“I personally think we developed language because of our deep need to complain.”—Lily Tomlin.
Have you actually ever paid attention to the things you say and the things that are said to you every day?
Warning: Doing so can be more than a little disturbing to even the ordinary person, and downright traumatic should one be cursed with both lexophilia (being a lover of words) and lack of patience with plain, old-fashioned stupidity.
Being the latter cannot only plant seeds of doubt that mankind is truly the higher species, but also cause one to pretty well stay offended all the time these days, when our sins against the language are legion and ubiquitous.
There’s a growing tendency, it seems to me, to take perfectly good words of one sort (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc.) and turn them—for no apparent reason—into abominations by transforming them into other kinds of words which they are not. This is simply a terrible thing to do and I blame much of it on social media and that blemish on contemporary society’s incentives to abbreviate its drivel.
As example, Facebook is directly responsible for turning the very useful noun “friend” into an extraordinarily wretched verb, as in, “I will friend you.” Apparently the linguistic sin inherent in such a vile act goes largely unnoticed by both “friender” and “friendee” within their subsequent ease to share with one another what each had for breakfast or the pictorial splendor of one’s spiffy new pair of shoes.
And then there are the truly surprising large number of things we say, which with even the most cursory of examinations, are quickly revealed to make no sense whatsoever.
As example, how many times, upon hearing of another’s misfortune of one sort or another, have you said that you “really feel badly” for him or her? You are not alone, the President of the United States, for one, is wont to say this all the time, usually about an associate who has fallen afoul of one or more laws.
But I rather doubt that either of you is saying what you really mean—that you feel bad about your acquaintance’s misfortune. Saying you feel badly is saying that you are unable to feel properly or appropriately. If an event made you melancholy, would you say you felt “sadly” about it?
Similarly, when you say that you “could care less” about something, you are actually saying the exact opposite of what you mean—that you could not care less about it. And that brings us to “irregardless,” a non-word people say when they really mean “regardless,” and one which suggests they might be candidates for dull normal on the intelligence range.
When folks are either desperate or exasperated, they all too often can be heard to say “I am literally at the end of my rope.” And that, of course, can only be literally true if he or she is climbing down from somewhere on a rope that is too short.
And then there are these:
• “Added bonus”— This just in, if it’s bonus, it’s added.
• “End result”— Think a minute; there can be no other kind of result.
• “What’s done is done”— Gosh. Do you think?
• “ATM machine”— That is literally saying automatic teller machine machine.
• Future plans”— What other kind of plans might one make? Past plans?
• “Refer back”— This one makes me crazy. Please, just try to refer forward. Go ahead, take your time.
• “Momentarily”— When people say this, what they almost always mean is in a moment.
• “Do you want an honest answer?”— No. I prefer you continue to lie to me since you are now offering up honesty as a heretofore unexplored option.
• “Wouldn’t you know, it was in the last place I looked?”— Well, I should certainly hope so, you twit. Why would you continue to search for that which has already been found?
• “Let’s agree to disagree.”— This is increasingly popular idiocy. If you and I disagree about something, then we disagree about it. Why would I give the first tinker’s damn about our subsequently reaching some inane agreement about the previously established fact of our disagreement?
• “Still water runs deep.”— Does it now? Water either runs or is still but doesn’t do both at the same time.
• “Where you at?”— This does cause me and should cause even the semi-literate among us physical pain. It should also be mandatory within any civilized society that anyone guilty of so grievous a sin against the language be forced to at all times wear a baseball cap bearing the words “Bumpkin below.”
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.