The Agony and the Ecstasy

by Beth Cato

I froth and rage over many spelling or grammatical errors. The so-called “grocer’s apostrophe” always gets me. That’s when you see instances like “grape’s $1.49” or “DVD’s and CD’s on sale.” I always want to shout, “What belongs to the grapes? Are they sentient?”

If I see such grammatical abuses in public, I get angry, but more than that, I am amused–I take pictures or bring home a copy of the flier. Signs with burned-out letters make me giggle like crazy, though I certainly wouldn’t want to shop at places like IFFY LUBE and AFFLE HOUSE. Poorly worded ads in the newspaper make my morning bright–“Huge Trouser Blowout!” “Boa Constrictor for Sale: Loves Kids!”

You see, I am a collector of English in error. It’s a delightful hobby I’ve had since I was a kid. My hometown paper is not the highest quality of publications. When I was nine, I laughed until I cried because of a small notice in the paper where Smokey the Bear was repeatedly spelled “Smokey the Beat.” I clipped out the article and I still have it tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

As a teen, I discovered Jay Leno’s Headlines segments each Monday night. I recorded them on the VCR. A family friend introduced me to Richard Lederer’s Anguished English book series. If you can read through his collection of “The World History According to Student Bloopers” with a straight face, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.

The English language is hard. I’ve committed my share of abuses (you might even find a few in this post). I try to keep that in mind when I’m irked by illiteracy in the world around me, and most of all, I maintain my sense of humor.

To that end, I’d like to share some of my favorite grammatical goofs from my personal collection. Don’t eat as you read–I’d hate for you to choke on your grape’s!





BethCato-HCV-smBeth Cato’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. It comes out September 16th. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.



Full of magic, mystery, and romance, an enchanting steampunk fantasy debut in the bestselling vein of Trudi Canavan and Gail Carriger.

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.


Available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s

Find Beth Cato: Website, FaceBook, and Twitter



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