I once read a local newspaper column by a copy editor claiming he uncovered a grammatical phenomenon, seemingly unique to southwestern Michigan: the habit of folks swapping the words “bring” and “take.” Indeed, I am guilty, forever “bringing” when I should be “taking” and “taking” what I should be “bringing.”
At various times in my life, well-meaning teachers, family, and friends have sought to correct this grammar faux pas in me but without any success. I’m used to quizzical glances and slight snickers when I “bring” instead of “take.” However, most locals tolerate my misusage – or more likely, they’re unaware anything is wrong.
A different set of words challenges my wife: leave and let. Apparently, that was an idiosyncrasy from where she grew up. She often “leaves” when she should “let.” This used to bug me, and I’d try to set her straight. However, each attempt to correct her resulted in a discussion of why “leave” was just as appropriate as “let.” Now I’m sometimes confused about “leaving” and “letting,” too.
A related area is the right word for carbonated beverages. Personally, I prefer to say “pop.” For less casual settings, I opt for “soft drinks.” In other parts of the country “soda” or even “coke” are the readily accepted nomenclature for all things carbonated.
Once, when in a southern state, I attempted to follow local convention and use the appropriate term, but instead I picked the wrong one. The waitress looked at me and laughed. “Honey, you’re not from around here, are you?”
Where I’m from, no one calls me honey.
Having exposed myself as a Yankee, it seemed every eye in the diner was upon me. “I’ll take a root beer,” I said, hoping to end the unfortunate affair.
Now, when I travel I avoid making any reference to carbonation.
So, please don’t think any less of me if I offer to bring you a soda; just leave it be.
What word usage trips you up?
Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!