Word pedantry as punching bag

19 Mar

Okay, I know that was a couple of kinda heavy posts. Michael accused me yesterday of over-analyzing a nice moment in my life. I don’t deny it, but this is what happens when a girl doesn’t get enough girl talk time and her husband’s been working 24 hours on some project for the last three days and she’s had to do all the child-rearing and cooking and what-not herself. Not that I’m complaining, I’m just sayin’ is all.

Some people let their hair down by going to the gym and punching a heavy bag for a while. Me, I’m not that kind of physical (and I’m not letting my hair down, either, ’cause it took forever to do it this morning, and it’s still not cooperating) so I’m thinking of punching around some words. Whaddya say, wanna play?

On my old blog, I used to have an occasional rant about misused words, punctuation, and expressions. Strangely, I was usually motivated to write these posts when I had noticed a particular mistake multiple times in a short period of time. Why would there suddenly be a rash of people misusing “decimate” or “poring“? Do these things spread like viruses or something?

Lately, I’ve noticed a spate of “peaked” people. As in “you have peaked my curiosity”. Which I suppose could have some meaning to it. But the word you really want, my dears, is “piqued”. That’s from the French “piquer”, which means “to prick”. Yes, you have pricked my curiosity. Doesn’t that sound so much more elegant? It has a certain je ne sais quoi, non?

Also? Why have I seen several instances of “I’ll make due” in the last few weeks? That’s just bizarre. Do you work at a library and are you setting due dates for books? If so, you should be clearer. Otherwise, you should do like the rest of us and make do.

Ah, I feel better already.

While I’m at it, may I just add that I shudder when I hear someone say “nuke-ular”. I mean, that’s just ugly, and spreading that kind of ugly should be illegal. Say it with me, George W., it’s two syllables, not three, and it goes “NEW-clear”.

There’s another word I hate, although technically there’s nothing wrong with it. The word is “utilize”. Ugh. And double-ugh.

I’m afraid this one is Strunk and White’s fault because I read The Elements of Style many years ago, and the authors rant — yes, rant! — about “-izing” words. They didn’t like the word “moisturize”, for example. Why moisturize your skin, they argue, when you can simply moisten it? Well, I’m afraid I don’t agree with them, but they might be forgiven, since the original version of the book was written in 1918. However, ever since I read that bit in their book, I shudder when I see or hear the word “utilize”. Why not replace it with the much more elegant “use”?

I remember getting into an argument about this with a classmate in university when we were working on a group project. I wanted eliminate “utilize” from our paper but she insisted on putting it in. Her argument was that her mother was an English major, and she uses the word. Ha! I just can’t imagine arguing with someone over this these days. (Instead, I’d just reach for a paper bag. And lose my lunch into it.)

Well, that was refreshing! Care to add some fisticuffs of your own?

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13 Responses to “Word pedantry as punching bag”

  1. Beanie March 19, 2008 at 8:28 am #

    Hey, Fawny? I found a typo in this post! I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the 2nd to last paragraph. You forgot to put something in. 😛

    I, for one, hate (and I do mean absolutely HATE) the word “sassy”. Plus the current trend of adding “licious” onto the end of existing words to make totally new (and stupid-sounding) words (ie. Fawnlicious – BTW, Fawn, I apologize for just doing that to you).

  2. Trudie March 19, 2008 at 9:06 am #

    Has there been an official ban on using the word ‘problem’ in the US and Canada?
    I think it was somewhere around -96 or so I heard someone use ‘issue’ instead the first time. As this was on Op*rah or a similar show, I only noted it as a buzz-word at the time – but now! I am almost at the point of dropping people from my blog-roll when someone uses this obnoxious word!

  3. Jon Gel March 19, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    When you wrote:

    “There’s another word I hate, although technically there’s nothing wrong with it.”

    I was hoping that you were going to say that the word was ‘technically’.

    That word has been giving me a particular amount of grief lately. I keep giving unsatisfactory explanations to my 5yr old and every time I use it she calls me on it.
    “Dad, what does technically mean?”

    Maybe this definition from dictionary.com will satisfy her (since she seems to love to do things that technically she shouldn’t)

    technically – adverb
    according to strict obedience to laws or rules
    Example: Technically, you aren’t allowed to do that, but I don’t suppose anyone will object.

  4. Meandering Michael March 19, 2008 at 9:46 am #

    “Orientated” gets under my skin.

    Also, there seems to be a rash of people using the phrase, “the perfect storm” – especially when the situation can hardly be described as a “storm”.

  5. MommyTime March 19, 2008 at 9:55 am #

    Ohhh… “peak” has been getting my attention lately too (and not in a happy-happy way). The ones that drive me nuts, however, are confusion of its with it’s and their with there. Interestingly, not all possessives have an apostrophe — such as his, hers, mine, ours, their, AND its. And yet, there it is: “when the lion shakes it’s mane…” and I just wince and cringe and get all eye-rollingly unreasonable. I hear ya!

  6. fawnahareo March 19, 2008 at 9:57 am #

    Oooh, everyone, good stuff! (Oops, I mean bad stuff, of course.)

    Beanie, I suppose I ought to savour the irony of it all, but I can’t for the life of me find the typo of which you speak. I assume you’re not referring to my many (artistic) sentence fragments. 😉

  7. YukonJen March 19, 2008 at 11:15 pm #

    You Fawn. You are a definitely a logomachist. I’m so glad there are others out there.

    Functionality. What the hell is a functionality? A functional function?

    I can’t stand the word utilize either and I actually judge people who do use it.

    Also, anybody who uses the phrase: Like, you know. Like.

    Here is part of a conversation I overheard today: “…and he was like, you know. And I was like, you know.

    There were no words. Just like and like.

    Ugh. I want to reach out an slap ’em and say: No. I don’t know.

    Good night Fawn-a-licious.

  8. IndyComp0T1 March 20, 2008 at 6:38 am #

    I smiled when I read your post because I’ve been thinking of writing a similar post on my blog. My grammatical pet-peeves include:

    – Saying “it’s” when you really mean “its” (and vice-versa).
    – Incorrect use of possessives and plurals. I have a friend who writes things like “Parent’s don’t listen to their children.” I feel like taking out a big red IM pen whenever I see him write that crap on MSN.
    – Incorrect use of “I” and “me”. Many people say, “Please come see Jim and I if you have any questions”, where it should really read “Please come see Jim and me if you have any questions.” The rule of thumb that I was always taught is that in those cases, you just remove the other person (in this case Jim) from the sentence, and see if it makes sense with “I” or “me”. Works like a charm! Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of this grammatical rule and just assume that I’m the one making the grammatical blunder.

    PS: I TOTALLY agree with you on the mispronunciation of the word “nuclear”. That one drives me nuts, especially when Dubbya does it. It looks so bad when a world leader can’t even get it right.

  9. fawnahareo March 20, 2008 at 9:29 am #

    Haha, YukonJen – my status on Facebook yesterday referred to me being both a logophile and a logomachist. Thanks for enriching my vocabulary!

    Indy – ooh, yes! I had forgotten about the I and me thing, but that drives me crazy, too.

    In one of Susan Aglukark’s original albums (before she got famous with “O Siem”) there’s a beautiful song that is forever marred for me because in the chorus she sings, “Somewhere there’s a place for you and I.” The lyrics can’t easily be changed because it’s a rhyming line. What a shame that a song with such a beautiful melody made me cringe every time I heard it.

    Also, I have admit that “nuclear” may technically (sorry Jon) have three syllables. My friend Tanya commented on this note in Facebook to point it out: nü-klē-ər. Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

  10. Ripplebliss March 20, 2008 at 3:51 pm #

    A bit off-topic, I know, but here is my pet peeve: marketing lingo that relies on the “feelings” (yes, the sarcasm is deliberate) of words rather than their meanings. Case-in-point: the rash of new suburban (and often urban) developments and their gaily-painted advert banners with their smug J.Crew-clad couples.

    How can a big box-shaped condo on the corner of a major Victoria intersection possibly be considered “Fresh” or “Bold” and provide one with “A dazzling new outlook on life”? And to call the apartments “Rezidenzas”!? That’s just insulting.
    Almost as bad as naming new, recently clear-cut, concrete-veneered developments after what they USED to be, like “Poet’s Grove”, “Riverwoods”, “Orchard Lane” or “Forest Walk”. Sad.

  11. fawnahareo March 21, 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    Haha, ‘Chelle, I hear what you’re saying. There’s a hotel in Whitehorse whose tagline is “Making bold moves into a bright new future” and it makes me think, “What bold moves? What kind of stupid slogan is that? It doesn’t even SAY anything!”

  12. Beanie March 21, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    I, for one, have always found it reduntant that restaurants will use terms like, “Tasty marinated chicken, served on a fresh roll with crisp garden greens…” Yesiree! Because what I REALLY want to eat is the icky, rubber chicken that comes on a stale, moldy roll with soggy, wilted lettuce.

    Or the current trend of using fancy-sounding names to market food. I was in the grocery store last night and saw labels advertising, “A good source of prebiotics!” on everything from yogurt to fresh produce. Of course, not everyone knows that prebiotics are more commonly known as “fibre”.

  13. Meandering Michael March 22, 2008 at 11:01 am #

    Let’s not forget flyers that are full of “sales”. A store has a sale, not sales.

    Even worse, are infomercials that invite you to “call now for a Free Gift!” (punctuation intentional) I was not aware that you are supposed to pay when someone gives you a gift.

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