My adoring fans demand, demand, a new post. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that overwhelming. Fully half of my regular readers asked me to get back on the keyboard and do something. Well, it’s really only one person, Dish, but since I have only two regular readers it’s technically half. (update: while I was intermittently composing this, curlywurlygurly chimed in in agreement, so now 100% of my quote fans unquote are breathing down my neck).
My response? The hoariest of blog staples: the diatribe on word usage and grammar! Ta-da!
Yes, I know everyone does at least one of these. But in this case I’m doing it to show you all that I’m not special. I’m just like everyone else: I put my panties on one leg at a time (then I take them off because they’re inside-out, put them on one leg at a time again, take them off because they’re backwards, and put them on yet again one leg at a time – hmm… maybe I am “special”).
So anyway, I have so many gripes about language that I’m sure I could write a whole book on the subject, but I’ll limit this post to a select few that are (a) most prominent in my mind right now, and (b) have, I believe, not already been written about to death by every blogger and their little sister (apostrophes, axe vs. ask, “should of,” et al.).
- “Me, personally” Why do people say this when expressing their opinion? It’s so blatantly redundant. “Me” indicates that it’s the speaker’s take on things, as does “personally.” All you have to do is say, “Personally, I think blah blah blah” or, “As for me, I think yadda yadda,” or simply “I think so-and-so should keep his opinions to himself.” Can you imagine someone declaring, “Me, impersonally, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two legs.” I just did a google search for the quoted phrase “me, personally” and received 5.83 million results, many of which, surprisingly to me, turn out to be objects of sentences, as in, “[It was] a sad day for me personally.” Grrr, grrr, grrrrr!
- The “yes-no” phenomenon. First of all, I want to confess that, even though it grates me like chalk on fingernails [sic], I am guilty of this linguistic transgression. I feel about it the same way I did when I would catch myself gratuitously saying “like” as a teenager. I don’t even understand the intention or motivation behind this one, but I’ve found myself, along with so many others, uttering it more and more frequently. I’m referring to when one says “yes! no!” (or “yeah! no!” or some other variation) while enthusiastically agreeing with another person, just before launching into an excited elaboration of said agreement. It seems to me that there’s an underlying psychological reason for this blurtage, but I can’t for the life of me prise what its source might be. It definitely feels like a societal phenomenon that’s still on the rise.
- “quote-unquote” You know what I’m talking about. In speech it’s when someone actually pantomimes the ditto marks to make sure you know they’re being mocking. On the printed page (or glowy monitor) they will even introduce a phrase with the hyphenated quote-unquote written out, a compound prefixal participle. I don’t have a problem with the sentiment (you know how I like to mock), it’s the practice that irks me. The quotes go around the phrase, so if you’re speaking the thing, you should in my opinion keep making those ditto-mark curls through the length of the quoted material, not just at the beginning. And if you’re writing it, put the damn things where they belong, just spell them out so your readers understand you’re being ironic.
- “everyone doesn’t” (includes “everything doesn’t” and other variants) This one drives me crazy because it makes no sense. I retract that; it makes sense, but it is so obviously not what the speaker intends to convey. It’s a logic thing, I think. When one says, “Everyone doesn’t need to participate in the 193rd Annual Muybridge County Cowmilking Extravaganza” that means that no one is required to lay hand to udder. Zip, Nadie. But what’s really meant is that some have to: “Not everyone needs to participate…” or if the opposite is true: “No one needs to…”
- “oversight” This word is so damaged that it needs to be expunged entirely from the English language. It has two main definitions, dialectical opposites of each other. From Merriam-Webster:
oversight: \ˈō-vər-ˌsīt\ (noun) 1a: watchful and responsible care b: regulatory supervision 2: an inadvertent omission or error
Unlike its opposite-definition cohort cleave (verb: to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly; to separate into distinct parts and especially into groups having divergent views), it’s practically impossible to glean from context which meaning of oversight is intended. Oversight is unsalvageable, all the more so since one of its most common usages is in the phrase “congressional oversight.” I’m pretty cynical when it comes to governmental efficacy, but that’s just too easy to make fun of.