ERROL CASTENS: Grahams, grams, Grandma and grammar



All right, class: Let’s gather for a little review.

“They’re” is a contraction of “they are.” “There” is a place. “Their” indicates ownership by them.

Good tenets sustain philosophies. Good tenants pay rent and don’t put their fists through walls.

Capitol buildings are in capital cities. Both are funded by lots of taxpayer capital.

“You’re reading” indicates that you are getting meaning from written words. “Your reading” might well refer to the books lying on your nightstand.

A disinterested witness is one whose testimony may be more credible because he doesn’t have anything to gain or lose from the issue. An uninterested witness may be one who didn’t bother to look up from his texting to see what actually happened.

A principal runs a school. Principal is a base amount of money. A principle is a rule. Schools should have principled principals, and principal can be increased with certain principles.

To lose is not to win. Loose is not tight.

A hoer does honest work for a living, but a whore does not. Hoar is a light coating of frost.

Your friendly neighborhood bike store peddles pedals.

Your friendly neighborhood bike rider may have won races and thus earned medals, but the hardest races were the ones that proved his mettle. Unless it’s built of carbon fiber, his bike is probably made largely of metal.

Two is a number. (Let the “tw” be the clue, as in “two twins.”) To is, at its simplest, a direction. Too is either in addition or excessive. Too many people want to have two tutus, too.

Father is a male parent. Farther is a greater distance. “Further” is a greater extent that isn’t a distance, or to extend. To further our conditioning, Father urged us to run farther.

Not every fortuitous meeting is fortunate.

People who say “irregardless” mean “regardless.” People who say “I could care less” mean “I couldn’t care less.” (If one could care less, mathematically that means that one does care to some extent.)

Unlike most possessives, “its” has no apostrophe. “It’s” is always a contraction of “it is.”

Weather is any of numerous meteorological phenomena. Whether indicates a choice. Herb was trying to decide whether to brave the weather and go for a walk.

“Allot” means to divide, distribute or assign. “A lot” means a large quantity. “Alot” means someone has misspelled one or the other.

To affect is to have an impact on. In a subtle but important difference, to effect is to cause – often, a change. An effect is a result. An affectation is a pretension.

That woman is altogether lovely. She and her friends are all together for her birthday.

Graham can be a famous evangelist or the guy who invented whole-wheat crackers. Gram is a tiny measure of weight. Grammar is the study of how sentences are structured, but Grandma is an ancestor.

If this all seems silly, remember that Grandma could probably care less.

Errol Castens is a reporter for the Daily Journal and the Oxford Citizen. Contact him at (662) 816-1282 or

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