Join 3,559 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Grammar police
February 15, 2012 5:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I request that someone stop correcting my grammar and/or pronunciation of words?

This is in a social setting and the person who does this frequently is a friend's husband. I do value the friendship and I often enjoy doing things with both of these individuals.

I'm really tired of the constant corrections, which probably occurs at least 1X/visit. I do believe that I can/could improve my grammar and/or pronunciation of words, but it is not something that I want to spend hours correcting.

I have also considered spending less time with these people, but it may be at the expense of the friendship.
posted by Lord of the Sock Puppets to Human Relations (44 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Joe, I appreciate that you're trying to be helpful, but you're making me uncomfortable."
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:28 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think you should be absolutely direct about it. For instance:

You: And then last week, when Linda and me went to the store...
"Gary": Linda and I
You: Gary, what the fuck. Seriously. So anyway, we were at the store...

Do this every time. My guess is that after the second time, Gary'll shut his trap.
posted by phunniemee at 5:31 PM on February 15, 2012 [46 favorites]


Maybe point them in the direction of this blog post?

"But instead of rolling with the punches and participating in a brainstorm of ideas and exploding humor, they contribute interruptions, facts and details that merely produce stop energy on an ongoing discussion. They turn the center of attention towards them.

The well-actually crowd means well. They want to be loved, they just have not realized that they are undermining their own quest for friends.

If you are a sagacious well-actuallista you need to understand that you are not outwitting anyone. It takes more intelligence to build a joke, tell a funny anecdote or narrate a gripping story than it takes to nitpick."
posted by Paragon at 5:31 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


A very direct look, a pause, and a pointed "thank you" before continuing your story.
posted by headnsouth at 5:32 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


One that I hear a lot is completely non-agressive, just a statement of fact.

Corrector: It's pronounced new-clee-ar, not new-cue-lar.
Other person: Well, I pronounce it new-cue-lar.

It's completely lacking in hostility, it seems just like a statement of fact, kind of like: You say it like that? Cool; this is the way I say that word.

I've seen it work really well, when I was unthinkingly being an asshole, and I've also seen it work when other people were.
posted by surenoproblem at 5:32 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Make a joke out of it. Tell him every time he corrects your grammar he has to put a quarter in a "grammar correction" jar. Then tease him with some deliberate "irregardlesses" and "Jane and me's." He's probably not conscious of how often he does it and if you keep it all good-humored it will put less strain on the relationship (because, after all, just as he's correcting your grammar, you're hoping to correct his manners).

Actually, to make it less like a "shut up, Larry" you could give him two free corrections per evening; after that he has to pay up.
posted by yoink at 5:40 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, "Gary, what the fuck?" or the lighter version - "Err, yeah, thanks".

Or, alternatively, ignoring it entirely as if he doesn't do it.

You say your thing - he corrects it - you wait a beat and then continue with what you were saying, no acknowledgement of it whatsoever.
posted by mleigh at 5:43 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I generally just say 'Whatever,' and wave my hand in a dismissive fashion, as though sweeping away a small gnat, and resume the story without missing a beat. I think it conveys 'You damn nuisance, refrain from buzzing my ear with your noises.'
posted by palindromic at 5:43 PM on February 15, 2012


You might just take him aside next time and say "I appreciate that you're trying to educate me, and I know you probably make these corrections almost unconsciously because the errors are so obvious to you. When you do that, though, it interrupts the flow of our conversation and makes me feel too irritated to continue. I value our friendship too much to spend our interactions being irritated - can I ask that you hold back on this kind of comment when we talk?" and see what he says. He may not even be aware that he does this, and - if he's at all decent - will make an effort to stop.
posted by judith at 5:47 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think this should be done through the friend. Just let your friend know it makes you feel really awkward and self conscious (etc.) when her husband corrects you. Ask her to say something to him about it.
posted by cairdeas at 5:48 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pause, say "Gary, that's kind of annoying." Then carry on with your story, grammatical error and all.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:51 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


"So help me god if you correct my grammar one more time I am going to flip out. Just let it go dude. Anyway, you were saying?"

Been there.
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:56 PM on February 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


I used to correct people's grammar/pronunciation errors all the time. I didn't realize how petty and annoying it was until someone at one point said to me "if what I said was so immediately clear to you that you knew the correct grammatical form, then didn't I use those words sufficiently enough to get my point across?"
posted by triceryclops at 5:56 PM on February 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


"Spoken English and written English are different things. Get over it."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:00 PM on February 15, 2012


Ding Training.
posted by scruss at 6:00 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


look at them with exasperation, and maybe a bit of pity, and say "I really hate when you do that, I feel like you're not listening to what I say, you're just waiting for me to make a mistake"
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:01 PM on February 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


"Friend's husband, please stop correcting my grammar and pronunciation. It comes across as pompous and arrogant, and it makes me feel very uncomfortable. Thanks."
posted by Sal and Richard at 6:04 PM on February 15, 2012


You: And then last week, when Linda and me went to the store...
"Gary": Linda and I
You: Gary, what the fuck. Seriously. So anyway, we were at the store...


Or, if you want to add some sarcastic bite to it:

You: Oh, sorry that my improper pronoun usage made this part of the story totally impossible to understand. Linda...and I went to the store....
posted by triceryclops at 6:07 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Editor here.

As someone who's paid to write without error-- and I can speak that way too, if I want to -- I can honestly say it would never occur to me to 'correct' someone in conversation as you describe.

And the issue isn't grammar, of course. People interrupt the flow of conversation in a hundred bad ways. I suspect such behavior reflects a sense of insecurity or inadequacy. As in: "I know you think I don't know much, but by God I can conjugate the verb 'to lay,' and I don't care about your story, I see an opportunity to prove it.
.
There's a lot of good wisdom in this thread. But IMO it all divides in two directions: Do you want to win him or destroy him?

It's easy either way, but you have to decide which way you're taking. And if you're not sure, by all means take the kinder course.
posted by LonnieK at 6:44 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Shh, the grownups are talking.
posted by emelenjr at 6:45 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would do it through your friend. Ask her if Larry has a problem with you or your intelligence or something and then point out (after she is surprised and says NO! Etc) that he is constantly correcting you and that it is annoying. She will definitely convey the message to him.

But I am an avoidant coward like that sometimes.
posted by bquarters at 6:53 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


but actually my parents (yes, I get the difference) used to correct my grammar all the time when I was talking to them and I used to find it so annoying. But now I am actually grateful to know when to say 'Linda and I' etc. So....maybe keep that it mind too? That it may possibly be helpful in some way? /sometimes pedantic teacher/
posted by bquarters at 6:58 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I feel like some people have a little more badinage with friend's husbands than I necessarily might. Sarcasm is the junk-food of communication; It might feel good, but it's generally bad for you.

If you're sarcastic, a) Friend's husband won't know how seriously to take you, b) may assume it's an invite for more banter, and c) may get hurt feelings.

Grown ups talking honestly and directly about their feelings. Say want you want, i.e.: "Marvin, it bothers me when you correct me all the time, would you mind not doing it anymore? Thanks. Anyway, as I was saying..."

You don't have to be angry, or hurt, or make a big deal about it, but why dance around with the sarcasm etc? Ask for what you want; people want to meet others' expectations, especially when the other person is a guest. :)
posted by smoke at 7:37 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Joe, I forget, is it Peh-Dant or Pee-dant? (you pompous windbag).

Don't actually say this, because it just escalates the situation, but think it, and recognize that this guy is going through life being That Guy, which is way worse than mispronouncing words.

Dude, cut that out would be my preferred phrasing.
posted by Mom at 7:42 PM on February 15, 2012


I just smile and continue on with my story, not acknowledging the correction. If he keeps doing it, he looks like the jerk, not you, and he's the one who's going to get a stern talking-to from his wife whispered angrily in the hallway, "Jesus, Gary, stop correcting her grammar. You sound like such a jerk!"
posted by elizeh at 7:45 PM on February 15, 2012


Personally, I would ignore it, but if you do not wish to do so, allow me to cast a vote for "direct, but not rude." That includes not telling your friend's husband that he is a jerk and not using profanity. Instead, you can say something like: "Thank you, but please don't correct me." Repeat as necessary.
posted by willbaude at 7:49 PM on February 15, 2012


As someone who grew up never hearing someone actually say the word "paradigm," I'm grateful to hear correct pronunciations. But the way I handle it is to say "I always though it was pronounced (right way or wrong way), I'm glad you know better!" (And then later I double-check it, and if I'm right I damned well work it into the conversation again.) But correcting spoken grammar? The guy's an ass.

Also, apparently this (mispronunciation) figures in a Jack London story, but I can't find a link.

Love,
BROO-SKET-AH
posted by cyndigo at 8:00 PM on February 15, 2012


Ask to see his Linguistics degree.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 8:29 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


So many passive aggressive solutions posted. These are bad ideas.

Be upfront, straightforward. Tell him how his correction of your grammar makes you feel. Inadequate, belittled, self-conscious, whatever. Tell him you are working on fixing your grammar but he's not helping by doing it the way he's doing it.

Don't be an ass about it.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:10 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


If I wanted to be nice, I'd simply say "Don't do that" and continue with what I was saying.

If I wanted to make a point, I'd look at the guy, wait a beat, and continue the conversation with, "The important part was...(whatever thing you were trying to discuss.)

Unless you've specifically requested tutoring from this guy, you're not the one here who's being an ass.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:28 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another vote for "Gary, what the fuck?"
posted by ead at 11:06 PM on February 15, 2012


"if what I said was so immediately clear to you that you knew the correct grammatical form, then didn't I use those words sufficiently enough to get my point across?"

This is exactly what I say when I futz up in French and someone gets rude with their corrections, yet it's clear they've understood my point. People genuinely trying to help, yet correcting something I've heard a gazillion times, get this lighter response (said while chuckling at my own expense, because it's true): "Yeah, I've been doing this for 20 years now, it ain't changing any time soon." This works every single time and has the benefit of relaxing the atmosphere.

As for pronunciation, if you're a native English speaker, you can also use the "says who?" approach, jokingly. (I also use that in French, since I got French citizenship, and say it in a silly-enough tone that it gets people to think and yet also stops the remarks. Only seriously rude people take it further, at which point I say, in English, "if you want I can switch to English and make fewer mistakes" and they blanche and let it drop. Know any foreign languages?? :) )
posted by fraula at 12:10 AM on February 16, 2012


I am amazed at how aggressive most of these comments are. I would assume it comes out of good intent, not some sort of social jab. Next time it happens, I would say "Gary, I know you mean well, but these little grammar corrections really bother me. Could you please avoid them in the future?" Just because he doesn't have social tact doesn't mean you should avoid being direct but polite.
posted by Schismatic at 12:34 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


"ah, so you're a prescriptivist; I myself am more of a descriptivist. Anyway... as I was saying..."
posted by at at 5:29 AM on February 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ask to see his Linguistics degree.

An education in linguistics makes you less likely to correct grammar because it comes with exposure to the idea that there are prescriptive grammar rules (what your English teacher tells you is correct) and descriptive grammar (what people actually can and do say). How people say stuff becomes interesting--there's less attachment to the "right" way to say things.


ANYWAY, when people are being passive-aggressively rude I find the best way to nip that shit in the bud is to shine a light on the behavior. There are a lot of responses you could use, but I like the "what the fuck" suggestion as well as "Gary, does it really matter? Really? You're driving me crazy, I hereby release you from the burden of making sure I speak according to your standards."
posted by Kimberly at 6:03 AM on February 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Repeat the offending phrase the way you said it and then continue on as if nothing happened.

"So me and Jane went to the store.. . "

"You mean Jane and I."

"So me and Jane went to the store and I saw this great outfit and blahblahblah"
posted by wwax at 7:19 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the goal is to make friend's husband quit the behavior but keep the friendship, expressing surprise that someone would do such a thing can gently highlight the uncoolness:

Husband: No, it's oh-reck-ee-ET-tay, not OR-CHETTAY.

You (bewildered): Dude, did you really just correct my pronunciation? You knew what I meant, right? Pasta shaped like ears? Anyway...
posted by *s at 8:28 AM on February 16, 2012


Ask to see his Linguistics degree.

I have one of these and Kimberly's right. It helps that my mum is not great with spelling and grammar, and has always been very self-conscious about it. I will only ever correct pronunciation if it is a Conversation of Smugness, because I find that correcting spelling/grammar, in online arguments at least, is the lowest form of debate. If people do it to me, it's usually because I'm saying out loud a word I usually read or type, and I think a lot of 'incorrect' pronunciation starts there. And that just means the speaker is WELL GOOD at reading, which is awesome.

And that's even with being someone who finds 'Legos' a really jarring way to spell 'Lego'.
posted by mippy at 9:56 AM on February 16, 2012


(also, I have trained myself out of getting annoyed at 'work colleague' for my own sanity. I used to be a sub-editor too.)
posted by mippy at 9:57 AM on February 16, 2012


"Dude. I know my English is not perfect, but your fondness for correcting me is both inappropriate and unwelcome in the context of what is supposed to be a friendly, relaxed relationship. Could you please cut it out?"

Really. I am a total grammar Nazi, but I would never do this on a social occasion unless it was as an obvious joke or wind-up with someone I knew well enough. It's unacceptable and he needs to have his attitude adjusted accordingly.
posted by Decani at 10:36 AM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do want to thank everyone for their replies; even if I didn't mark it as a favorite, trust me, I would like to do some of these suggested solutions, but I do want to keep this person as a friend. I plan to implement some combination of the favorite responses above.

In addition, Smoke, I appreciate your thoughtful reply on this, too. I have to admit that I'm often sarcastic and your response reminds me that I could potentially make this problem worse.

Thank you, ask metafilter!
posted by Lord of the Sock Puppets at 2:54 PM on February 16, 2012


Re Mippy:
If people do it to me, it's usually because I'm saying out loud a word I usually read or type, and I think a lot of 'incorrect' pronunciation starts there. And that just means the speaker is WELL GOOD at reading, which is awesome.

That is totally true. When someone mispronounces a word -- and this language man has mispronounced many -- it may simply indicate a reach that exceeds a grasp.

That is, some of us read more widely than our circles of friends and coworkers -- and far, far more widely than any of us speak day to day.
posted by LonnieK at 4:18 PM on February 16, 2012


* speaks day to day
posted by LonnieK at 4:19 PM on February 16, 2012


"I've been meaning to ask - what's the etymology of 'dickhead', Gary?"
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:45 AM on February 17, 2012


« Older Sister Mefites, how do I grace...   |  Keep and fix or junk?... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.