Shall I Bring You a Soda or Leave It Be?

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?

12 thoughts on “Shall I Bring You a Soda or Leave It Be?”

  1. How about this…which bugs me. “I will take and go to the concert with you.” or “take & do anything” I think it’s from the Dutch influence. Just an unfounded theory. My daughter says I have some articulation differences which must be from Northern Michigan. 🙂

    1. I’ve never heard “take and go” or “take and do,” so I vote for a Northern Michigan influence, though I’d never discount the influences of our Dutch heritage. (Which, I understand, is the source of my confusion with “bring” and “take.”)

      1. I’ve only heard “take” used as an extra word around those of Dutch heritage, but maybe you are not part of that micro group – “take” is not a northern Michigan thing. She objects to the way I say “mature” or “future” among other pronunciations.

  2. My personal pet peeve is when people say “come” when they should say “came”. The proper use of these words were drilled into me as a child and I cringe every time I hear them misspoken. The one that puzzles me is the tenses of “drink”. Drink, drank, drunk? As in “Has he ——that pop yet?” Dranken is not a word and drunk or drunken, just doesn’t sound right to me. Help!

  3. I am the ONLY person in my immediate family born in the north, and I have lived in both the north and the south. Needless to say my vocabulary is a hybrid of all kinds cultural faux pas. Many I am sure I don’t even realize. I know that we like to “cut” things on and off in our house which has resulted in a few snickers now and then. Loved this post, Peter! It made me smile. 🙂

  4. This is a funny post, Peter!

    English is my second language, yet, I get upset when people use “who” both for subjects and objects. What happened to “whom?” Why it is not used anymore? I refuse to use “who” for an object. Am I wrong? I know that languages grow and change. Compare the ancient Greek with the modern…very similar, yet so different.

    It also annoys me to hear the word “hero” instead of “heroine” in reference to a woman.

    About “bring” and “take” I will use the first one to tell you “Peter, I will bring wine to your party.” and the second one to tell my friend that “I am planning to take wine to Peter’s party.” 🙂

    Have a great Sunday tomorrow!

    1. Katina, if I bother to think about it long enough, I can use “bring” and “take” correctly, at least for my writing. I also have trouble with “who” and “whom,” but I wonder how many people care anymore.

      Like “hero” and “heroine,” another thing that bugs me is people who say “actor” instead of “actress.” For some reason it strikes me as disrespectful to call a female an actor.

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