A while back I wrote a post about an epidemic of improper word usage in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. For a period of several weeks, I kept stumbling across a comical number of wrongly used homonyms. The stories were written on a variety of topics by a variety of reporters, so it wasn’t simply a case of having employed the dimmest bulb in the chandelier.
It probably seemed like I was picking on the P-C, but it was more a matter of it being the newspaper I read most often these days. To prove my lack of bias, I present an excerpt from a recent story about the Warren County Fair from my hometown paper in Monmouth, Ill.:
Sarah Dean, from Gerlaw, is an example of one of those specialized animal handlers. Dean is an accomplished 4-H champion who brought a goat to this year’s fair. The goat, Akicita, is a personable critter that knows how to shake and give kisses on command. It is also a champion “weather” in it’s own right, named Grand Champion of the Decatur and Petersburg competitions, as well as earning a number of other accolades. A “weather” is a neutered goat.
Now, I may have grown up in the middle of nowhere, but I’m no farm girl. Nonetheless, I know that a neutered ram (sheep or goat) is a “wether”. Unless, of course, lightning shoots out of its ass.
I’m not even going to mention the improper use of the contraction “it’s” instead of the possessive pronoun “its”. Even a grammar diva can be a compassionate progressive once in a while. To prove it, here’s a handy tip for the legions who feel hopelessly confused about the whole “it’s/its” conundrum — try reading the sentence aloud, replacing the questionable “its” with “it is”. If the sentence still makes sense, use the contraction. If it doesn’t, use the apostrophe-less pronoun. You’re welcome.