I didn't even remember it was Wednesday (despite having an army here for Bible study tonight; you think I'd know, right?) until I read Annie's Facebook lament.
W.O.W. to the rescue!
I am too tired tonight and still have too much to do to get ready for leaving tomorrow to think about a complicated grammatical explanation for this one. But I'm with my brilliant daughter Annie, who says,
"Anne is terrified that "then" and "than" will be deemed interchangeable by the ever-acquiescent grammar gods...."
Ummm...I don't want to turn this into something pseudo-religious, but yes, this would be pretty near the top of my list, too, Annie. Here we go:
"I liked my first husband a lot better then this one."
"I'd rather face a hot poker in my eye then put up with people who want to write but don't care enough about writing to do it right."
AHA! Some of you missed it, didn't you? Be honest, get those hands up! See? It's become so ubiquitous (relax, we'll do that one another time...) that our eyes are beginning to glaze over and not even notice! Thankfully, we don't see the reverse error as often:
"Here, eat the last of your stale bread and than go scrub the kitchen floor!"
Easier to spot, huh? But it doesn't make it any easier to swallow that for people under 35, "then" is just an alternate spelling of "than." Yes, I know, I'm showing my true colors as a bona fide "age-ist" but other explanations won't do. I truly believe that 25 years ago the grammar teachers, long disrespected and eventually convicted of something horrible by liberal left educators, finally gave up and went home. And the poor kids who were sitting in their middle school classes looked up and found no teachers and so they just sorta made up their own rules.
I will tell you, in all honesty, why I think these errors appear to be so much more egregious in the under-35 set. I really believe it's because even though many in my generation didn't learn their grammar much better, they didn't write it out in public for all the world to see. We didn't do message boards and Facebook and blogs and Twitter and texting and IM'ing and comments on news sites. We just nodded a lot. Younger people write more, even though very little of it is serious writing, and so their, shall we say, gaps are out there in plain view while ours are our own dirty little secrets.
And that, my friends, is why I think that we're no smarter then they are ;-)