March 21st, 2011


Pet Peeves: The Subjunctive Case

I'm bored at work, so here's another installment of Pet Peeves (because I'm always in the mood to complain when I'm bored at work).

The Subjunctive!

For those that don't know, the subjunctive occurs in English most commonly when you are presenting a hypothetical situation. The prime example is any sentence that begins with "If I were you...." 

Now, I fully recognize that language evolves. I'm a huge supporter for language evolving. A language that ceases to evolve, ceases to truly live. For instance, I really think that "alright" should be the standard and accepted spelling, rather than "all right"...and eventually it will be. Already people are starting to forget that it's a misspelling...the spell-checkers all accept it, and no one has ever commented on a piece of my fanfiction and said "you spelt 'all right' wrong." (I'm also a firm believer that dreamt and spelt are still legitimate spellings as well, even though spell-checkers hate them,)
Anyway, that's just a long way of saying that the subjunctive case is dying out, and I KNOW this. As more and more time goes by people are using "was" instead of "were" more and more. "If I was you..." is slowly becoming the new norm even though it grates on my nerves. Hell, it's even passed my own lips from time to time, much to my horror. 
In Supernatural fiction (and the show) I forgive it constantly, because Dean with his GED and Sam being raised by a mechanic and a brother with a GED - well, even 3.5 years of college couldn't save him from colloquialisms. So, yeah, it makes sense that Sam and Dean (and Bobby) don't use the subjunctive properly, that's fine. Sherlock fic...that's another story. In Sherlock, you have Sherlock IN CANON  using words like 'meretricious' and correcting a murderer's grammar for a solid 3 minutes straight. Sherlock, my friends, would not say "If I was you..." 
Of course, this all being said, I realize that one of reasons language evolves is because people stop realizing that what they are saying is wrong and start believing it is right - so, this is just one of the many death-throes of Subjunctive Case, where some of us look at it and think "Oh, that sentence is fine," and others look at it and think "that sentence is horrific" because we still have the capability of seeing the part of the language that is being butchered. Hmm...random Harry Potter analogy: It's like a Thestral being murdered in front of a crowd.

ETA: Speak of the devil - I was just reading Wil Wheaton's very touching blog about his recent incomplete Stand By Me reunion, and he ends it with a sentence that should be in the subjunctive, but is not. Oh Wil, I forgive you, because language evolves, but I admit that I did yell "B'AH!" when I read that.
Completely unrelated note: I've started spelling favorite the American way and I HATE myself for it. It's favourite, goddamn it. I've got to retrain my fingers.