Grammar Pet Peeves: It’s All Right

You know what I think? People love grammar. With that, more grammar pet peeves!

Have Went
More and more often these days, I hear people say have went when they mean have gone. I don’t mean to overstate this, but this is one of those grammar mistakes that makes me want to stab myself in the neck with a fork—though it’s not as bad as Shea saying “Go Yankees” in his Southern accent. The past participle of to go is gone, which you would use with auxiliary verbs like has, have, is, am, etc. The simple past is went, which should not be used with an auxiliary verb.

So you would say, “I went to Yankee stadium and was surprised that they did not have grits at the concession stand.” Then you would say, “I should have gone to a Houston Astros game instead.” Every time you say “have went” instead of “have gone,” a little part of grammar enthusiasts dies inside, even if they don’t hear you say it. It’s like a disturbance in The Force.

Capitol Building
The dictionary definition of the noun capitol (lower case, with an O) is “a building occupied by a state legislature.” So the phrase capitol building is redundant, because capitol by definition is a building. It would be like saying, “I live in that house building” or “I’m going to see a baseball game in that stadium building.”

Similarly, the proper noun Capitol (upper case, still with an O) refers specifically to the building in Washington DC where Congress meets. So if you write, “National Capitol Building,” you’re being triply redundant, since Capitol by itself is already the national building you’re talking about. (If you click on the image here, you will see that Wikimedia user Scrumshus committed this error in the caption. Nevertheless, thank you, Scrumshus, for the copyright-free photo.)

Capital (with an A) can be a noun or an adjective and it means a lot of different things (it’s a little like Smurphy that way). As a noun, capital can be an upper-case letter, money, or a city that hosts the government of a political region. As an adjective, it can mean important, super-duper, related to money, or fatal.

In the most recent installment of Grammar Pet Peeves, Friend of IBD Greg wrote this in the comments section:

Why no mention of the most annoying (and unfortunately most popular) grammar flub out there: “myself”? What can we do about people’s obsession with this word?

Whenever I hear people say myself when me or I would work, it makes me think of the Austin Powers quote, “Allow myself to introduce…myself.” (For the record, Austin’s first myself is incorrect; the second is correct.) Here’s my theory: People are unsure about the appropriate use of me and I (which I wrote about back in the first installment of this series), so they use myself instead, just to be absolutely sure that they’re wrong.

If you’re in court, you might hear a mobster say, “He would not give the money that fell off the back of that truck to myself,” when what he really means is, “He would not give the money that fell off the back of that truck to me.” You might also hear him say, “Tommy and myself broke that jerk’s thumbs,” when what he means is “Tommy and I broke that jerk’s thumbs.”

As a reflexive pronoun, myself is correctly used as an object of a verb. For instance, “I hate myself for rooting for the Yankees” or “I smacked myself with a hammer.” Or if you are Austin Powers, “Allow me to introduce myself.”

A preposition is something you should never end a sentence with.
Also in the comments of the most recent installment of this series, Friend of IBD Betty wrote, “I dislike sentences that end in prepositions.” Betty’s phrasing here is perfect, because while some people are surprised to learn that it is grammatically correct to end a sentence with a preposition, a lot of people simply don’t like it. (Betty didn’t say it was wrong; she just said that she doesn’t like it.)

The Grammar Girl blog lists the rule that you should not end a sentence with a preposition as one of the top 10 grammar myths. Author Mignon Fogarty explains it like this:

Here’s an example of a sentence that can end with a preposition: What did you step on? A key point is that the sentence doesn’t work if you leave off the preposition. You can’t say, “What did you step?” You need to say, “What did you step on?” to make a grammatical sentence…. Yes, you could say, “On what did you step?” but not even grammarians think you should. It sounds pedantic.

I reference Grammar Girl a lot in these pet peeve posts, and I wonder if you feel, as I do, that Grammar Girl (on the right) is the secret, daytime alter ego of the esurance girl. Or possibly vice versa. At any rate, the point is don’t be afraid to end a sentence with a preposition.

It’s hard to call this a pet peeve because I just learned about it, but it’s interesting (to me, anyway), so I thought I’d share. It seems that alright is not a word. Or to be fair, if it is a word, it’s recognized in most style guides and dictionaries as “nonstandard,” which means, “You can use it, but if you do you’re stupid.” We’re so accustomed to seeing words like altogether and already (which are indeed words), that we took the two-word phrase all right and made it alright. Again, there’s a good post on this on the Grammar Girl blog.

So now the stodgy prescriptivists (“Without grammatical structure and rules, language will cease to exist”) and the free-love descriptivists (“Language is a like an organism, man, and it can’t be restrained”) can argue over whether alright gets to be a word.

Well, alright, it’s a capitol idea for myself to stop now, because I have really went on. ‘Til next time!

Obnoxious Use of Color

IBD Management would like to welcome the return of snarky Shea back from his hiatus after several weeks of posts that were slightly confusing, borderline awkward, and weepy.

Well, it is official that Paul and I have gone 10 posts without one that carries the underlying theme of sports. Now that I have separated myself from the touchy-feely Shea (much like the Tickle Me Elmo), there is something that has been bothering me for several weeks and I just have to get it off of my chest—the use of the color orange by the University of Tennessee should be banned.

I have always considered the color orange to be my favorite color. There is something about it that makes me want to buy orange clothing and accessories (primarily sweater vests and bow ties), as well as anything that I don’t already have that comes in orange. I also find myself using it in design work, just because I like looking at it, even though I usually end up changing it to something different.

The strange part of this obsession is that I love the color orange and it really bothers me how it is abused by the University of Tennessee. You would think that since I am drawn to the color orange, then I would be interested in supporting the University of Tennessee. But in reality I have a strong emotional connection against the University of Tennessee and if they really want to be the Volunteers, well, I wish they would volunteer to dial that color down and make the world a better place. I should provide you with some background information of why I carry so much disdain for the University of Tennessee and its obnoxious use of orange.

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and by default most Memphians are fans of either the University of Memphis or the University of Tennessee. (Before Paul makes a comment, I will insert that I am a Yankee fan due to a strong influence of my grandfather and with baseball I really had no choice.) That being said, I attended school at the University of Memphis and found a great outlet of my inner anger and frustration that could be directed towards the University of Tennessee’s sports teams. It was and still is a great outlet. In fact, the single greatest moment in my college life was when the University of Memphis beat the University of Tennessee on the football field at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday, November 9, 1996, by the score of 21-17. Well, that’s the single greatest moment in my college life, next to meeting my wife.

Tennessee-TSo, I love the color orange and hate the way the University of Tennessee abuses it.

So, why am I drawn to the color orange? A lot of thought has been put into the psychology behind how and why people respond to various colors and color palettes. I wish there were a solid foundation of color theory that everyone could agree upon as the definitive expert on what colors mean to individuals. There is no such source, but rather many theories and interpretations. Many are contradictory to others, with others finding common ground. offers this interpretation of my personality based on my connection to the color orange.

Orange: This color of luxury and pleasure appeals to the flamboyant and fun-loving person who likes a lively social round. Orange people may be inclined to dramatize a bit, and people notice them, but they are generally good-natured and popular. They can be a little fickle and vacillating, but on the whole they try hard to be agreeable. Orange is the color of youth, strength, fearlessness, curiosity and restlessness.

I’m not so sure about the “fickle and vacillating” portion of the analysis, but there may be some truth there. This site offers an analysis of most colors and the personality traits that may be associated with specific colors. The problem with this type of analysis is that I find it to be about as valuable as what you would find in a fortune cookie. Maybe that’s what she means by “fickle and vacillating.”

In interpretive design we try to use colors to connect the tangibles to intangibles. Colors are used to help connect visitors to a resource. They can be used to evoke emotion, represent a sense of place, or even be used to create an environmental design that has little impact on the setting where the media is being used. We should spend as much time in the decision-making process of choosing colors as we do creating the theme, writing the text, choosing the typeface, or any other design element.

While I am in this frame of mind, for those of you that enjoy the color combination of pink and green, you are next on my list.

Upsidedown Cocktails

DSC03003This post has two purposes. The first is to display a purposeful mistake and to illustrate its power in capturing your attention. The second purpose is to say that Sheila and Sebrena (our beautiful and faithful wives, as well as wonderful patient mothers) pointed this out to us and wanted us to post it.  So regardless of what you may hear on the street, our wives do contribute to the obsession of IBD (that’s Interpretation By Design for Sheila).

I love purposeful mistakes. (I have made lots of mistakes in my life; see Don Simons and Sebrena for further explanations.) People notice things that are out of place, and designers can use that to their advantage with something like the upside-down text on the Blackie’s sign. Perhaps we are trained to search for errors, and that is why it stands out to us. Obviously the owners of Blackie’s are trying to jar you into paying attention in a city filled with signage, imagery, and other bars that we have not actually visited due to the strollers we are pushing.

My mistake this time around could be using Sebrena and Sheila’s names in this post.