Into and Onto

If I ever start a fifth (no, wait, sixth? seventh?) career as an English teacher, I will happily drive my students crazy. I’m sure they already deserve it, whoever and wherever they are.

Lesson for the day: you do not throw yourself into your sword (or any other sharp implement). The word you are vainly searching for is “onto.” You throw yourself onto your sword, such as in the example of King Saul. He threw himself onto his sword. You very well may throw yourself into a foxhole, a privy, a nest of adders, or a slough of despond. I suppose you might throw yourself into a fury, though I feel much more comfortable with working yourself into a fury. You work yourself into a job (if you have the determination); you might work yourself onto a job if it’s a site-specific job, but I would avoid that if possible.

Lord knows I’m guilty every now and then, but this isn’t one of those cases where he who is without sin is not allowed to critique. The almost-right word is not the right word. Lightning is not the same as a lightning bug (thank you, Mr. Twain). A fire hydrant isn’t a hydra, even if the hydra happens to be on fire. If you take the elevator, it very well might elevate her if your girlfriend is along, but only if you’re both going up, but that doesn’t mean she’s an elevator (though there is a case to be made for that if she has a net positive effect on your spirits).

Speaking of which, don’t ever address a group of people as “you guys” if my mother happens to be in that group of people. You will most assuredly be called on the carpet (whether you’re standing on one or not) for your slaughter of what is historically a gender-specific word. I assume that never happens in the deep South.

13 thoughts on “Into and Onto”

  1. The historically gender-specific word “guy” originally meant “fool”; the meaning of “generic human male” is a somewhat recent twist. So your mother might consider taking it as an insult not just based on gender, but on aspersions cast on her intelligence.
    I don’t get the “elevator” reference? [And that question mark has really no business in that sentence, so feel free to castigate me therefor (e intentionally left off; therefor is not the same as therefore).]
    I also must beg to differ with you on the matter of throwing oneself into any sharp implements: it is possible to do so if the sharp implements in question are the teeth of, say, a silage shredder.
    I do, however, not think I would be comfortable with you working yourself into a fury; I dislike violence on principle (as opposed to principal).
    Ah, the fine art of nitpickery… (not, however, knitpickery).

    1. True, but the teeth of the silage shredder are in the shredder, so aren’t you really throwing yourself into the shredder rather than into the teeth? I’m afraid I was attempting to pun with the elevator reference. It might have failed. Interesting background on “guy.” I didn’t know that. Thanks! Now today is definitely a positive in the education category. I’m not sure if she is aware of that, but it definitely improves her case.

      1. Too true, too true (about the silage shredder). I knew you’d be fully capable of nitpicking it even further. Nitpickers of the World, Unite! You have Nothing to Lose but being Annoyed by Bad Grammar. [Random capitalization intentional to generate impression of importance.]

        The “guy” reference goes all the way back to Guy Fawkes, him of November 5th, Gunpowder Plot. The Brits make stuffed “Guys” to burn on bonfires; hence “a guy”.

        I still want to know what the joke about the elevator is; I can’t think of any reference to girlfriends and elevators. The sound of a pun whistling over my head disturbs me.

        1. Interesting. I never made the connection with Guy Fawkes. Good to know.

          I don’t know if it was exactly whistling. Perhaps limping.

  2. “Bad grammar is something up with which I will not put.” Anyone know who said that first? It is one of my favorite quotes.

  3. I made the “you guys” mistake with your mother once last year. I only made it once, and I don’t think I’ve done it again – with her or anyone else.

    1. It certainly does make an impression on people. For myself, I have a built-in mental alarm that goes off whenever my mind tries to use the phrase. Nurture, not nature. Fascinating example of a behavioral meme at work.

  4. Lynne Truss’ books (particularly her illustrated ones) are fabulous: Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Why Commas Really Do Make a Difference), The Girl’s Like Spaghetti, Twenty-Odd Ducks… Great fun.

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