I’m marking my 10-year anniversary of writing the “Ask Amy” column by rerunning some of my favorite Q-and-A’s.
Q. I have been dating a wonderful, warm, caring man for the last five months. He has many positive qualities and enjoys the arts and dancing as much as I do. I care a lot about him.
The problem is his poor, incorrect grammar. He is intelligent and educated, but often when he talks, he sounds as though he is neither. I don’t know if it is just a bad habit he’s developed over the years or if he is unaware his grammar is incorrect. I’ve met other members of his family and they speak correctly.
I wish his bad grammar didn’t bother me, but it does. I have a master’s degree and have been a music teacher for 27 years, so I’m very aware whether students and people in general are using proper grammar. I’ve run this “problem” past family and friends and have gotten a variety of responses. I would like to bring his grammar errors up to him because I believe it’s something he could correct, but I need to do it in a tactful way so I don’t hurt his feelings.
Here are some examples of his grammatical errors:
I don’t want no more of that food.
I seen a beautiful picture at the art gallery
I should’ve did that paperwork yesterday.
This may be my own idiosyncrasy and a bit picky in light of his other wonderful qualities, but speaking correctly is important to me and I can’t seem to let it go. Any suggestions?
A. When you want to be tactful, I think it’s best to start, not by running chapter and verse past your friends and family and soliciting their opinions, but by being direct and respectful.
I’ve noticed that tactful people often seem to camouflage their issue with self-deprecating charm. You can start by telling your friend how much you enjoy him. Then you should segue right into the tact. You say, “I know I’m going to sound like a schoolmarm here, but did you realize that you make grammatical mistakes from time to time?” Ask him how he’d feel if you corrected him now and then. (2004)
Q. Our family enjoys your column. You have a particularly dedicated fan in our 12-year-old son, who reads your column every morning during breakfast.
As a family with roots in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, we especially liked the end of your answer to “Grammatically Correct Lady” in a recent column.
However, to our eye (ear?) your education and sense of grammatical propriety was still peeking through.
We would normally say, “It don’t make me no nevermind.” To say, “It don’t make no nevermind to me,” as you did — with a prepositional phrase included — is just a bit of citified formality!
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A. I’ve heard from several readers wondering if I grew up in a certain corner of Virginia or along the North Carolina border. I didn’t, but somehow that phrase made it north into my native neck of the woods.
Your correction is correct.
Insertion of a prepositional phrase must have been due to my now built-in fear of vigilant copy editors, who save me daily.
By the way, the translation to this ungrammatical phrase is, “It doesn’t matter to me,” which, though understandable, lacks music, don’t you think?Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.