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More than any other entity, FaceBook has revealed how widespread the lack of grammar skills and knowledge of spelling is in America; so much so that it can be downright painful to read members’ posts.

The confusion of they’re, there and their is particularly rampant, with confusion of there and their the most common. One somewhat rarely even sees they’re used. Once again, it appears the most simple spelling wins out; and once again as well, it appears due to a lack of knowledge of what it is for that an apostrophe is used. Hence one sees ironic statements like “Their all idiots”.

As with all grammar and spelling foibles, the misuses broadcast an aura of the perpetrator lacking everyday knowledge — a deadly thing to happen when one is arguing such things as politics. It is hard to take seriously someone who is arguing complicated issues like economics when that person cannot even spell. That can be sadly unfair. I have FaceBook friends who clearly do not lack for intelligence but make the mistake of being unclear about they’re and their.

Once again as well, monkey-see-monkey-do (the sheep factor) is a major culprit in the proliferation of misuses.


Even spell-checkers will not help folks with this one, and others are going to wonder whether your point is valid if you have trouble spelling a three-letter word.

Two gets a bit of a break since it can be represented with the digit 2, though I’ve seen it butchered as well.  To is supposed to be used primarily as a preposition, and sometimes as an adverb.  In that, it indicates the direction of an action, as in “He went to the store”.  However, it is frequently misused in place of too, such as saying “I want some ice-cream to”.  That raises the question of what it is that one wants ice-cream to do.

 Too is a degree word, or adverb, as in “He was driving too fast”.  Once again, it is difficult to tell whether the problem is a simple spelling problem or a monkey-see-monkey-do fad.  Seeing multiple people using to for too leads others to do the same, which — well, you get the picture.

Too and to are homonyms.  That is to say, they sound alike when pronounced but are spelled differently.  (Many spelling transgressions arise from pronouncing words incorrectly in the first place.  For instance, many pronounce your and you’re the same. Your should more closely rhyme with yore, while you’re should begin rhyming with you (yew-er).  It is, after all, a contraction of “you are”.  It does make spelling words correctly more difficult if one does not know how they are pronounced.)

In most cases, the misuse of to for too is saved by the context of the sentence.  However, it certainly has no place in business writing, and will mark you as having questionable knowledge when writing in social media.  It does not help the case you are making when you cannot spell a two- or three-letter word.  There may be something to be said about global climate change advocates rarely making this mistake while deniers do so frequently — among other misused words.



It seems that your and you’re have gotten majorly confused in the online communities.  The most common error is using your for you’reYou’re is a contraction of “you are”; the apostrophe (‘) takes the place of the missing aYour is a possessive adjective, as in “your blue eyes”.   I seldom see the opposite — using you’re for your.  I suspect that’s because you’re is more complex, and increasing numbers of people don’t seem to know what the heck the uses of an apostrophe are (see also Apostrophe Apocalypse).

I frequently see phrases like “your an idiot” which, of course, turns that shot toward one’s own foot.  I have a growing belief that pronunciation, becoming a lost art, is involved.  There are subtle but important differences between the pronunciation of your and you’re.  If one cannot pronounce a word, it makes sounding it out and differentiating the spelling more difficult.  Your sounds as if it has a long ‘o’, as in the word “yore”.  You’re sounds more like “yew-er”.  After all, the base word is “you”.  Oh  for the days of yore.

As with most language errors, the misuse of your makes the knowledge of the user suspect.  The last thing most of us want is to have our statements or arguments dismissed as those of someone who is intellectually challenged but that does not seem to stop us.  It’s enough to make Eyore suicidal on top of his basic depression.


Among the current, spoken language fads is something most commonly referred to as “vocal fry“; the trailing off of the voice into a ragged, gravelly intonation. In its favor, I suppose, is that it at least is not done with a rising inflection.  Not in its favor are its lack of suitability for oration (due to the diminished volume necessary) and the stigma of being a valley girl-like habit, suggesting immaturity.

Some have suggested that prejudice against this vocal fad is just a prejudice against young people.  Far, far fewer people over the age of 30 are likely to use it.  I have no doubt that one factor is the implication of being younger and less experienced or authoritative.  Then again, younger persons are more prone to taking up language fads without regard for what they do to credibility, making that criticism somewhat circular.

Once again, for those who engage in this fad, what would you think of the President of the United States, another world leader, or an authority like astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson using vocal fry?  Could the gravity of a national tragedy or the grandeur of a spiral galaxy be brought to life by the trailing off of the speaker’s voice into a low volume vocal fry?  What would you think of a major news anchor having this habit?

Just picture Martin Luther King using vocal fry — or Darth Vader, for that matter.  Vocal fry is another sheep thing.  It is a fad which is damaging to the credibility of those who use it, so use it advisedly.  It may be okay when in a small group of friends with the habit, but it is poisonous in other settings.



A fugue state is a dissociative episode which is somewhat like multiple personality disorder.  The person who experiences these episodes “loses time” while engaging in complex behaviors for which they have no recall.  It is a little like sleep walking except for the complexity of the behaviors and the waking state in which they occur.

The following facts have been altered to protect the confidentiality of the woman whose symptoms are described, but are essentially true:

A young woman was brought by her boyfriend to the clinic where I worked 35 years ago.  Some days before, she had appeared at a large, state psychiatric hospital, carrying a suitcase but unable to tell them who she was or where she was from.  She had eventually come out of her fugue state and was able to tell staff who she was.

She was seen with her boyfriend as a walk-in client to determine if treatment at the clinic was warranted.  During the interview, it was learned that she had been telling her boyfriend, with who she lived, that she worked during the day.  The fact was that she had spent her days reading romance novels.  In the wake of the hospitalization incident, her boyfriend discovered a number of unusual things.  Among them was the discovery that she apparently went shopping often to buy undergarments and lingerie, and that she had concealed the items among, and in, cookware.  It was expectable that she had no recollection of the behaviors.  However it was, clinically, fascinating that she was able to cook and “not see” the items.  (In the current day and age, one might question why the boyfriend apparently never did, or assisted in, any cooking.)

Further individual evaluation, not surprisingly, revealed she had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse.

It appeared that she had been having the fugue episodes perhaps daily for some time.  I was not able to see her myself as an ongoing client and was given to understand that she dropped out of treatment after only a few visits.  Those facts made it difficult to rule out multiple personality disorder* but, at least on brief evaluation, she appeared to lack some of the characteristics of that disorder.


* Unfortunately, the existence of multiple personality disorder has become controversial, with many clinicians doubting that it exists.  It is perhaps no coincidence that the decreases in funding for mental health clinics fit in, time-wise, with that controversy.  The result was a switch from analytic, insight-oriented therapies to brief therapy models, both in the training of and practices of clinicians such as clinical social workers and marriage and family counselors.

There has been for some decades a large scale demise of long-term therapy in favor of what the famous psychoanalyst Robert Langs, somewhat contemptuously, called “feel-good therapy”.  It does not make sense to strike out in a search for gold, and after six or eight, one hour weekly efforts, pronounce that none is to be found.


It seems that a train-load of apostrophes derailed somewhere and the poor little things have run around like oxygen atoms desperately seeking a partner.  It is either that or people have somehow gotten the notion that there absolutely MUST be one before the ‘s’ in every word that ends with one.  In most cases, it appears to the reader like a possessive is intended rather than a pleural.  For instance, “my brothers” ends up being “my brother’s”.  There seems to be no explanation other than the sheep factor.  People see others doing it and do so themselves, thinking it to be correct usage — and it seems to be on the rise.  It’s probably worth noting, however, that it isn’t entirely new.  The outlaw motorcycle club members of the Pagans, prominently display the name as Pagan’s on their vests.

The apostrophe is meant to indicate (1) a possessive noun (“Ralph‘s car”), or (2) a contraction (“My dog doesn‘t have fleas”,  where the apostrophe indicates a missing ‘o’ and contracts the two-word phrase “does not” into the single word — “doesn’t”).  Another common misuse is the apostrophe being tagged onto the word “it” to indicate a possessive and ending up looking like a contraction.  Its is the possessive of it (“Its color was pale”, not it’s).  It’s is a contraction of “it is”, where the two-word phrase is contracted into a single word with the apostrophe standing in for the missing i.

Like most grammar errors, the misuse of apostrophes (sometimes unfairly) reflects on the intelligence of the perpetrator.  It is hard to take serious the statements of someone who insists on putting an apostrophe before every ‘s’.  A valid point may go down the tubes instead of getting the reader to think about the opinion.  If one doesn’t know the correct usage, one will either be perceived as not having even general knowledge or not caring enough to be precise about what one is saying.  Memes are often glaring examples.*

Coming soon to a post or meme near you:  Apostrophes before “ll” in every word that ends with those letters, wherein ill becomes I’ll.  I’ve already seen a couple of those.  Sheesh!


* It is beyond me why anyone would want to advertise on the world wide web that they do not have even basic knowledge of spelling and/or grammar.