Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Drive Safe"

Besides the fact that I'm married to Mrs. Spit, a master grammarian, and know that this turn of phrase drives her to distraction as well, I get absolutely nuts when I hear people say this! It's how I was brought up. When I was a child, my dad - who was also a high school teacher (woodworking, drafting, math) would always harp on me if I misspoke in this fashion. "Drive safe-LY" he would say. Once I learned the lesson, I would hear him talking back to the television, in the same tone.

It's winter here. It's cold, the roads are terrible. Looking out the office window I see that it is still white and snowing, -19C (-2F) - though with the wind it's -30C (-22F) with windchill. It's a typical winter day in January.

My desk sits just around the corner from the receptionist at my office. People come and go through the day, and quite often, as people are leaving, I hear her exhort people to "Drive safe!" Every time I hear this, I have an urge, that requires repression, to get up and lecture her on the English language.

Safe is not an adverb. Never has been, never will be. It's a noun and an adjective, but that's it. You can "make safe" you can own a safe, you can be safe. You can't drive safe. Maybe drive a safe, given the right circumstances, but I digress.

Sadly, in this age of ignorance that we seem to be becoming enveloped within, people don't realize that when they speak incorrectly, they sound stupid to those who know better. People generally ignore the problem because they don't know any better. They figure that adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and verbs are all things which they left behind in their English 12 course (assuming they got that far) or in their college English class. As I work with a whack of engineers, most of them try to forget that English class. Which is bothersome, as most of what we do involves communicating ideas to people, writing reports, contracts, email and so forth. Why would you want to appear ignorant and unintelligent to your client?

This remains one of my pet peeves in spoken English. It would appear to me, in retrospect, that it was a major peeve of my father as well. How far the acorn has fallen!

If you're driving in winter, I say to you: "Drive safely, it's scary out there!"


Mrs. Spit said...

Is this the same receptionist that is confused about where she works and didn't know who you were?

Mr. Spit said...

That's the one...

Two Hands said...

Perhaps we were separated at birth because I seem to have the same father. Even in England he would bristle when someone said "I have five quid."
"Five POUNDS," he would say darkly.
Now I have in-laws who regularly say 'yous' and I am waiting, nay longing, for the day when someone (preferable not me) sets them straight. I'm surprised it hasn't been my SIL as she does, in fact, have a degree in ENGLISH.

Ya Chun said...

Maybe you could make a cute little sign that sits on the corner of her desk that reminds everyone to 'Drive safely'!

At least you can dream about it....

and 'yous' is a regional dialect! In the other half of PA it's 'Yens'!

Kate C said...

I'm just de-lurking to say that I had no idea that other people shared this pet peeve! I absolutely cannot stand it when people tell me to "drive safe." Thank goodness I'm not in your shoes - I do not think I could hold my tongue. I have to admit a similar level of annoyance upon hearing that someone "feels good." I have to chew on my tongue to avoid asking the offending speaker how his or her sense of touch is somehow superior to others'.