Submitted by nigel on July 1, 2007

“On accident” and “study on . . .”

My children frequently say they did something, or someone else did something “on accident,” where I would say “by accident.” The “on” version not only sounds wrong to me, but it makes no semantic sense (what about the normal meaning of “on” could make it appropriate here?), but despite my having corrected them many times, they persist in this usage, which suggests it is entrenched in their subculture (Southern California Public Schools). I also came across the “on accident” form on the web recently. Is this idiom taking over? Would anyone care to defend it, or to suggest how it might have originated?

Also, as a college teacher in Southern California I have noticed a construction that might be related in quite a few student essays. This is “study on,” where I would just write “study.” For example: “Galileo studied on astronomy for many years.” Admittedly, this almost always occurs in essays that are poorly written in all sorts of other respects, but it is clearly not a simple mistake, as it occurs quite frequently, sometimes several times in the same paper. Clearly it is done intentionally. (Perhaps it is worth adding that many of my students are Hispanic and bilingual in Spanish and English. Could it be that “study on” reflects some construction or idiom in Spanish? Could that be the case for “on accident” too?)

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I've heard "on accident" a lot -- from smart kids at a private schools who all speak perfect English (as their first language). I have no idea why it's so common, but it's so annoying! Maybe there's some confusion because we do say "on purpose", and since "by accident" is its opposite, some people assume it's also "on accident". That's my best guess, anyway.

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Every time I hear "on accident", I cringe. It makes me think that the person who said it isn't very intelligent and hasn't been paying attention in English class.

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Yes, my love I know there are many uses of on. My complaint is not that "on accident" is wrong, but that it represents a laziness spreading like a malignancy. My students wait ON line, they argue ON a topic, they wait ON a bus that's late, they are ON restriction, they do things ON accident, they are thinking ON an idea, they are talking ON a topic. In, over, for, under, by, and about have disappeared. And I liked them. I am not suggesting that change is wrong, or that "on accident" must be banned from speech. I am suggesting that we push for the kind of informed variety that has long made idiomatic English so delightful. Change is good... I prefer purposeful change for the better, not change by atrophy and sloth.

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traLAN, you mean, like purposely splicing "on purpose" with "by accident"?

on purpose = I meant to do that

by accident = It was unintentional

on accident = I want it to seem like an accident but I did it on purpose.

Similar to the phrase "...accidentally on purpose" (like when my wife threw out all of last weeks newspapers before I could read them).

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I guess I break all the molds. I was born before 1970, am educated (although not "highly" educated), consider myself quite intelligent, and spent the majority of my life in the Mid-West (Chicago, Dallas). As well, I am very much a proponent of "proper" English not becoming extinct.

However, I have zero problem with the phrase "on accident" and use it frequently (much to the chagrin of my English Professor fiancée). I also say "by accident" as well. I guess it depends on my mood at the moment.

I don't find there to be any subtleties in connotation between the two phrases. Languages migrate; it's just a fact. Reading these comments, I find a fair number of them that claim actual pain in hearing or reading the phrase "on accident," all the while lacing their comments with "WTF" and "LOL."

Anyone who claims pain from usage irregularities while using such colloquialisms brushes dangerously against pomposity and, dare I say it, douchebaggery.

Relax, people. Think about "communication" rather than what's "right" and "wrong" to your ears; you will be far happier.

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Yes, my love, it does bother me to hear you say you did something "on accident." It is my job as an English teacher to 1)uphold correct grammar and 2) defend the dignity and tradition of the language. Yes, language changes. However, I am bothered by those who use the bandwagon logical fallacy to defend an error. Simply noting that more and more people make this error does not make it correct. It means that more and more people make the error. People are right to note that if the trend continues, there will be too few of us who know the rule to protest effectively. The same is true for all sorts of linguistic back-formations. However, I argue that it is our responsibility to guard against allowing our language to change without our informed consent. Just as inbreeding will create undesired results, ungoverned changes in our common language will also breed negative results. Asking for adherence to a common grammar assures clarity in communication. Our laws, medical practices, infrastructures... All depend on our abilities to communicate with precision and accuracy. Prepositional correctness as a PRACTICE is crucial. Accepting errors that become increasingly common seems, therefore unwise and worth our best corrective efforts.

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Sigh... 1) You missed my point. I said that the PRACTICE of prepositional accuracy is important. If we allow "on accident, " shall we also allow the common mistake "I went over his house," which indicates that the speaker went OVER the house rather than TO it? Shall we then allow the error, "You may not be BEYOND 500 feet of my client" rather than "You may not be WITHIN 500 feet of my client"? How far are we willing to slide with our who-gives-a-crap-about-prepositions attitude? Prepositions are small but mighty. They count. 2) I'm staying late at work trying to create an English test for my developmental students. Let's argue about this at home, shall we dear?

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Anonymous @10:43 is probably the most insightful with regards to "on accident".

"By mistake" is the easiest alternative to resolve the issue.

We tend to add substituting words before the adverb because, for one reason or another, the '-ly' construction is awkward. "I did it accidentally" or "I accidentally did it" doesn't sound like a pompous ass to me; it sounds correct and clear. But it's not something I personally use. In the case of "on accident," it hurts my ears to hear and eyes to read.

I tend to say "by accident" in the same logical parallelism as I do "with (a) purpose" and "with intention". Even then, I do not say "on purpose", meaning to have a purpose and do something _with_ that purpose in mind, meaning to carry forth.

So, I would say:

I did it by accident.
I accidentally did it.
I did it, but it wasn't my intention.
I did it, but that wasn't the purpose I had in mind.

OK, so I'm more direct than today's kids.

"Galileo studied (up) on astronomy for many years."

Or,

"Galileo studied astronomy...".

I was accidentally reading up on Galileo while researching Newton. That was a welcomed detour.

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I also cringe at hearing "on accident." Just typing it made me cringe. Sorry if that offends you, but "by accident" is correct whether the other has been accepted in your region or not.

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When used best, any language is used to communicate.

There is no ambiguity in meaning created by substituting "on accident" for "by accident." On accident is clearly a back construction from "on purpose". Creating new words and expressions by back construction is very common in English.

In the place and time when I was growing up it was common usage to use the word "borrow" in the place of "lend" -- i.e. "Could you borrow me a dollar?"

That I consider cringe worthy, as borrow and lend mean completely different things. On accident and by accident don't.

I'm also reminded of the day, walking with my two-year-old son on a winter day, when he asked if I could "warm on" his hands. Obviously a back construction from "cool off". I'm still looking for a reason why cool down/warm up are OK, and cool off is OK, but warm on isn't OK.

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well, grammatically "on accident" is wrong, but as goossun said that language evolves and their ARE some flaws in english that are acceptable and used often.

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I don't like "on accident"--one does something by [means of an] accident. "On purpose" doesn't make any sense, actually, but I'd sound like an ass if I said "purposefully" instead every time.

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As much as we don't like it, people judge by external things; the way you look, the way you present yourself, the way you speak. I am blonde, small and look very young. I have chosen to use "proper" english in speech because it makes what I'm saying more legitimate. In college one of my best professors always told us to build our vocabulary as much as possible. You may not actually be any smarter, but you SEEM like it. Perception is key. When people choose to use improper English, I judge them.

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What is to be done? Preposition shifts have definitely occurred between British and American English. (on/at the weekend, in a/in hospital, I'm sure there are more)

Also, there are recognized regional differences: the farther east in the U.S. you go, the more likely you are to hear "waiting on line" or "waiting on the bus" where my midwestern english would say "waiting in line" and "waiting for the bus".

Those all sound wrong but not cringeworthy to me, because I'm familiar with the regional difference.

"On accident", however, DOES make me cringe and want to tell people, "Hey, that's wrong!" but that must be because it's unfamiliar to me and I don't recognize it as a valid variation of standard english.

If the demographics are right, though, and the new usage sticks, we're going to be some grumpy old english-lovers in a new minority. :)

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On accident is poor grammer, but it can also willfully be used as something occuring on the account of an "accident". In other words to do something intentionally, and say it was an accident. By switching the word "an" to "on". I've seen it used this way, but again not in all cases. Hope this helps.

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I'm not sure what that "study" is supposed to show. A closer examination does not show that "on" is used instead of "by" by those under 35. Rather, it shows that young children use it, with some in young adulthood and few or none in their late 20's and older. The study proves nothing about acceptability one way or another. It is just as likely an explanation that it's wrong and by the time one grows up, one realizes it and stops using it. The sample size of the study is so small as to be practically meaningless. It is an obscure study by an obscure researcher in an even more obscure venue. From the overall tone of it, it looks like a fun class project, not a meaningful research study.

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Sorry, my love, but I disagree. First, the mistake "I went over his house" is not a preposition misuse error so much as it is an error of omission. They meant to say "I went over TO his house." They didn't use the WRONG preposition, they just left one out. And still, the use of "over" in that phrase is acceptable, however it's a misuse of "over," is it not?

But my point is that "I went over his house" is objectively wrong, if the speaker did not mean to say he traversed the airspace above "his house." To say that "on accident" is objectively wrong is to say that "on" has a specific singular meaning. Well, if it means "physically located above and adjacent to," such as the phrase, "on the boardwalk," then how can you explain the apparently-correct phrase "on purpose?" Or "on the phone?" Someone above said "on purpose" means "on the intended purpose." But that's still not a measure of physical locality, is it? "On" takes on multiple definitions and meanings. And it's used many times in many ways along these same lines. "On task." "On time." "On report." "On the ball." "On par." "On the stick." "On error."

(that last one may just be a computing term)

And to say that words can have only specific meanings and all else is incorrect and should be expunged reduces the majesty of language, particularly the English language, to mere mathematics: it's wrong or it's right, period.

As well, if words have only set meanings that are not allowed to stray, then we lose things like puns (in my opinion, the highest and cleverest form of humor), poetry, colloquialisms, localisms, idioms, and the like. Just because Louisianians say "on the bayou" and it's more correct to say "in the bayou" doesn't mean it's right to say they're wrong. That's how they say it, it's quaint, and it also allows poets and authors to, with but a few words, demonstrate more about the speaker than could be said with ten times as many words.

There are so many other phrases that seem incorrect, but are nonetheless correct (most likely due to common usage). How about "in country?" "On hold?" "Up to no good?" These all seem like gross misuses of their individual prepositions; but yet they all seem to be just fine to most scholars, yes?

Should we condemn the likes of Samuel Clemens because Tom Sawyer's English wasn't perfect?

Should we start spelling it "colour" and "humour" since they were correct first? And heck, even the English know the value of little quips, or else asking someone to "knock them up" would take on a vastly different meaning.

The issue here is that I cannot see any OBJECTIVE reason why "on accident" is less correct than "by accident." Your example, "I went over his house" is OBJECTIVELY incorrect, and not the least-wise because it's totally ambiguous. I mean, was the speaker a pilot? A human cannonball? A really good jumper?

However, the phrase "on accident" has no objective basis to be incorrect. All of the comments here state that it's just personal preference, brought on by the environment under which they were raised. But not a one of them can claim that someone used the phrase "on accident" and created confusion and error out of it. It's accurate, demonstrably understandable, and extremely communicative.

To disallow such things would be to say that "computer" is an incorrect word because it didn't exist before a hundred thirty years ago. Go back to 1770 and tell people about your cellphone and see if they don't correct your use of the King's English. Use the term "extraterrestrial" to refer to little green men and see if they don't likewise correct you. Radar. Semiconductor. Electricity. Digital. Airplane. Spacecraft. All are words that are 100% correct, but exist only because the language was allowed to grow and change.

Other terms carry meaning out of convention, but could be shown to be incorrect... but somehow, we still allow them. If a student turns in a "paper" in electronic format (i.e. it was emailed in Microsoft Word format), how can we call it a paper? Should we call it a "bits?" Or perhaps an "electron configuration?" In the end, it's the common usage of phrases in our language which carries the meaning.

So, I agree that language should not necessarily allow that which is incorrect and/or inherently ambiguous to become "correct." But I disagree that the phrase "on accident" is demonstrably false.

You asked how far are we willing to slide? I say that we should be willing to slide up to the point of ambiguity, or up to the point of gross and obvious misuse. I mean, I could say "flog me that flog" and you'd know that I am asking you to hand me what I'm pointing at. But those aren't the correct uses of those words. And without the physical act of pointing, the meaning is, well, meaningless.

But the phrase "on accident" has one meaning and no objective means to demonstrate that it is incorrect.

(and yes, I just had a one-sentence paragraph that started with the word "but." Sue me.)

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I used to say "on accident" when I was a child, and so did my brothers and sisters. It's been something that we've grown out of, however. I've heard many small children misuse other phrases, such as "You have to stay there, I under-arrested you!!"

It could be a development issue, where children use phrases as examples to help them form more unfamiliar combinations. Since "purpose" and "accident" are a set of relatively isolated opposites (as I can't think of any alternate sets), it's easy to see how one would have a strong effect on the other. A form of grammatical inbreeding, I suppose. For example, we don't use "on intent" or "by mistake," (I don't, anyway) or any other "on/by, cause/effect" relationships - so it's understandable that such associations could survive for years in a person's development.

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DJ, I find your comment quite pretentious and unnecessary. Just because something doesn't sound right to you, you assume the person isn't very intelligent? I happen to be 24 with a master's degree and STILL say "on accident." Your post actually makes me think that you're not very intelligent. I'm saddened that you cringe from the use of an idiom that may very well have regional use associated with it.

I'm sure your speech is always perfect, though. ;)

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Lauren, getting your master's degree at 24 doesn't make you intelligent. It only makes you educated, and not necessarily well-educated, at that.

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David - Because we clearly are all omnipotent enough to completely control every single action of ours to such a degree that we know exactly how everything around us will be influenced.
There's a reason we have the word accident - the human body isn't perfect, we have natural barriers in reaction time, and the controlling commands, when they reach your outer faculties, aren't exactly precise. I wish I could have known, for example, that my co-worker was walking at just the right distance away, direction, and speed so that when I unconsciously stretched, my elbow barely brushed the cup they were holding, causing it to spill (Hypothetical, but you should get the point).

Anyway - on accident bugs me to no end, but it's not like my English is perfect. I think my main issue with it is simply the sound of on, which is why I don't correct people when I hear it...even though I'm mentally cringing.

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I cringe too when i hear "on accident and think wtf. My sister and i were talking about how much it annoys us to hear it. Im not pretentious or arrogant but its plain wrong. And anonymous' response to Lauren was dead on, got an LOL from me.

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I am from New York, say "by accident," and use "study" transitively. However, I hear the alternatives which are the focus of this post often, primarily from people who live further west (midwest and west coast) as well as further south. I think it is more common in the northeast to say "by accident" and "study." I am pretty sure that idioms like "on accident" and "study on" are regional (their region of usage being far larger than that of the "standard" usage) and perfectly correct. I believe that the insistence on their error is a relfection of the dominance of northeastern American English as the standard language. Please think before you tirade about these sorts of things being incorrect. Such behavior hurts people in very real ways.

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Language evolves, you know? I think one way of explaining/understanding the change in this case is to figure out what different sense would the same kids make when they use "by accident", if at all. Do they reject the "correct form?" Are they ignorant of the "correct" idiom? I think new usages do not necessary eliminate the old idioms but just add to the richness of language when accepted largely.

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"on accident" is not wrong, it's an age difference. According to this study, it is limited to people under 35.

http://www.inst.at/trans/16Nr/01_4/barratt16.htm

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Please think before you accuse someone of a "tirade" just because they say that some usage "sounds wrong" to them. Such priggish behavior hurts people in very real ways (I am certainly quite offended).

There may be no right or wrong when it comes to idioms, and I am quite sure that the idioms current in one region or age group are quite as good as those of any other. However, I do not accept that the on/by accident issue is merely a matter of idiom. "By accident" is not really an idiom at all, it is simply a normal use of the preposition, "by," that is regularly used in English to indicate causal relationships."On" is not used to indicate a causal relation in any other context that I can think of except, perhaps, "on purpose". The suggestion that "on accident" is formed by analogy with "on purpose" sounds very plausible, but I do not think that "on purpose" really expresses an ordinary causal relationship. Purposes are reasons rather than causes, and have an intentional relationship to their outcome. That is to say, if I do something on purpose, not only does my purpose help to cause the outcome, but (for it to count as being done on purpose) the outcome must be (more or less) what I was hoping for before I acted upon my purpose. Nothing like this applies when something is done by accident. There is no previsioning of the outcome, it is simply physical cause and effect. (If this is right, it perhaps explains why we don't say "by purpose," but it does not explain why we do say "on". Perhaps that just is a special idiom evolved for this rather special case.)

Having said that, however, it occurs to me that it is also rather odd to say "I did [whatever] by accident." (It doesn't sound as wrong to me a "on accident," but it still does not sound quite right.) Things happen by accident, but we, as persons, do not really do them in the same sense that we do things on purpose. I move my limbs (perhaps with some purpose in mind), and by accident that movement (rather than me, the inner self that formulates purposes) causes something to happen. So I would say "It happened by accident" rather than "I did it by accident." My kids, however, say "I did it on accident." What they mean, of course, is "I did it, but I shouldn't be blamed because it was not in accord with any of my purposes," but what they should mean is "I shouldn't be blamed because I did not do it. Even though it was caused by a movement of my body, I, considered as a person, a formulator and executor of purposes, who can be held responsible for those purposes, did not do it," (i.e., it happened by accident).

As for "study on," the question is not only why "study" should be thought to be intransitive, but why "on" would be the appropriate preposition. I initially thought it might be connected with the "on accident" expression, but maybe not. So far as I am aware, my own kids do not use "study on." (Nor do most of my students.)

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In spanish, when someone says they are studying a particular subject they use "estudiar en" or, literally, "to study on". For example, "Estudio en ingles" or I study english; the "en" should be left off, but literally the sentence looks like "I study on English." You are probably right in assuming that the "study on" thing is coming from their experience in speaking and writing spanish.

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Jessica is wrong in her assumptions when she says

"one does something by [means of an] accident. "On purpose" doesn't make any sense, actually, but I'd sound like an ass if I said "purposefully" instead every time".

Her account of "by" as "by means of" sounds sensible at first blush, but think what an ass she'd sound if she said "Sorry, I did it by means of an accident!"

As for "on purpose"; just like "by accident", the reason it is right is, for any current language learner's purposes, that that's the way English speakers say it.

Think about this: We travel BY car, train, plane etc, but ON foot. Foreigners speaking English will often say something like "let's go by foot". It makes sense, but it's wrong.

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@K ... I agree with you, more or less, but only so far. One can be too pedantic. We all have our pet peeves but I'd like to think that we can see that we make mistakes. I'm the king of typos ... and poor proofreading! I don't wrapped umbe (around) the axle about commas and some other little stuff.

Some of us, like me, are rebels and like to use old or odd meanings of words or just seldom used words. It doesn't mean that we're benighted ... just odd! lol

I'm all for choices and "bendability" in usage, but there are limits. Having said all of that, if someone were to write "on accident" several times, I would ask him about it. If I were a teacher, I'd correct it to "by accident".

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i believe, as a sayer of "on accident", that such accident is not only a true accident devoid of premeditation, but that the choice of "on" vs. "by" strengthens the accidental nature. For instance: "He meant to turn right, but turned left ON (physically on top of/encompassing) accident" holds more weight than "he meant to turn right, but turned left BY (physically laying next to) accident."

Needless to say, I wholeheartedly disagree with those who supppose "on acc..." means "accidentally on purpose." rather i believe the opposite. and i am under 40, BTW

:)

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hey, publish or perish, right?:)

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No argument... but I would submit that "on accident" isn't so inaccurate as to cause issues, medical, legal, or otherwise.

If a surgeon tells the nurse "plaster me the banana pants" when he wants a scalpel, yeah, that's bad.

But if he says, "I severed the artery on accident" I doubt the others would stand around doing nothing out of confusion. I'd wager they would jump to action with sponges, clamps, and what-not.

Rebuttal?

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What a lot of fuss over perfectly proper prepositional usage. And kudos to Peter J for "cringeworthy."

Both phrases are acceptable uses of "on." That there is idiomatic variety in English does not mean that it's collapsing. On the contrary—or "to the contrary"—it means it's expanding. English has been diagnosed as dying by self-appointed keepers-of-the-flame for centuries. English isn't dying; it's not even ill. Its greatest suffering stems from cringing grammar-cops who poke it with a stick each time it evolves. They say an asteroid killed the dinosaurs. I think it was grammarians.

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Ahoff said:

"It is my job as an English teacher to 1) uphold correct grammar and 2) defend the dignity and tradition of the language."

Is it? Really? I would have expected your job to be teaching English. Not upholding it, Not defending it. But teaching it, with reverence to meaning and love of nuance.

Who do you teach? If it's children, I pity them.

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@greed: Is not teaching a language the same thing as upholding the correct grammar for it, as well as defending the dignity of it? How on earth could one teach a language without upholding the proper grammar of that language? I guess your English teachers always told you that English sucks and shouldn't be used by anyone above a troglodyte.

Dr. Hoff has given at least some of her credentials (English professor, although she's left out her Ivy League education and her PhD in her profession) to be able to say what she has. She's also used her name and isn't hiding behind a veil of internet anonymity and a bogus moniker. What are your credentials for saying what you say?

Wait, let me guess... your creds are "internet troll." Or perhaps, "person with computer and internet access." You are the one to be pitied, my friend.

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@greed: and it should be "Whom do you teach?"

Moron.

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@ greed asked:

"Is it? Really? I would have expected your job to be teaching English. Not upholding it, Not defending it. But teaching it, with reverence to meaning and love of nuance.

Who do you teach? If it’s children, I pity them."

1) Five out of six of your sentences here are fragments.
2) It is not correct to capitalize the letter "n" in "not" after a comma.
3) It is unnecessary to use a comma before a prepositional phrase such as "with reverence".
4) I would argue that, idiomatically, one has "reverence for" not "reverence to" meaning.
5) We use "whom" to match an indirect object. "To whom do you teach English?" would be preferred, but "Who do you teach" is a less formal though acceptable substitute.
6) For someone who claims to love the nuances of the English language, you seem to lack nuance in your understanding of the words "uphold" and "defend." In context, they combine to mean that I want the English language to maintain its beauty, through teaching more people more correct ways to express themselves. Additionally, I chose "uphold" and "defend" because they paraphrase T.S. Eliot's essays about this subject, though I don't imagine they rang a bell for you.
7) To answer your question, I have taught developmental English at urban community colleges, undergraduates at Research One universities, and Masters' students at Research One universities. I hold a Ph.D. in English, and am a published scholar.
8) You may pity my students, but they don't pity themselves. They leave my classroom having found more successful ways to express themselves without distracting their readers with grammar errors like your fragments above, and without falling into logical fallacies like the Ad Hominem attack you attempted to launch.
9) I agree with you; we who teach English should teach it with reverence and love.

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Everything is done "on purpose". We use "on accident" or "by accident" when we don't want to take responsibility for our own choices, or when we want to blame someone else for our situation.

In the grand scheme of things, everyone always has a choice in every moment. If you choose to live your life unconsciously -- i.e. by not making conscious decisions moment-by-moment -- then you will find yourself doing a lot of things "by accident" or "on accident".

If everyone would wake up and live concsiously, then there would be no more "accidents" and the phrase would go away. Then you could all stop arguing about it!!!

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Here is a map of the usage ... sadly, one of those blue dots falls on my city. http://www4.uwm.edu/FLL/linguistics/dialect/sta...

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ahoff:

I was, I think, intemperate in my comment. You are clearly passionate about language. We agree, at least, on one point: [those] who teach English should teach it with reverence and love. That can be said of all teaching.

I do not teach English, but I have been a teacher. And I know that teaching is a very difficult thing to do. With your passion I suspect you do it well.

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But, I should add that I agree with your comments about DJ.

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I join those who cringe at this neologism. Yes, language evolves, but it shouldn't evolve through the acceptance of ignorance and misuse. Yes, it is a back construction of "on purpose." But "on purpose" means you are on your purpose, or focused on something you intend to accomplish. I assume users of "on accident" don't mean they were focused on having an accident. Atrocious!

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I'm 57 and from the midwest. I've always said "by accident" and hadn't heard "on accident" until my oldest son, now 38, began using it in his early teens. I would correct him to no avail. He still uses it, even though his two younger brothers do not and never did. He is highly intelligent, well educated, with an unusual gift for learning languages, but this phrase still persists. I assumed it was just something he learned from his friends when in school, but if it is also used in Calif., TX, etc., then who knows? Maybe something that started on TV in a show, or shows, mostly watched by young people in the 80s, which they used with each other and which has now passed to their children.

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"on accident" is definitely based on the pattern modeled by "on purpose". In language acquisition, children build upon previously known patterns in creating new phrases,

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I live in the midwest and, like some others, had never heard "on accident" until my son brought it home from school. He is very smart and gifted at language. But this drives me bananas. It seems to be a mistake -- yes, I agree with those who say it is incorrect -- that caught on and gained currency with this generation.

There are some other strange prepositional and article shifts among these teenagers as well, such as the deplorable "all of the sudden." What??? Kids here are all saying this, and my son, who was reading the newpaper and holding adult conversations at age 4 is now saying it. Appalling.

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I grew up in upstate NY. Incidentally, I'll state that I have seen and sometimes use "by mistake." I haven't thought of it as an unusual idiom until now.

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Keith, no one is saying "by mistake" is unusual. Everyone says it. That is the normal idiom. The unusual idiom being debated is "on accident".

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I always said "on accident" as well. Schooling years 1985-1997, starting in Houston, TX. I too can see it as the opposite of "on purpose" (which also makes little semantic sense.) All I know is that I have said "on accident" for as long as I can remember.

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Porsche- Keith is referring to Xiphos comment above, where they do infer that 'by mistake' is unusual.

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I did miss that Bob, thanks. Of course, what precipitated my comment was Keith saying that he hadn't thought of it as unusual UNTIL NOW. So consider this an expansion of my comment to both address Xiphos and reassure Keith.

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well, grammatically "on accident" is wrong, but as goossun said that language evolves and their ARE some flaws in english that are acceptable and used often.

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