The Angry Grammarian

Anal bitching.

By Jeffrey Barg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Feb. 18, 2009

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Am I the only one who twitches when I hear someone say, "I'm very OCD" about something or other? I say it sounds wrong; OC is an adjective, OCD is a noun. Is this right, or am I just being too OC about the whole thing?

Last week they came to verb the nouns, and I didn't speak up because I was not a verb. This week they came to adjective the nouns, and I didn't speak up because I was not an adjective.

Actually, that's not a problem, since verbing nouns is a great American pastime. By the same reasoning, adjectiving nouns should be perfectly legitimate as well. The problem is one of word choice, not grammar.

True story: A 17-year-old Angry Grammarian was writing his college admissions essay about how anal retentive he was. (Hard to believe, I know.) But unless you're applying to Oberlin, you can't really write "anal retentive" in your college essay. So I wrote "obsessive-compulsive" instead. But that introduces another problem: OCD is an actual medical disorder--not a term you can just fling around. Which is worse for a college essay: improper word choice or mentioning a butt?

I honestly don't remember what word I ended up substituting, but the lesson remains that "OCD" has a very specific meaning, and it likely doesn't apply to you. Unless you have a serious medical condition, you're probably not nearly as OCD about your word choice as you think you are.

How do you punctuate "like" when quoting someone? Do you put commas around the "like"? People use that word so frequently, we have to confront it.

This column has plenty of readers who view "like" to be the great scourge of our language. (They tell me so. Often.) But it's not going away, so the least we can do is punctuate it properly.

"Like" serves the same function as "um" or "uh," which you wouldn't dream of floating in the middle of a sentence unpunctuated. If the "like"-sayers promise to set it off with commas, as they would with "um," maybe they can find some peace with the hardened prescriptivists whose ears are bleeding.

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1. Keith said... on Feb 20, 2009 at 02:18PM

“You definitely want to put commas around "like." I used "like" liberally in a character's language in a story (link below), and although everyone hated the use of the word, I received no complaints on my choice of punctuation.”

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2. Keith said... on Feb 20, 2009 at 02:18PM



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