Language is constantly changing. It grows and develops as different factors influence it. It is also governed by rules, such as spelling and grammar rules, created to standardize it and provide the language with consistency and continuity. Sometimes these rules aren’t followed, often due to language users not knowing them well enough. When a rule is broken often enough, the mistake starts to sound right, and eventually gets adopted into the mainstream. Let’s look at a few grammar mistakes that have gone mainstream.

« Do’s and Don’ts »

We can all see why there is an apostrophe in “Don’ts”. The word “don’t” already has an apostrophe, so we simply add an “s” to make it plural. But why is there an apostrophe in “Do’s”? If we make things plural by adding an “s”, why add an apostrophe? In this case, I believe it’s because if we saw “dos” we would read it as /doss/ rather than /doos/.

« Kid’s Meal »

This one isn’t technically wrong, but there is a nuance between “Kid’s Meal” and “Kids’ Meal” that is often missed. In the first example, “kid” is singular, whereas in the second, it’s plural. So a “Kid’s Meal” would be for one particular kid, but the idea here is that the meal is for kids in general, in which case “Kids’ Meal” would be correct.

« 10 items or less »

There is a distinction between the words “less” and “fewer” that many English language speakers do not understand. When the noun can be numbered, “fewer” should be used. When it can’t, “less” is correct. For example, one can have fewer pencils, t-shirts or cupcakes, and one can have less milk, water or flour. However it is now common to find grocery stores with checkouts for “10 items or less”, but there are still some that correctly say “10 items or fewer”.

« Available on the internet »

Or rather, “on the Internet”. Since “Internet” is a proper name, given to it by its inventors, it should be capitalized. Or so the story goes. Many people aren’t aware of this rule, and I would venture that it doesn’t make sense. Someone invented the telephone and named it, in much the same way, yet there is no suggestion that we should capitalize the word. I believe that because of this, the days of the “Internet” are numbered.

The general English-native public may not bat an eye at these, but to a translator, they jump off the page. A translator’s job is not only to be aware of such issues, but to know where there are controversies and changing usages and to select what is appropriate for the particular context.

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