Aug 13, 2008

For all you English majors out there

I recently read a book that quite honestly has me afraid to ever talk or write anything again. It's called Literally, the Best Language Book Ever: Annoying Words and Abused Phrases You Should Never Use Again, by Paul Yeager. Three words: fanatical language purist. I don't think this author thinks that language should change or evolve, let alone be fun or amusing. However, amidst the mildly annoying ranting, he did have some valid and thought provoking points about language and communication, and embarrassingly it was a little educational. His main point is that we tend to use trite or trendy phrases and words without thinking about what we really want to say, and the result is ineffective communication. (I just had to look up "ineffective" in his book to make sure it wasn't on the blacklist-- it's a pretty long list, almost 200 pages. Like I said, kind of makes you afraid to talk.) Yeager's laundry list of offenses include grammatical errors, redundancy and repetition (long litany), illogical phrases (that's nothing to sneeze at), trendy expressions (don't go there, wow factor), nouns used as verbs (google it, text me), cliches (Rome wasn't built in a day), inarticulate language , incorrectly used words (empower, literally), overused words and phrases, and non words (irregardless). My biggest language crime: hyperboles. Big time. I also said "supposively" for years (that's not in the book, but I just feel the need to confess it). Here are some more examples of things that, according to Yeager, should be banned from our language:
I could care less
it's all good
my bad
whatever floats your boat
bang for your buck
bring it on
what's up
I gave 110%
chill out
back in the day
war on terror
think outside the box

Some of those things I just don't know if I can give up. But one thing I absolutely can agree with is ginormous. Yes, we get it-- gigantic and enormous, but unless you want to sound like you never passed the 2nd grade, please do not ever use this word. Ever.

So, what's your language pet peeve?


Courtney said...

I hate "ATM Machine, VIN number and PIN number." Don't they know what those last initials stand for?

I also hate "Me and ..." and when people use "bring" and "take" wrong. Those two words are NOT interchangable!



I fear I would fall in love with this man.

Every day I read the newspaper I find stupid mistakes that should have been caught by an editor other than the one in India.

One mistake I have hated for probably 25 years is "...come with?" as in, "Hey, we're going to the gas station to check the air pressure in our heads. Want to come with?"

"...Come with?"
"...COME WITH?!!!!!"

It's "...come with ME?" or "...come with US?" you profoundly ignorant barely coherent waste of a pitifully inadequate public school education!

I have venom, so much venom, for these people. It is on par with the venom which poisons all my best Christian intentions when some _____ clips his/her nails in church.

I think the "...come with?" epidemic began with people who wanted to sound "valley" in the 80s.

One other thing that will someday give me an aneurysm is any response to a "yes/no" question that includes anything other than one of those words. After the alleged answer, if I can, I try to make the point by saying, "Soooo, yes." or "Soooo, no.", but often I have to ask the question again because it hasn't been answered. This repetition often causes bewilderment.

This is a rant I could stay on for hours.


I take back the first sentence of my last comment.

Here is a link with the author's picture.

Neva said...

Yikes! This guy seiously needs a girlfriend.
I admit it. I use the phrase "chill out, please" more often than I would like to admit (I'm the mother of three and a Webelos leader of five - it's generally my command for everyone to pipe down), but my biggest language pet peeve is one that I hear so, so often in Idaho. I hate it when people use the word "was" instead of "were." Example: Instead of saying, "We were going to the circus and ..." some folks say, "We was going to the circus and ..." And they say it like "wuz." Way to sound like uneducated hillbillies! Makes me cringe every time.

Sara said...

It drives me crazy when people say "I was like..." and "she was like" before they say what someone said.

I have to admit I actually caught myself doing this a while back when I was nervously rambling to someone. I want to go back in time and stop myself from such stupidity.


Here's an opportunity for self loathing.

Last night I was talking to a guy at church and I caught myself saying, "...but that's a whole 'nother story."

Once I realized how stupid that is, I spent the drive home thinking about how it should be said, "...but that's another whole story." This way just sounds awkward to me.

It will be very hard for me to correct this grammatical travesty.

Bob/Kristy said...

I read the Strunk and White book Elements of Style about a year ago, and I was surprised at how much I agreed with it, and how many of the specific nuggets mentioned in it had been taught to me nearly verbatim by Mrs. Splaingarrd in 6th grade. (A loaf of bread is DONE, you are FINISHED!)

So of course I cringe inwardly when someone says something that I take particular pains to be precise about, but I have to plead guilty to many grammatical sins. I simply don't care if I refer to a hypothitical individual of uncertain gender using "them" or "their" instead of a singular term. I would far rather do that than use the more egregious (to me) she/he. I also think I will never break the habit of saying "I'm all" or "I'm like", much to mom's chagrin (yes, I still remember the story about it she clipped from Reader's Digest).

Just to be contrarian, I really like some of the banned phrases. I think they can add flavor to your speech and writing, when used well. How can you get rid of "whatever floats your boat" or "bring it on"? They express ideas and eomtional attitudes in one small, commonly understood package! How dull and colorless language would be without such shorthand phrases. The problem is probably that everyone thinks they use them well, with the proper sense of irony or judiciousness; bad judgement then leads to overuse.

While it technically is nonsensical, I see no reason to change a phrase like "thats a whole 'nother story". So sue me. You'll take my stupid catchphrases from me when you pry them from my cold dead hands.

I do, however, draw the line with accronyms like LOL.

LongBoardLarry said...

I was like, I'm fixin' to go to the ATM Machine with my Pin. Wanna come with? You were like, no. I was like, that's a whole nother story.

There, now everyone hates me. Don't worry I can take it. You wouldn't believe how many times I've been accused of destroying the English language by readers. I don't lose one bit of sleep over it.

Everyone take a big GINORMOUS breath.


Bob/Kristy said...

Donna- I told you about Best of the Web on Opinionjournal- here are some of their examples of headlines that can be interpreted more than one way. The first line is opinionjournal's comment, and the part in quotations is the actual headline. Enjoy!

Stay Away From Obama Ducks
"Obama Ducks Call to Push Reform in Illinois"--headline, Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 12

'It's a Wicked Salty Buzz, Dude'
"Saline High Getting Good Reviews"--headline, Ann Arbor (Mich.) News, Sept. 10

First Same-Sex Marriage, Now This
"Pumpkin and Apples Wed Well in Oven Pancake"--headline, Associated Press, Sept. 12

Help Wanted
"FBI Seeking 'Cross-Dressing' Bank Bandit"--headline,, Sept. 11