It’s one thing to act like an elitist bastard, but quite another to
speak or write like one. You can walk the walk, but can you talk the
talk? Here are some rules to help make sure you don’t lose bastard
Some errors are both elementary and widespread, the equivalent of
walking around with shoelaces untied or with curry stains on one’s
tie. Don’t commit these:
- it’s/its: as
Bob the Angry
Flower points out, this one is ridiculously simple: “it’s” = “it
- breath/breathe: these don’t even sound the
same! Why do people keep confusing them?
- greengrocer’s apostrophe: apostrophe’s do not signal the
end’s of word’s.
- e.g./i.e.: e.g. is short for
exempli gratia, “for example”; i.e. is short for id
est, “that is”.
The last one is a little less trivial than the others, but still falls
in the “Basic” category for any self-respecting elitist bastard. One
trick is to try to turn the sentence around so that the “who” or
“whom” becomes “he” or “him”. E.g., “Who/whom ate the apple?” becomes
“He/him ate the apple”. “Whom” and “him” both end with M, so they go
together: “he ate the apple”, therefore “who ate the apple?”.
Another trick is to learn another language, and remember that “who” is
“il/er/Ð¾Ð½”, while “whom” is “lui/ihm/ÐµÐ¼Ñƒ”.
Less Basic English
Know your plurals:
- stadium → stadia
- forum → fora
- virus → viruses (a true elitist bastard knows that “virii” is
- opus → opera
- octopus → actually, there’s some controversy over this one.
The common plural is “octopi”, but in this bastard’s opinion, it’s more
elitist to use “octopodes“.
Know your singulars:
- data → datum (for example, when telling a friend about that
Star Trek: the Next Generation episode in which the android got duplicated by a transporter
malfunction, say “… but they were back to one Datum by the end
of the show”)
- media → medium (however, don’t overcompensate: you can order
a medium rare steak, but you can’t order two steaks media rare, not even
if you’re in medias res).
- spaghetti → spaghetto
- panini → panino
“Hyperbole”: pronounce it correctly.
“Forte”: this is a French word, not an Italian one, so it’s pronounced
“fort”, not “for-tay”. Although the bisyllabic pronunciation is
accepted by dictionaries with insufficiently-high standards, the
shorter pronunciation is more appropriate for an elitist bastard.
Presumably, by the time you graduated from your prestigious,
ivy-league, prep kindergarten, you could tell left from right. So
don’t confuse slashes (/) with backslashes (\), or quotes (‘) with
backquotes (`). Not only will you look like a typesetting neophyte,
but your Unix scripts will break.
“Begging the question“:
this means “presupposing one’s conclusion”, not “raising the
If you’re an elitist (or Canadian), then you speak at least two
languages. And if you’re a bastard (i.e., not Canadian), then you feel
no need to translate the foreign words and phrases that pepper your
While it’s perfectly fine to describe a home as gemütlich
rather than cozy, or to add a soupçon of basil to your penne
all’arrabbiata, rather than a pinch, make sure that
your word or phrase is truly le mot juste. Otherwise, your
elitist bastard peers will see you as a prima donna
poseur with no grasp of the zeitgeist‘s
chiaroscuro gestalt. A schrecklicher
salaud con quilon menthæ, if you will.
If you’re trying to decide which foreign language to learn, French is
one in which you will be able to give your elitist bastardry full
rein, with its irregular past tenses and subjunctives. How much better
to say « je préfèrerais que vous ne fûtes point ici » rather
than « casse toi, pauv’ con! »?
(Update, Sep. 1: fixed spelling of penne all’arabbiata.)