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Pedant Party: The Answers! (Also: Stevia has no idea what it’s talking about)

October 2, 2009

I’m a bit late with the answers to Thursday’s Pedant Party Quiz, but Rich really nailed it in the comments. Here we go!


1. Going out OF business, obviously. This was just a warm-up. I do feel for these entrepreneurs, losing their porn enterprise as well as having trouble selecting the correct preposition in English. Prepositions are one of the hardest things to get in a new language (and English speakers might be the only ones who claim to stand IN the street, rather than ON it).


2. WHOSE. “Who’s” means “who is.” These people weren’t even trying. Maybe they thought their ad would get a few extra clicks from people wanting to complain about their grammar.


3. Just as the Pussycat Dolls should have said, “Don’t you wish your girlfriend WERE hot like me,” this ad should use “were” instead of “was.” When in the subjunctive mood (i.e., anything beginning with “if,” “I wish,” “you wish,” etc.), use “were” instead of “was” or “would.”

Also, “It grows where your cravings meet your conscience without compromise” makes no fucking sense whatsoever. “Without compromise” appears to be an adverbial modifier modifying “meet.” So the cravings are not compromising — fine, it’s advertising, and I’ll accept that. But wherever the non-compromising cravings and conscience are meeting — which is presumably inside my body (almost certainly inside my mind, or perhaps at some suitable rendezvous point between my mind and stomach) — is where the Stevia grows? INSIDE THE CUSTOMER? If so, why do you need to advertise at all?

Also, Stevia tastes terrible.


4. If you can count it, you have FEWER. If you can’t, you have LESS. I make FEWER grammatical mistakes than most people, but as a result of my incredible pedantry, I have LESS joie de vivre.


5. Every cardmember WHO registers. People are not objects. Not even the sexy ones.


6. Here’s a fun one. “Tact” is a caring about others’ feelings, or a keen sense of what is appropriate; that is not what was meant here. “Tactic,” as Rich noted, would work. However, I think the writer meant “tack.” A tack is a ship’s course; to “continue a tack” is to remain on the same course. Of course, if you write “continue on the same tack,” many people would think you had misspelled “track”; the metaphors have the same meaning, but you would have been foiled in your attempt to evoke a nautical feeling.

Also, “if” should be “whether.” Here’s how to know which one to use: if you could add “or not,” use whether; if you could add “then,” use if. For instance:

I don’t know WHETHER it’s going to rain (or not), but IF it rains, (then) I’ll have to stop grilling.


7. And finally, “that may be monitored and/or recorded at any time” is a modifier that is currently modifying “video surveillance.” The video surveillance may be monitored? You’re going to surveil the surveillance? What’s the point of surveillance if it’s not monitored and/or recorded all the time? In fact, if the sign just said “This building is under video surveillance,” the sign would serve its intended purpose better, since people would assume that, of course, the surveillance is continuous; specifying that the default setting of the surveillance is that no one watches or records it really defies the very nature and purpose of surveillance.

This error is similar to the one covered in the post Lindsay Lohan and the Misplaced Deodorant Modifier.


6 Responses to “Pedant Party: The Answers! (Also: Stevia has no idea what it’s talking about)”

  1. dan on October 5th, 2009 5:50 pm

    Re: the AMEX ad… can’t legal entities that are not human beings be cardmembers? I think that–since the combined pool of potential cardmembers presumably includes both people and legal entities that are not people–”that” is actually the correct word to use (rather than “who”).

  2. jen on October 7th, 2009 5:34 am


    Ah, you’re certainly correct that legal entities, such as corporations, can be cardmembers. However, if corporations need a “that” and people need a “who,” you can’t just subsume the people under the corporations (you grammatical Republican, you!)

    For instance, if you want to express that I have both more apples and more applesauce than you do, you could say:

    I have fewer apples and less applesauce than you do.

    You don’t get to say “fewer apples and applesauce” or “less apples and applesauce.” Apples, which is countable, takes “fewer,” and “applesauce,” which is not countable, takes “less.” You need them both.

    Similarly, I just don’t think you can say:

    The people and robots that live in my building are too noisy.

    (The people still need a “who”). I’d simply try to rephrase so as to avoid the problem: The people and robots living in my building are too noisy.

    In any case, the rule is that people are always “who,” not “that.” Lumping in the people with non-people doesn’t change that.

    Unless you can prove me wrong. Strunk & White, anyone?


  3. dan on October 7th, 2009 3:52 pm

    Hmm. I can’t think of a good reason (other than a feeling of general unease) why your critique isn’t valid. In fact, after a conversation with a co-worker, I am leaning toward the possibility that “who” could actually work for both categories of cardmember (exactly the opposite of my initial feeling), which leads me to question all of my long held and often dickishly brandished grammatical intuitions (thought bubble: “…maybe people should say “I could care less” when they mean that they, in fact, could not…” nah). In any event, I am far too lazy, as it turns out, to research the answer. I am not too lazy, though, to email Bryan Garner ( and ask him what he thinks.

    Send me an email and I’ll forward it to you.


  4. jen on October 7th, 2009 6:39 pm

    I am easy to reach:

  5. duke on October 7th, 2009 11:45 pm

    re “going out for business”, aren’t you’re losing the forest in the trees? isn’t the sign designed to snare careless readers fooled into thinking that the shop is going out of business? solecisms have always been among the most carefully honed tools of swindlers.

  6. jen on October 12th, 2009 1:41 am


    You are not the first person to suggest this. I should have mentioned that this is the same store that managed to misspell the word “female” on their sign. I believe the full text of the sign was “XXX VIDEO FAMALE MALE.” So, I didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.


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