Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Verbal Abuse: Part I

Perhaps it is because my parents were school teachers (science teachers, in fact) and made a concerted effort to emphasize the importance of using proper spelling and grammar, being factual, and having a general knowledge of and respect for the English language. Or, perhaps my recent efforts to learn another language have heightened my sensitivity to the challenges that the use of poor/incorrect word choice creates in the communication process. Whatever the reason, the fact is that one of my pet peeves is verbal abuse. I am by no means perfect; however, I think it is important for people to make an effort to recognize and correct violations of the rules of good communication, or we risk the whole system unraveling into chaos.

As Red Foreman would say, "Without rules, we might as well all sit up in a tree and fling crap at each other".

Here are a few instances of verbal abuse that have been driving me nuts lately. I labeled this blog entry "Verbal Abuse Part I" because I know it is inevitable that I will have to add to this list over time.

1. I'm 1000% percent certain. Really? Because I'm 100% certain that you don't understand how percentages work.

2. It cost a kazilion million dollars. I believe the purpose of this one is to emphasize the high cost of something. Unfortunately, it does more to reflect poorly on your intelligence than to emphasize the point that is being relayed.

3. Irregarless. Do you mean regardless? Do you think that adding a prefix makes you sound more intelligent? Guess what, it doesn't.

4. Preexisting. I accept that this word actually exists; however, I have yet to hear it used properly outside of the example provided in the dictionary.

5. Orientated. I believe you mean to say oriented. Just because so many people get it wrong that it has worked its way into the Microsoft spellchecker, doesn’t make it right.

6. Anal preoccupation. Wha? I am deeply troubled that it socially acceptable to reference this body part in this way. Particularly in a business context, one should not use body parts to accentuate a point.


Blogger Patty said...

When do we get to read part II?

April 17, 2007 at 10:26:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting...living in a place where, suddenly, I'm the one who 'talks funny' the issue of language democracy comes up pretty much every day. Although I'm an language snob through and through, I'm surprisingly finding myself on the relativity/democracy side of the fence more and more. If enough people do it, does that make it right? As far as the evolution of language, I'm afraid I might have to say yes....

Although never in the case of the word 'decadent.' Look it up people. It doesn't mean what you think it means. Right. Except that.

April 18, 2007 at 9:42:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha ha. I mean "I'm a language snob."

Ha ha.


April 18, 2007 at 9:43:00 AM MDT  
Blogger tori said...

Patty - I hope, for the sake of my own sanity, that part deux does not come too soon - but perhaps what follows here might qualify.

Emma - Language Democracy! I love it. I may have to steal that label.
You raise an excellent point. Language does evolve. I have stewed on this point myself, particularly after having recently finished The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. On the surface, it provides a history of the project, but, on a deeper level, it is a monument to the history, beauty and complexity of the English language. It has made me consider the extent to which our language really is a 'work in progress'; however, it has also reinforced for me the value of having a set of rules to shape how we communicate. That it took over 75 years for the dictionary to reach 'completion' (recognizing that it will never actually be complete), is a testament to the importance of adhering to the guidelines and rules that we have established for communication. Evolution is good, it implies growth and development. Democracy can also be good, but it doesn't always necessarily result in growth and development. The rise of poor english within the system is not so much a matter of evolution as it is a matter of the language democracy being dominated by an apparently illiterate majority.
There's nothing wrong with being a language snob, Emma. It's great to have some company.

April 18, 2007 at 11:16:00 AM MDT  
Blogger tori said...

Nice call on decadent, by the way. I'll admit to, perhaps, not fully appreciating the definition (before today), but it's also a word that I don't use much. Have you noticed how "random" seems to have become the new "cool/terrible/awesome/great/crazy/boring"? Oh how the mindless masses make me crazy!

April 18, 2007 at 11:24:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have another example of verbal abuse for you. It drives me absolutely crazy when people say, "that's a whole nother story." It makes no sense - NOTHER is not a word!

April 21, 2007 at 11:06:00 AM MDT  
Blogger jon said...

interesting... i have to say that i agree with you tori but i can't resist pointing out that you spelled the "non-word" irregardless wrong.

don't examine my prose too acutely?!?

April 29, 2007 at 10:58:00 PM MDT  

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