    but it matters to one such as I.

    Using the British pronunciation of minutiae, here.

  8. Joy Godbold March 9, 2022 at 6:10 am #

    Thank you! The “s” on a singular psalm drives me nuts, too. Again. the pastor.

  9. Damon J. Gray March 9, 2022 at 6:43 am #

    I can identify with the list with the single exception of the glorious Oxford Comma.

    The greatest cringe for me comes with the misplaced “only.” I hear it frequently on the Liberty Mutual commercials where “You only pay for what you need.”

    Only I fed the dog.
    I only fed the dog.
    I fed only the dog.
    I fed the only dog.
    I fed the dog only.

    • Bob Hostetler March 9, 2022 at 10:10 am #

      Damon, you’re really testing our friendship…

  10. Betty Pfeiffer March 9, 2022 at 6:46 am #

    Yea! I know now I’m not alone in my peevishness.

  11. Michael Kalous March 9, 2022 at 7:40 am #

    Oh, how I appreciated reading your rant this morning! I must be curmudgeonly and, perhaps, an old grump; though I’m not that old. It causes me to enter my day with a brighter outlook knowing I’m not the only one who gets peeved over trivial, and not so trivial, misuse of our language.

  12. Kristen Joy Wilks March 9, 2022 at 8:03 am #

    Ha! Your rant reminds me of Weird Al’s song, “Word Crimes.” In particular, the verse about could care less vs. couldn’t care less. “It means you do care, even just a little.”

    • Megan Schaulis March 9, 2022 at 9:32 am #

      Kristen,

      Agreed. That song calls out several pet-peeve worthy errors.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 9, 2022 at 10:04 am #

        For some reason this didn’t post earlier, on the topic of pet peeves. Maybe a good thing, but one more try.

        I have many a pet peeve
        that takes the breath from me,
        like, I really can’t believe
        how often Labby needs to pee.
        The canines really rule the place,
        and Labby is large alpha male,
        and he feels his crowning grace
        is to wag his mighty tail
        and then slowly lift his leg
        in another dog’s direction,
        and if I see this and then beg
        him stop, he will pause for reflection,
        tongue a-lolling, eyes a-dream,
        and then unleash a golden stream.

  13. Megan Schaulis March 9, 2022 at 9:30 am #

    This is a great list, Bob.

    My husband is a stickler for correct use of further (to a greater extent) and farther (a longer distance). He seems to be one of the few (*wink*) who notices that one.

  14. Linda Taylor March 9, 2022 at 9:55 am #

    Hey Bob! I once worked with a client on a Bible project. She was ADAMANT that it was “Psalms 23:1” and not “Psalm 23:1.” Her reasoning was that Psalms is the book name and that, after all, we don’t say “Proverb 3:1.” I had to admit, there might be a point, but then again, not really as not every verse in Proverbs is a proverb. In any case, it was a hill I wasn’t willing to die on, and I let her have it her way.

  15. Libby Taylor-Worden March 9, 2022 at 10:00 am #

    Wonderful. I got a great laugh out of #2, and I totally agree with numbers 1, 3, 5, and 6. But about #4, isn’t is common in Historical fiction written in 1300s to 1800s England to say ‘beg’ when asking a question? I do agree it sounds a bit odd in today’s vernacular, but would the Oxford dictionary include a definition that includes questioning?

    • Bob Hostetler March 9, 2022 at 10:15 am #

      Alas, it’s one thing to say “I beg of you,” and another to say, “begs the question.” For the sake of historical accuracy, however, I suspect (though I’ve not researched it) that speakers of 100 or more years ago would be more likely to use “begs the question” correctly than people today. In fact, I also suspect that the OED (which aims to reflect not dictate usage) admits the common (wrong) use of the phrase.

      • Roberta Sarver March 9, 2022 at 4:16 pm #

        While we’re ranting, may I add mine? I am seeing the misuse of “to” and “too” on fb over and over. “This has gone on to long,” she said. It affects me like fingernails on a chalkboard. The other one is “your” as in “Your welcome.” Don’t they teach grammar and spelling in school these days?

  16. Mark Drinnenberg March 9, 2022 at 10:12 am #

    I love it! Numbers 2, 3, and 6 would be on my list of pet peeves (though I agree with the whole list). Regarding Psalm vs. Psalms, I once heard a speaker at a conference say that those who say (e.g.) Psalm 23 are wrong. The argument made was that we don’t say Roman 8 or 1 Corinthian 12, so why should we say Psalm 23? That argument wants to treat Psalms as a book divided into chapters rather than a collection of 150 individual psalms. Every time I hear a speaker reference “Psalms something-or-other,” I silently make that explanation to the person, even as I try to listen to the message. 🙂 (Hopefully, I have not created any cringe-worthy errors in this post. I did find a misplaced modifier and deleted it before posting. *sigh*).

  17. Julie Johnson March 9, 2022 at 10:30 am #

    I must plead guilty to some of these offenses, which prompts the question: am I alone or one of the few?

  18. Frenchy Dennis March 9, 2022 at 10:30 am #

    As an editor, I have to say I agree. I see so many words I’d love to squash, such as, “over” instead of “ended;” “then” instead of “than or vice versa;” and many more. My all-time favorite was written by an administration pastor: “We are going to replace the windows in the youth house with members of the congregation.”

  19. Anne Chlovechok March 9, 2022 at 2:19 pm #

    Bob, I could care less about everything you said, because in fact I do care about a lot of it! My sister would agree strongly about the Oxford coma. For me the issue is clouded because I’m a newspaper editor, and get caught up in AP style. Finally, tonight for dinner, I’ll be having only a sandwich, because I’m out of chips. Alas.
    Anne Chlovechok

  20. Sheri Parmelee March 9, 2022 at 4:19 pm #

    Bob, though some folks couldn’t care less, I adore the Oxford comma.

  21. Jennifer Haynie March 9, 2022 at 6:52 pm #

    Love it! Thanks for rooting for the Oxford comma! I’ve always preferred that and can’t stand it when it’s not used. 🙂

  22. Patricia Hartman March 10, 2022 at 5:32 am #

    I almost think this begs the question if perhaps I am one of the only writers, authors, and speakers who could care less about the misuse of the “s” in Psalm.
    There. I think that covers it. Now, after all these rants, I need to go back and re-read the book, “Unoffendable.” lol

  23. Cindi Clover March 11, 2022 at 7:40 pm #

    Hi Bob. I’m a HS English teacher and have to grade things called “essays” (so called, I suppose, because ink appears on paper). I’d be happy to see any commas…

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