It depends on what your definition of "is" is

This has been bugging me for a while. The possessive word Is, which rhymes with "eyes" (as in Bill and Is relationship), is not a word. Someone please tell every participant in reality TV and talk shows because it's driving me nuts (and I already know I watch too much reality don't have to tell me). Yeah TV people, that really confusing difficult word you are looking for, now stretch your brain muscle, is "my".

Also, "nother" is not a in "a whole nother thing". Another is like an-other...not a-nother. The word is "other". Get it? Good.

Please, must we do this to our language? I'm not the vocab police but this stuff is egregious.

On a similar topic, my friend PatBlue hates the word "moist" and I also hate the non-word "irregardless". Anyone else have a word (or non-word) that drives them absolutely nuts or is this phenomenon only present on or near the Microsoft campus?

Comments (53)

  1. Joe says:

    I have a pet hate. When someone says pacific instead of specific.

    Usage: to be pacific, or it is pacificly

    Please stop

  2. Wine-Oh says:

    I hate the word "Phase" or "Phases" or "Phasing" referring to a rolled out project schedule. Phasing is bad. End of rant.

  3. Todd says:

    I don’t understand why people say "utilize" when they could say "use" (which is pretty much always).

    Businesspeople do it a lot, as do football players and coaches, as in, "during the 2nd half we decided to utilize a different defense."

    Why can’t they utilize shorter words?

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh! Oh! Here’s another one…expresso! Expecially!

  5. Christine says:

    I hate it when people use the reflexive pronoun too liberally because they think it sounds more professional!

    Example:  "If you have a question, talk to Rob or myself."

    Reason:  Only *I* can give something to *myself,* just as *you* can only give something to *yourself.*  If it’s interpersonal, just use the regular pronoun.  

    Another goof that bothers me is when beauty people confuse regimen with regime.  Are we planning on invading a small country with our facial lotions or what?

  6. Phil Weber says:

    Just this morning I saw a job listing that said, "salary commiserate with experience." πŸ™‚

    If you enjoy reading linguists rant about the bastardization of the English language, check out Language Log. Here’s one my recent favorites:

  7. AmyT says:

    How about the word jury used instead of jewelry? Customer needs assistance in the "jury" department. What is this… a new department at K-Mart?  Also pitcher used for the word picture.

  8. Matt says:

    1) ‘Scope’, when used as a verb, as in "We need to scope the project."  ‘Scope out’ is a slang verb, but ‘scope’ is not a verb, and it sounds better if you "define the scope of the project."

    2) ‘Sourced’, as in "We sourced the product from that supplier."  I know it in the dictionary, but it sounds illiterate.  

    3) Anything on buzzword bingo.

  9. eR0CK says:

    I use irregardless a lot, opps!

    This might be an east-coast thing, but I hate when people pronounce ‘mine’ like ‘my-in’ or ‘mine-na’.

  10. Doug says:

    Where do I start or for that matter stop?

    1st. Regime a government or entitiy that will be toppled by our invading Regiments following their battle regimine.  Confuses me all the time

    2nd.  Fancy makes my skin crawl, as does Spackling and the aforementioned Moist.  If someone were to tell me their fancy spackling is still moist I might have to be restrained.

    3rd.  Ask me a question, don’t axe me.

    4th. Please do not end your sentences with prepositions…Where is the game at? Now, that being said, if you want to end your sentence with a proposition, that I am interested in.

    Last…seriously?  Moist?  Unless you are talking about chocolate cake, there is no room for using that word…ever.

  11. Diana says:

    How about when you hear someone say they want to ax you a question? Makes me want to say, "Now stop and repeat after me. Asssskkkk."

  12. Steinkamp says:

    It bothers me when people say "intensive purposes" instead of "intents and purposes"  – but it  usually doesn’t bother me enough to correct them.  There’s a question – is it more polite to let them know that they are wrong or avoid coming off as a know it all and just let it go?

  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    Heh heh..people who read my blog are funny! I see some trends:

    1) malapropisms (which we have talked about before)

    2) Fluffy words to make people sound more intelligent (than they are)

    3) using nouns as verbs and vice versa (we always get a laugh here when people say they have an "ask"…like "request" is a difficult word…both syllables of it)

    Christine- you win the award for being most articulate about grammar. Somehow, I am guessing this relates to your profession. Am I right? I do think that I can invade a small country and moisturize the heck out of them until their government topples. Should one of us make that recommendation?

    Phil- that salary doens’t sound to exciting, does it? I have a co-worker who I share resumes funnies with (she catches more than I). For some reason, in my position, it’s easier to laigh about the resume funnies than the job description funnies.

    AmyT- I think the jewelry dept sounds like more fun!

    Matt- this is exactly why I don’t usually use (not utilize!) my team name in my external communications. When we tell people we are a sourcing team, they have no idea what we are talking about. Sounds like a procurement term.

    eRock- it’s an east coast thing, I think.

    Doug- you sound like PatBlue! Wasn’t it Winston Chrushill that said "β€œThis is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” (it was him…I just checked). And the "fancy" thing is just plain funny. Is your dislike in relation to how it’s used (like with regard to food items)?

    Diana-I hear that a lot on TV too.

    Steinkamp-that is actually a great question. I happen to know from experience that if you know the person well, you can phrase the correction in a way that makes you not sound like a know-it-all. I think if the person is a friend (like it was in the case I am thinking about), you owe it to them to tell them. Frankly, I think that the ear gets used to incorrect usage and adopts it. I’d hope that someone would tell me if I were using a word or phrase incorrectly.

  14. Jes says:

    In presentations, I hate it when people say they’ll "talk to" something, as in "I’ll talk to that point in a minute. But first…". What’s so wrong with talking *about* something? Ugh.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh yeah, that reminds me of "get with"…"I’ll get with you later". Grrrr.

  16. Deb says:

    There is a word that is used here that absolutely drives me crazy.


    This is specific to this area, and it bascially means "Y’all"…..only worse.  (At least "y’all" can be made into "you all".  But "yewens", as in "you-ins"?  I don’t get it.)

    Oh, and "y’all" drives me crazy too.  But only because I broke the habit myself.

    And while this may not apply to the business context…"have your cake and eat it too" makes me crazy.  It’s "eat your cake and have it too".  Anyone can have cake and eat it.  It’s difficult to eat cake and still have it.  

    And now, I’ll be spending the next few days making mental lists of things that people say that makes me crazy……

    G’night y’all!


  17. Wine-Oh says:

    How about "lets talk about that offline?" when in a meeting. Cant people just say "lets talk about that later?"

  18. HeatherLeigh says:


    I’ve spent some time in the Charlotte area and I think that during the time I was there, I uncovered the history of "yewens", mostly because I was made fun of for my correct grammar. Someone thought it was funny when I was referring a some of something as "these ones" and "those ones". Because, in NC, they were thesens and thosens. So my guess is that the "ens" comes from ones. Yewens = you ones. Makes perfect sense, right?

    Another one is "get gone". Arghhh…it’s leave.

    Wine-Oh, good one. It’s always during a conversation that I didn’t realize was "on line".

    Holy cow…Dr. Phil just said "you can’t have your cake and eat it too"…I kid you not. Weird. What’s weirder is I have no idea why I am listening to Dr. Phil. Deb, I never heard your version of that saying but I am going to look it up!

  19. MattP says:

    After reading this post, I have a question. Is it proper to say, "This is true" in response to a statement? Let me give a simple example.

    Person A – "That was a very exciting play".

    Person B – "This is true".

    This has always sounded incorrect to me. I find myself waiting for Person B to follow with another statement about what they believe is true. Does past and present tense apply here? Person A just made a statement about something that "was" exciting. Not something that is happening as we are speaking of it. "That is true", I would think, would be the correct response. I don’t know if I’m the one who is backwards but it makes my head spin when people speak this way.

    Someone please help me with this as so I can correct my own usage if need be.

  20. The word I’m tired of hearing on MS campus is "ecosystem". As in, "Give the Zune time and it will have a thriving ecosystem to rival the iPod". (Nothing against the Zune)

    It’s a word used to make your product sound like it has more momentum and support than reality.

  21. Simon Jones says:

    There is no verb "to architect". If you ask a building architect what he does at work, he will tell you he DESIGNS buildings.

    There is no such word as "performant" as in, "we rearchitected this product to make it more performant". They actually mean "We redeigned this product to make it run faster".

  22. Chris says:

    My pet hate is the misuse of "learn"

    e.g. "I’ll learn you the alphabet" instead of "I’ll teach you the alphabet"

    This seems to particularly rife in the US (I’m from the UK)

  23. Margo says:

    OMG the "offline" "online" thing drives me NUTS at my company.

    "Warsh" my clothes instead of "wash"

    This must be a Boston thing, but adding an "er" to the ends of words/names like "Erika" or "Donna" to become Erik"er" and Donn"er".  

    When I worked at JoAnns I hated when someone said Patterin instead of Pattern.

    When I worked at Pfaltzgraff (stoneware dishes) it was frequently called "Fals-craft".  That drove me insane.  Perhaps its my Polish ethnic background that allows me to pronounce complicated names.

    I hate the word process used in a plural form and given a hard "e".  Process-eeeeeeeeees. I hate that with a passion.

    A co worker of mine keeps referring to a pop-up banner of ours as a "pronto" banner.  That is making me twitch.

    Complected as in, "Oh he is dark-complected".

    Here is one, "We are efforting this".

    Adding letters, like "Antecendent" instead of "Antecedent".  

    I know I will think of more later.  *sigh*

  24. Steinkamp says:

    This topic directly relates to something that happened to me the other day.  I was looking for a gift for my wife in the jury department of Nordstroms when I noticed there was a man going through my friend’s and I’s stuff. I was wondering if I was going to have to utilize my verbal prowess to get him to cease.  For all intensive purposes he seemed like a nice person but he was very antsy – probably one too many expressos.  Irregardless, when I sourced him for information he mentioned that he was fixing a hole in his wall at home.  His fancy new spackling was still moist and he was just looking for a way to dry it off.  Now, I myself can’t talk to that but I reccomended that he scope the store out for someone who could.  The bottom line is that  is that he was just looking for assistants.  Heather if you want to know more we can discuss this offline – or I will just get with you the next time you are in the bay area.

  25. Doug says:


    I am not sure why I have such an aversion to "Fancy".  Just never liked the word much.  I think I moved from moderately annoyed to full on hatred of the word when during a phone interview with a fairly good Java Developer type candidate I was asked about the dress code at a particular client.  This mouth breather inquired (paraphrasing) "So do I need to dress nice? Is it a real fancy place?"  

    Lesson learned: When Headhunting a major Arkansas based global consumer goods retailer that may or may not end in "Mart"…know what you may be getting.

    Love the blog and send out some updated pictures of the house improvements…Equity Loan Good!

  26. Next time when I hear Paris or Lindsay claim themselves to be "girly girls", I will have to knock a few teeth out of their mouths. πŸ™‚

  27. Wine-Oh says:

    Who on earth uses the word antecedent in their daily life? πŸ™‚

  28. Bad_Brad says:

    The term "suffice it" drives me nuts.  There is no such thing as "suffice it", i.e. "suffice it to say".  The correct phrase is "suffice to say", as in "it is sufficient to say".

    As far as Microsoft specific, my personal pet peeve has to be the TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms for you non-Microsoft people).  Only Microsoft could come up with an acronym for a word describing acronyms.  It’s bad enough that, in the tech industry, words can be highly technical and confusing.  Adding in so many TLA’s is just a self-imposed way of making it worse.  Just MHO (oops … My Honest Opinion).

  29. Sarah says:

    I don’t have any particular words that I hate, but has anyone covered the written usage of "your" vs. "you’re"?  Ross said it flat out on Friends and didn’t pretty much everyone watch that show?  Therefore, no one should have an excuse!!

  30. Annsh says:

    I’ve come to really dislike the word penetration. Penetration to me is what moist is to Patblue When testing, the test team does what’s called "penetration testing".  I was in a meeting last week and my manager asked the Test Lead if he’s been doing penetration. The poor fellow looked at him w/ the most puzzled look and replied "no, my wife is not pregnant yet." That was just a little TMI for me. I couldn’t hold back, I laughed so hard! I may have even turned red too.

    And then there was the mail from another fellow on our team telling us "We are a small team and we cannot afford passing the bucket" πŸ™‚

  31. Margo says:

    Wine-Oh :  a former ad copywriter I knew.  ugh.

  32. Don't call me Tommy says:

    Don’t get me started on this…

    I have a few hundred suggestions but one of the top ones is "I could care less."  

    If you "could" care less, then go ahead and do so.  The proper expression is "I couldn’t care less," meaning that my level of caring is as low as it can possibly be.  

    I was taught that writing and speaking were important and that you would be judged by those that matter in your correctness in these areas.  It seems that now many people overlook and/or accept poor speech and writing.  There’s a web site (I’ll track it down and post) that is a clearing house for these kinds of "mistakes," but even the Professor of English that maintains it agrees that eventually these "errors" become so pervasive that they actually become an "accepted" part of the language.  Sad…

  33. HeatherLeigh says:

    MattP-I am similarly confused. Sometimes things just don’t sound right but it’s hard to tell if they are actually incorrect. I generally think that "this" is used to identfy the thing and then once it is identified, it’s "the" or "it". In your scenario, I’m not sure that person B should have said "that" because it would have sounded like some other play. I guess the person could have just said "true"…I think "true dat" would defnitely be grammatically incorrect. I’m sure we have some folks here that have the answer to your question.

    Brett Nordquist- I agree. I actually remember asking someone what was meant by that word (in fact, that is how I ended up with this book called The Death of Competition because it’s all about ecosystem). My perception was that initially it was about the partner environment…all the stakeholders in taking a product to market. But now it seems to include the market for the product itself. Do you get the same impression? At this point, it’s a little imprecise to me.

    Simon-I think I may be guilty of using architect as a verb..or at least accepting it’s usage as a verb. I feel a better citizen of the English language for hearing all this! : )

    Chris- I don’t think it’s as wide-spread as you think in the US. I’ve never heard anyone say that in any kind of professional context. I’m sure it’s challenging for someone outside the US to have a pulse on colloquialisms, but I think that is definitely one. I have heard it used before but not by anyone that was well-spoken at all. I will say that when I was in London, I had a hard time understandig people…imagine that! One language..yeah right!

    Margo- word to my fellow Polish gal! I’m one quarter Polish. Processeeees is another one for me. It sticks in my ear and I continue thinking about it after the person has moved on to different words. I have to say that I rather like the Boston accent.

    Steinkamp-you are very talented! Haha! I can’t say anything bad about a man shopping for his wife in the jury department!

    Doug…you said mouth breather…you are naughty! I can see how his usage of fancy could bug a bit. Fancy is ball gowns not professional attire. I don’t do "fancy".

    Ji Village News- oh no! I have referred to myself as a "girly girl"…does it help that I have retributive qualities…you know, like a job?

    WIne-Oh- geneologists? : )

    Bad-Brad, the TLAs are a secret code to make people feel insufficient. When I ask what a TLA refers to and then I still don’t understand the answer, it’s humbling to ask "OK, and what does THAT mean?"  Suffice to say that we have taken it to an art form! Hee!

    Sarah-that does bug me. Otherwise intelligent people make that mistake. When will we all learn that if Ross says it, it must be a rule to live by : )

    AnnSh- if the bucket is full, that can be heavy! I do use the word penetration in the football context but I agree that it is awkward.

    Don’t call me Tommy- Hee! I’m glad we got you started. I agree with you on the "care less" issue. It’s up to us to tell people that it is not OK so it doesn’t become accepted!

  34. Christine says:

    Heather–I do grammar-check for my department/company, and I’m hoping to drum up work on the side checking grammar.  My knowledge of grammar up to this point in time has been strictly academic but I find it’s quite useful!  Seven years of schooling will do that to a girl.

    Matt P asked:

    "After reading this post, I have a question. Is it proper to say, "This is true" in response to a statement? Let me give a simple example.

    Person A – "That was a very exciting play".

    Person B – "This is true".

    This has always sounded incorrect to me. I find myself waiting for Person B to follow with another statement about what they believe is true. Does past and present tense apply here? Person A just made a statement about something that "was" exciting. Not something that is happening as we are speaking of it. "That is true", I would think, would be the correct response. I don’t know if I’m the one who is backwards but it makes my head spin when people speak this way.

    Someone please help me with this as so I can correct my own usage if need be."

    Answer:  It has nothing to do with present and past tense, but it does have to do with the metaphorical near and far dichotomy.  (Remember Grover?  I used to love that.  Near…far…near…far…)  Something that is metaphorically near is "this," whereas something that is metaphorically far is "that."  In your situation, a good way to think about it would be to think, "I can say this, but you say that."  Because you are agreeing with something that someone ELSE said, it must be, "That [statement] is true."


  35. vicki70 says:

    Using the word "ax" instead of ask.

    I also do not like the confusion of its and it’s…

    Drives me crazy when I see it in print. It’s insanity!;-)

  36. vicki70 says:

    Oh! I forgot to add: Human Resources…. it just sounds creepy. What happened to Personnel? What was wrong with that?

    People management is a little too ridiculous too.

    Personnel – it works for me.

  37. HeatherLeigh says:

    Christine-you are my new hero : )

    vicki70 – I have trouble with its and it’s. Sometimes the apostrophe just sneaks in there! Let me see if I have this right: the apostrophe is only used for the contraction of "it is". I used to think that it was also used in the possessive sense but that is correct, right? Christine?

    OK, and here’s another one that keeps creeping up lately, for whatever reason: "methinks". I think it is people trying to be funny, but in my personal opinion, Shakespearian affectations aren’t funny without context or at least irony. I don’t know. I might be the only one that notices that one.

  38. HeatherLeigh says:

    vicki70- what? Human resources sounds creepy? Hmmph! : ) Personnel is so 1972. Human resources may sound a little non-human…kind of cold, I guess. Would it be wrong to call it the Peeps department?

    Christine-I just looked at your website. You weren’t kidding. Impressive stuff. I would say we officially have an expert in our midst! Now we know to whom we should address our grammar inquiries.

  39. vicki70 says:

    Heather? Are you calling me old? Just because I ordered the Time Life ‘Soft Rock of the 70’s’ collection this past week does not make me ancient – just sentimental! Hmph! πŸ˜‰

    Human resources sounds like it is referring to internal organs… brains, hearts, livers, … that sort of thing…

    And "Peeps Depot" – now there’s an idea… one that makes me smile and cry at the same time.

  40. Don't call me Tommy says:

    Arguably the most comprehensive source for information about these types of errors:

    Heather, you’re the Larry King of blogs – I mean that as a compliment – you set the stage for the most interesting discussions…

  41. HeatherLeigh says:

    Don’t call me Tommy- I will indeed take that as a compliment! You didn’t say I look like Larry King, so I can live with that : ) I would argue that I have some of the most interesting readers/commenters of any blog I have seen. I’m just asking the questions. : )

  42. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh, and vicki70, if I am making the correct assumption based on your screen name, it would be hypocritical of me to call you old! I’m not saying that I remember 1970, but I was there for all of it ; ) Summer breeze makes me feel fine….blowing through the jasmine in my mind.

  43. Of course you are exempt, Heather.

    Paris and Lindsay, however, will have to come back and beg for my forgiveness, though…

  44. Christine says:

    πŸ™‚  Heather, you flatter me!!!  But I love grammar questions so I can’t resist answering your latest.

    "It’s" always refers to "it is."  The possessive form of "it" never has an apostrophe.

    Here’s a way to remember this rule:

    "Its apostrophe was nowhere to be found, so it’s time to find a new one."


  45. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ji Village News- aww, that’s nice.

    Chritine- love that rule! now *that* I will remember!

  46. Wow – a discussion about language and of course I missed it. I think I might weigh in later though. Too hard to resist… πŸ™‚

    By the way: coming up with a new word by converting a noun to a verb is a very productive and common process in English.


    – edit (V) comes from editor (N)

    – donate (V) comes from donation (N)

    The reverse process is even more common, e.g.:

    – recruiter (N) comes from recruit (V)

    – …

    The process is called back-formation. What essentially happens is that a speaker thinks that if there’s a noun "editor" for someone who works for a newspaper, there must be a verb to describe what he’s doing. If a teacher teaches and a baker bakes it follows that an editor edits. Some people agreed with this usage while others objected that "edit is not a verb". Fast-forward a few decades and the issue is settled…

  47. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wow, I have some smartypants readers too!  Those noun verb combos sound OK but some just don’t.

  48. Drea says:

    It’s one thing to dislike words used incorrectly or pronounced creatively, but a whole other just to dislike them altogether for no particular reason.

    I don’t like when people use "renege". I.e. he reneged on a contract.

    It just sounds too negative. πŸ™‚

  49. HeatherLeigh says:

    Drea- I don’t like that word either.

  50. Michael says:

    I doubt anyone will read this since the last post was months ago, but what bugs me most is when people say,

    "It’s a mute point."

    It’s MOOT, people.  Not mute, moot.

  51. Jay Sulfridge says:

    How about "unthawed" instead of "thawed?"  Wouldn’t that be frozen?

  52. parrypix says:

    Between you and me, I’d like a shift away from using the term "paradigm" as the title of anything ever.

  53. Donna Dossett says:

    I hate it when people say "pitcher" instead of "picture".  I also hate it when people say, for exampe, " Mom gave the money to Terry and I".  Using "I" is not always correct.  Sometimes it’s correct to say "Terry and me".

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