Solecism

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In traditional grammar, a solecism is a phrase that trespasses the rules of grammar.[1] The word originally was used by the Greeks for what they perceived as grammatical mistakes in their language. Ancient Athenians considered the dialect of the inhabitants of their colony, Soli, in Cilicia to be a corrupted form of their own pure Attic dialect, and labelled the errors in the form as "solecisms" (Greek: σολοικισμοί, soloikismoí; sing.: σολοικισμός, soloikismós). Therefore, when referring to similar grammatical mistakes heard in the speech of Athenians, they described them as "solecisms" and that term has been adopted as a label for grammatical mistakes in any language.

Examples[edit]

Name Type of grammatical breach Example
Catachresis Wrong agreement between verb and subject "He ain't going nowhere" for "He isn't [or "he's not"] going anywhere" or "he is going nowhere" (dialectical usage; see "ain't" and double negative)
Catachresis Wrong grammatical case "This is just between you and I" for "This is just between you and me" (hypercorrection to avoid the correct "you and me" form in the predicate of copulative sentences, even though "me" is the standard pronoun for the object of a preposition or the object of a verb).

"Whom shall I say is calling?" for "Who shall I say is calling?" (hypercorrection resulting from the perception that "whom" is a formal version of "who" or that the pronoun is functioning as an object when, in fact, it is a subject [One would say, "Shall I say who is calling?]. The leading pronoun only could be an object if "say" were used transitively and the sentence were structured thus: "Whom shall I say to be calling?")

Catachresis Double subject "The woman, she is here" for "The woman is here" or "She is here" (nonstandard usage with the double subject "she")
Catachresis Double negative "She can't hardly sleep" for "She can hardly sleep" (a double negative, as both "can't" and "hardly" have a negative meaning)
Catachresis Double copula "The issue is, is his attitude is poor." for "The issue is his attitude is poor."
Catachresis Wrong copula "The reason being..." for "The reason is..."

Register[edit]

What is considered a solecism in one register of a language might be acceptable usage in another. Although debatable, for example, Artistic license may be claimed by some for blatant solecisms in song lyrics that supposedly reflect colloquial language being used by a songwriter. Others might claim that such practices merely reinforce the use of grammatical errors and state that an error remains an error without justification.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bryan A Garner (2001). A dictionary of modern legal usage. Oxford University Press. p. 816. ISBN 978-0-19-514236-5. Retrieved 20 May 2013. 

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of solecism at Wiktionary