In traditional prescriptive grammar, a solecism is something perceived as a grammatical mistake or absurdity, or even a simply non-standard usage. The word was originally used by the Greeks for what they perceived as mistakes in their language. Ancient Athenians considered the dialect of the inhabitants of their colony Soli
Soli, Cilicia
Soli was an ancient city and port in Cilicia, in present day Turkey, a part of Mezitli municipality which in turn is a part of Greater Mersin. It was a colony of Rhodes, founded c. 700 BC. Soli was destroyed in the 1st century BC, and rebuilt by Pompey the Great. Thereafter, it was called...

 in Cilicia to be a corrupted
Corruption (grammar)
Corruption or bastardisation is a way of referring to certain changes in a language and their prescriptive evaluation. The most common way that a word can be said to be corrupted is the change of its spelling through errors and gradual changes in comprehension, transcription, and hearing. This is...

 form of their own pure Attic
Attic Greek
Attic Greek is the prestige dialect of Ancient Greek that was spoken in Attica, which includes Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek, and is the standard form of the language studied in courses of "Ancient Greek". It is sometimes included in Ionic.- Origin and range...

 dialect, full of "solecisms" (Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: σολοικισμοί, soloikismoí; Sing.: σολοικισμός, soloikismós).

Here are some examples of usages often regarded as solecisms in standard English:
  • "This is just between you and I" for "This is just between you and me" (hypercorrection
    In linguistics or usage, hypercorrection is a non-standard usage that results from the over-application of a perceived rule of grammar or a usage prescription...

     to avoid the common "you and me" form in the predicate of copulative sentences, even though "me" is the standard pronoun for the object of a preposition)
  • "He ain't going nowhere" for "He isn't [or "he's not"] going anywhere" or "he is going nowhere" (dialect
    The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

    ical usage; see "ain't
    Ain't is a colloquialism and contraction for "am not", "is not", "are not", "has not", and "have not" in the common English language vernacular. In some dialects ain't is also used as a contraction of "do not", "does not", and "did not". The usage of ain't is a perennial subject of controversy in...

    ") and double negative
    Double negative
    A double negative occurs when two forms of negation are used in the same sentence. Multiple negation is the more general term referring to the occurrence of more than one negative in a clause....

  • "Whom shall I say is calling?" for "Who shall I say is calling?" (hypercorrection resulting from the perception that "whom
    Who (pronoun)
    The pronoun who, in English, is the interrogative and relative pronoun that is used to refer to humans.The corresponding interrogative pronouns for non-sentient beings are what and which, and the relative pronouns are that and which...

    " is a formal version of "who" or that the pronoun is functioning as an object when, in fact, it is a subject [One would say, "Shall I say he is calling?])
  • Irregardless
    Irregardless is an informal term commonly used in place of regardless or irrespective, which has caused controversy since it first appeared in the early twentieth century...

    for regardless (nonstandard usage from analogy with constructions like "irreverent," "irrespective," and "irrevocable," where the negative prefix "in-" changes to "ir-" but becomes redundant because of "-less")
  • "The woman, she is here" for "The woman is here" or "She is here" (nonstandard usage with the double subject "she")
  • "She can't hardly sleep" for "She can hardly sleep" (a double negative
    Double negative
    A double negative occurs when two forms of negation are used in the same sentence. Multiple negation is the more general term referring to the occurrence of more than one negative in a clause....

    , as both "can't" and "hardly" have a negative meaning)
  • "The issue is, is his attitude" for "The issue is his attitude" (see double copula
    Double copula
    The double copula, also known as the double is and reduplicative copula, is the nonstandard usage of two successive copulae in the English language when only one is necessary. For example:...

  • "Substituting A for B" when the intended meaning is "substituting B for A" or "replacing A with B", i.e. "removing A and putting B in its place."
  • "The reason being..." for "The reason is..."

What is considered a solecism in one register of a language might be acceptable usage in another. For example, "The world keeps turning for you and I" (10cc
10cc are an English art rock band who achieved their greatest commercial success in the 1970s. The band initially consisted of four musicians -- Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley, and Lol Creme -- who had written and recorded together for some three years, before assuming the "10cc" name...

) may be more acceptable in a song (see Artistic license
Artistic license
Artistic licence is a colloquial term, sometimes euphemism, used to denote the distortion of fact, alteration of the conventions of grammar or language, or rewording of pre-existing text made by an artist to improve a piece of...

) than in prose.

Note that a solecism is a perceived error of syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

, while a barbarism
Barbarism (grammar)
Barbarism refers to a non-standard word, expression or pronunciation in a language, particularly one prescriptively regarded as an error in morphology, while a solecism is something prescriptively regarded as an error in syntax. The term is used mainly for the written language...

is a perceived error of morphology
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...


See also

  • Catachresis
    Catachresis is "misapplication of a word, especially in a mixed metaphor" according to the Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory...

  • Disputed English grammar
    Disputed English grammar
    Disputed English grammar denotes disagreement about whether given constructions constitute correct English. Such disagreements are often quite impassioned...

  • Fowler's Modern English Usage
    Fowler's Modern English Usage
    A Dictionary of Modern English Usage , by Henry Watson Fowler , is a style guide to British English usage, pronunciation, and writing...

  • Malapropism
    A malapropism is an act of misusing or the habitual misuse of similar sounding words, especially with humorous results. An example is Yogi Berra's statement: "Texas has a lot of electrical votes," rather than "electoral votes".-Etymology:...

  • Prescription and description
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