A Scary Halloween Post
You know what scares me?
I can’t refrain from complaining any longer. Because it’s Halloween season, which means it’s time to share scary stories. So here’s mine:
You should know “every day” means “each day,” while “everyday” means “common.” It’s not even a grammatical rule. It’s just a fact of definitions. “Every” means “each,” and the word “everyday” means “common.” End of story. Not hard. Not scary.
But the prevalence of “everyday” where it should be “every day”? Truly scary. Scary-common. Scary-overlooked. Scary to a professional editor (or casual grammar nerd) like myself.
But also scary because I’ve seen this misused “everyday” in print by such otherwise-respectable sources. I’ve seen it in shop windows (“Great low prices everyday!”), not just on temporary banners but on permanent fixtures. I’ve even seen it on the cover of a published book. A book published by a reputable publisher, no less! (More than one title from this publisher has this error on their covers, actually. But a majority of their “everyday” titles use the word correctly, and their product descriptions tend to correct the error that their covers seem to contain. So I forgive them. Kind of.)
What scares me more than how ubiquitous this error is? The fact that it might not be an error for much longer.
See, language is always changing. I try not to be too much of a fuddy-duddy (though calling myself a fuddy-duddy probably contributes to the problem). But I can’t help flinching every time I hear about my beloved Oxford English Dictionary adding new slang or butcherings-of-actual-words to its hallowed pages. Just this year? The verb “upcycle.” The slang term “bestie” joined last year’s “guac.” (Though I do confess that my bestie and I both do love guac, and I guess it’s cool that the OED acknowledges the validity of my expressing this sentiment in these words…) Not to mention the ear-stabby additions of “sciency” and “scientificness.”.
I was infuriated by the changes to the official Scrabble rules.
I was mortified when, on an outing with my peers at the publishing institute I attended, I asked one person whether the spaceless “everyday” in the ARC sign bugged her and she shrugged and said, “No… why would it?”
I’m scared, not of “everyday” popping up everywhere, but of my insistence that it’s wrong becoming a signal that I’m out of touch. Language changes. The English language is particularly exciting because it changes so much. “A newt” was initially a misunderstanding of the phrase “an ewt.”. Nowadays, though, you’d be looked at like a crazy person if you said you saw “some ewts” by the stream in your yard.
So have I become a crazy person? Am I trying to be the one-woman grammar police? To enforce a rule that is fading because it’s useless? There’s no English Language Police (unlike the French, with their creepily-titled academy of “immortals”). No big scary organization regulating what’s proper versus improper in our ever-adapting language.
What’s more scary? Losing a grammatical rule that (I think, at least) makes sense, in favor of adapting the common construction? Or becoming a didactic old pedant, shaking fists at young folks with their interwebs and tumblypoos?
I, for one, have always wanted to be an old fart.
Happy Halloween, y’all.