Column – In Love with Language

With Dianne Loyet

I Love Language–But I Need to Love People More

I suspect that, like myself, most of my readers are lifelong grammar enthusiasts.

We are the students whose participles rarely dangled, whose spelling of judgment never had an extra ‘e’, and for whom the Oxford comma was a sacred obligation. We are the gold medalists of English grammar!

Or we would be, if only grammar were an Olympic sport.

Since it isn’t, some of us (myself included) take every opportunity to demonstrate our linguistic skill. We post pet peeves on Facebook: “For the last time, people, it’s not ‘IRregardless’! It’s just ‘regardless.’” Or we jubilantly correct harmless grammatical errors on public signs, such as the famous “10 Items or Less (sic)”.

Our nearest and dearest tend to bear the brunt of our zeal. It’s for their own good, right? What will people think if they say ‘who’ when they ought to say ‘whom’? Thank God they have Us to help them.

It has taken me decades to admit that this behavior is unspeakably rude and not at all helpful. No matter how many times they say say or write, “less,” when they should use “fewer,” my loved ones will get into college, and they will get and keep good jobs. And no matter how many times I mention petty mechanical errors, they’re not going to speak or write differently. It’s just going hurt their feelings and reduce their confidence.

One grammar enthusiast who has a better idea is Ellen Jovin of New York City. As described in The New York Times and on NPR, in 2018 Jovin began offering free grammar help on the streets of New York City. She sets up a card table with a sign proclaiming, “The Grammar Table” and encouraging passersby to stop and ask about grammar. Her website,, announces where she’ll next be setting up shop to explicate gerunds and infinitives and participles and all the other confounding phenomena of English.

Jovin shows love for both language and people—a thought-provoking role model.