In traditional grammar, a solecism is a phrase that transgresses the rules of grammar. The word originally was used by the Greeks for what they perceived as grammatical mistakes in their language. Ancient Athenians considered the dialect of the inhabitants of their colony, Soli, in Cilicia to be a corrupted form of their own pure Attic dialect, and labelled the errors in the form as "solecisms" (Greek: σολοικισμοί, soloikismoí; sing.: σολοικισμός, soloikismós). Therefore, when referring to similar grammatical mistakes heard in the speech of Athenians, they described them as "solecisms" and that term has been adopted as a label for grammatical mistakes in any language; in Greek there is often a distinction in the relevant terms in that a mistake in semantics (i.e., a use of words with other-than-appropriate meaning or a neologism constructed through application of generative rules by an outsider) is called a barbarism (βαρβαρισμός barbarismos), whereas solecism refers to mistakes in syntax, in the construction of sentences.
|Name||Type of grammatical breach||Example|
|Catachresis||Wrong grammatical case|| "This is just between you and I" for "This is just between you and me" (hypercorrection to avoid the correct "you and me" form in the predicate of copulative sentences, even though "me" is the standard pronoun for the object of a preposition or the object of a verb).
"Whom shall I say is calling?" for "Who shall I say is calling?" (hypercorrection resulting from the perception that "whom" 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 who is calling?]. The leading pronoun only could be an object if "say" were used transitively and the sentence were structured thus: "Whom shall I say to be calling?")
|Catachresis||Double subject||"The woman, she is here" for "The woman is here" or "She is here" (nonstandard usage with the double subject "she")|
|Catachresis||Double negative||"She can't hardly sleep" for "She can hardly sleep" (a double negative, as both "can't" and "hardly" have a negative meaning)|
|Catachresis||Double copula||"The issue is, is his attitude is poor." for "The issue is his attitude is poor."|
|Catachresis||Wrong copula|| "The reason being..." for "The reason is..."
This usage is grammatically correct—if, perhaps, stylistically inelegant—in a subordinate clause with an adverbial function, e.g. The engineer stopped the train, the reason being a report of track failure ahead.
|Grammatical error||Improper empty complementizer|| "The issue is his attitude is poor." for "The issue is that his attitude is poor."
The copula does not allow an empty complementizer. "The issue is his poor attitude" (without a complementizer phrase) and "They said his attitude is poor." (a sentence allowing an empty complementizer) would not require this.
- Disputed English grammar
- Fowler's Modern English Usage
- Zeugma, a rhetorical use of solecism for effect
- Prescription and description
- English as She is Spoke
- The dictionary definition of solecism at Wiktionary