Stop, You’re Killing My Langwitch! (or, Channeling Yogi Berra)

Just after writing my “awesome essay” (“What’s Next after Awesome?”), I happened upon a short internet blog/article about the misuse and overuse of certain words, some of which are not actually words, or are made up, or are common mispronunciations of actual words.  Some notable ones are:

  •  Administrate (rather than administer)
  •  Commentate (rather than comment)
  •  Firstly (rather than using first and so on when ticking off points)
  •  Height (should be pronounced “hite” with no “th” sound)
  •  Irregardless (a made up word, when irrespective or regardless would be better choices)
  •  Orientate (should be orient)
  •  Supposably (as opposed to supposedly)

And then online readers commented with quite a diverse medley of their own pet language peeves, and gave various opinions about language change, and some commented on the “dumbing down” of our language vs. normal language change and evolution.  I had to smile at some of them and nod my head at others.

One misuse I heard in a meeting not long ago was “citate” (when I believe the speaker should have used “cite”).  My inner grammarian winced and tears came to her eyes.  Yes, I agree it is a problem.  So let me comment on this issue further by using some of those citated words (from the internet article) to exemplify a point.  When words are used wrong it has a very impactful affect on listeners and readers, even if you don’t realize it, like children for instance.  Every time a kid hears some bozo say “nucular” on a newscast, he is probably flustrated because his mother has been correcting him often and telling him to say it “nuclear.”  How is a kid supposed to develop correct grammar when all around him people are saying things wrong with the best intentionality?

The constructure of the English language is hard enough without people messing it up with wrong pronounciations.  Foreigners and other adaptaters to our odd ways of speaking and writing are especially challenged, and that is real shame now that we have more immigrunts in our population.  I hear it all the time in the greater Los Angeles area, which is heavily hispanically influenced.  How will they ever get it right, when us native speakers do such a good job of messing it up?

This whole thing is one ginormus challenge for the educassional system to quantifite.  Firstly, you have to documentate and divine the various problems before you can begin to develop a pacific plan of action to rectifine the problem.  Especially when some educators these days are an inturcle part of the problem, misusing words regularly themselves. 

Just look at the Bushisms of our past president George W. Bush.  Humorists filled up a whole book with them, and the late night comicals had a field day.  How does it incentivize a young person to practice correct utility of the language, when our own president has gotten to the top, so to speak, talking almost like an illiterate?  A kid hears that, and thinks, obviously correct grammar utilization is not a big deal.  I think voters should take note — when you hear a person running for office, misusing words like Bush and Sarah Palin out on the campaign trail, think twice about giving them your vote.  Is this the person you want for a roll model for our young people?  Whatever you think of Barrack Obama, at least you have to admit that he is a better speaker than Bush.  That alone is a step toward stopping the verbosinality that seems to have taken over some people’s speech. 

I’ll admit it is a thorny problem.  We need some seriously ingenuitive people to step up and be willing to be accountable for setting proper example so the problem, already bad, doesn’t proliferate into something too massive to bufferize.

I know many reading this will be band wagging in agreeance.

What’s Next after Awesome?

Our American slang morphs and evolves, just like the rest of all languages. I don’t keep up with all of it, but lately I have become more than acutely aware of the overuse of the word “awesome” to describe, refer to, or comment on just about everything. Actually, it’s been bugging me for quite a while and so I just have to say something.

I myself grew up in the days when the in phrase was “bitchin.” OK, so I’ve dated myself. Then followed: cool, hot, hip, far out, rad, bad, blown away, OMG, “the bomb” and “you totally rock” — not necessarily in that order. The problem I have with “awesome” is this: if everything is awesome, then what term do you use for something that truly evokes awe and wonder, like a near spiritual experience, such as seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, or seeing lions in the wild in the African bush, seeing certain Hubble spacecraft photos, or witnessing the birth of a child? Many of my acquaintances use awesome to comment on a good job of parallel parking, a great restaurant dessert, a grand slam in bridge, a good movie, a favorite song, a favorite actor or actress, maybe even a favorite teacher – “he’s awesome.” So, do we need to invent a new word or phrase for those moving, amazing, incredible occasions that almost take your breath away? Continue reading