Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

Maybe you can blame some of it on the texting generation. Maybe you can blame some of it on the Internet generation. Maybe you can blame it on the proliferation of lolcats and other online phenomena. Whatever the case, it seems that more and more people are spelling things incorrectly.

And recently, I’m starting to see a few examples of people using common when they really mean to write c’mon or come on. These do not have the same meaning whatsoever and it really shouldn’t be that difficult to differentiate between them. It is also important to note that c’mon is short for come on and not short for common.

While there are instances with word pairs that sound roughly similar, “come on” (or “c’mon”) and “common” are pronounced quite differently.

“Come on” would rhyme with “dumb on” or “gum on.” By contrast, “common” would more closely rhyme with “mom in.”

Naturally, the definitions are quite different too. “Come on” can be used as an interjection to express disbelief or to encourage:

Come on! There’s no way that’s true.
Come on, Timmy! You’re almost at the finish line!

“Come on” can also be used as a noun and a verb, oftentimes referring to the expression of relational interest, as in “I could tell she was coming on to me when she put her hand on my shoulder.”

By contrast, “common” is most often used as an adjective, describing something as being simple, ordinary, standard, or occurring frequently.

Raccoons can be quite common in urban environments.

By and large, I don’t think that people are having a hard time understanding the difference in meaning between “common” and “come on” (or c’mon), but they have difficulty understanding which spelling to use.

Do you know of a common grammar or spelling problem that should be covered in a future Grammar 101 post? Come on! Let me know through the comment form below.