Thursday, April 25, 2013


What is a vulgarism and how does it relate to grammar?

According to
A vulgarism is "... a word or expression originated or used chiefly by illiterate persons."



Strunk & White think vulgarisms include wrong word choices:
Wrong: small, home-type hotels
Right: small, homelike hotels

Punctuation can also be used in error and result in a vulgarism:
"Question marks . . . have their own vulgarism, an attempt to attribute sarcasm to a word by putting a query in brackets after it: 'We attended a really cultured (?) dinner-party last night, at which the other guests could talk of nothing but film stars and football pools.' This habit should be strangled at birth. . . .

"There is, however, one other misuse of the question mark that deserves more serious comment, namely its intrusion in indirect questions, such as:
He asked me why I was so silent?
This is definitely wrong. The original question mark of 'Why are you so silent?' must give way to a full-stop [period] when the question is converted by 'He asked me' into its indirect form, for the sentence as a whole has now become a statement."
(C.V. Carey, Mind the Stop. Pelican Books, 1971)


So, really, any grammar error would be like fingernails on a chalkboard to an astute person of grammatical expertise (not me, by the way).

A vulgarism.

Does making an word choice error, punctuation error, or grammar error designate you as an illiterate person?


  1. The one vulgarism I can't stand with question marks is:

    When will you be submitting your timesheet???

    Do we really need the extra question marks???

    BTW, if you Google Bill Maher Sarah Palin Boycotting, I'm still number one! ;)

  2. Some great tips Margo!

    Does making an word choice error, punctuation error, or grammar error designate you as an illiterate person? To answer your question: I Hope not! Quite frankly, it's all beyond me a times!

    Diane's comment - When will you be submitting your timesheet???
    It makes it sound very urgent.

    I can see I have some homework here to do. I shall book mark many of your post to read up on later. Have a nice weekend!

    1. Haha, Jacqueline! :D

      Whenever I see more than one question mark, I usually multiply the time I take to answer by the number of question marks present.

  3. Pretty sure this is the first time I've heard the word 'vulgarism'...and it kind of seems like a nasty word when I think about it, considering what it means. ;)

  4. For me, sometimes I use something that isn't necessarily proper on purpose to create a feel. Like using "ain't". And sometimes an actual vulgar word and convey the message more clearly than a less vulgar in the old song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree." If the last line had said the whole blame buss is cheering instead of damn bus, it wouldn't have had the same punch.