“Won’t” vs “wont”

I recently noticed that someone had arrived at my site through a Google search for “grammar of ‘i am won’t.’” It took me a minute or two to understand that the question really was about the word wont. So, in case you ever come back this way, Mystery Googler, here is your answer:

What is the difference between wont and won’t?

The word wont talks about someone in the habit of doing something, or of a characteristic of something. To use it in a couple of sentences:

“Samantha was wont to think about spelling too much.”
“Tomorrow will be quiet, as Sundays are wont to be.”

The word won’t, as I bet you already know, is a contraction meaning will not.

So, this one’s easy. It’s really a spelling thing, since speaking the two words aloud will tell you right away if you’re saying the wrong one – and if you’re saying wont, people might mishear you and think you’re saying want, depending on your accent. This adds a bit more excitement to life! Actually, the pronunciation might help you determine which one you want to write out. Wont sounds like want, and you wouldn’t spell want with an apostrophe, like won’t!

Oh wow. Was I getting carried away there or what? Sorry, spelling tends to do that to me.

Can you use “which” to signify an afterthought?

I’m reading a certain novel right now. It’s good, but it uses the word “which” in a way that really bugs me. This spelling and grammar pet peeve has been a fairly recent, but intense, one of mine for the past couple of years.

Dear editor of said novel: The word “which” is not a synonym for “and,” “anyway” or even a period. Here is an example from the book:

“And if you tell him you saw me smoking, I will banish you to the lowest circle of hell. Which I’ve never been there, but . . .”

Now I’m not going to get all academic on you here (I couldn’t even if I wanted to, anyway), but “which” is a pronoun. That means it refers directly to something that’s been mentioned in a conversation, or refers to the people having the conversation.

The character in the example I used should say either, ” . . . the lowest circle of hell, which I’ve never been to, but . . .” or drop it altogether. If he says which in the way I just suggested, he’s referring directly to the lowest circle of hell. In the way that appears the book, he’s using it to refer to, “I’ve never been there,” which makes no sense at all. He means to use which to indicate an afterthought, in which case an, “Of course,” at the beginning of the thought would suffice. Actually, in this example, dropping it altogether would make the most sense.

I know the example I used is from a character speaking, but that doesn’t stop it from hitting my brain all wrong. Using which to signify an afterthought or make a new point isn’t a regionalism as far as I know, so it doesn’t get a pass from me. No sir!

I hope the above made sense. The thing with me is I usually feel it when a word is used wrong or a sentence is composed badly, but I can’t often put it into words. A loud clanging bell goes off somewhere in my torso. I think it’s my mutant superpower.

Posted in Spelling & Grammar, Language.

The nuttiness of the English language

English is a notoriously difficult language to learn. My parents are Finnish and Filipino, respectively, and while I don’t speak either of those languages, I can read them aloud near-perfectly. This is because, compared to English, they are easy! There are no silent letters and each letter is pronounced only one way. It’s a dream.

English, on the other hand. Yikes. I think I love it so much because it’s so impossible and weird. Case in point: the video on this page my husband showed me which demonstrates how the I Before E “rule” should, by rights, take 40 seconds to recite.

Posted in Language.

How to use “begs the question”

This one isn’t actually a pet peeve of mine, but my husband’s. However, I think it’s an interesting one so I’m sharing it today.

Before I met my husband, I thought, like many others, that “begging the question” was the same as “raising the question” – like, “It’s Donut Friday, which begs the question – why am I not eating a donut right now?” It turned out, that’s totally incorrect.

“Begging the question” is actually a logical fallacy. Sounds complicated, but basically, begging the question is a statement that assumes its conclusion is proven correct without any evidence. Like this:

“If donuts weren’t delicious, then everyone wouldn’t eat them.”

In this sentence, the assumption is being made that its conclusion – everyone eats donuts – is true, without any proof of that. Just stating something doesn’t make it true. It’s also using that assumption as evidence that donuts are delicious. For these reasons, this sentence is begging the question.

Posted in Spelling & Grammar.