29 Apr 2012

Your going to be mad, but Team Grammar may have lost this one

When it first started, we linguists and teachers were pretty smug. It's just the teenagers, we may have snickered. And then, those lazy texters. And then perhaps we started to sweat a little and tug at our collars because suddenly it was on Facebook, Twitter, our students' essays, and egads, even work emails. From colleagues!

Yes, we too made the occasional error. Worse: sometimes we didn't catch it in time before it was *poofed* out into cyberspace. But the very, VERY worst of all?

Nobody noticed. 

I do not admit defeat easily, but the ubiquitous use of the possessive adjective "your" when and where "you are" or its contraction "you're" is required is as common as, well, the use of the word "ubiquitous".  At what point, my prescriptivist friends, do we wave the white flag and stop snickering? Doesn't usage trump all? The people have chosen. After all, it's only a teeny 'be' verb we've disappeared. We disappear it in newspaper headlines all the time

Of course, it's not just a tiny 'be' verb left behind, but entire grammatical constructs abandoned hastily on the side of the road. That 'be' verb is part and parcel of its continuous or passive form, or (excuse me while I dry my eyes) of its participle partner.  How lonely those other halves must be, with their -ing's and -ed's hanging out there for the world to see.

I envision children in 2025 asking their teachers (um, I mean devices) why we write They are walking down the street and She is walking down the street but Your walking down the street. I envision myself waiting for the second part of a text after I receive: your awesome. Oh, wait. I already do that.  

I suspect it will become just another weird English anomaly that we geeky teachers get to explain to new language learners as they struggle with grammar and context. One day, though, we'll forget how it all started and have to refer to our OED app, which might read something like this: 

Your (yor, yərn. + v.  Contraction of "you" and "are"  
[Forms: You're Obs. rare 2009 Fiona's phone. "You're such a good friend"]

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