STEPHEN SMITH: Column Generates Response
It's enough to restore one's faith in humankind -- 22 e-mails listing various lingo complaints.
I mentioned "went missing" or "gone missing" and "size matters" as two of the latest language irritants. But readers came up with a slew of trendy but irksome idiomatic nonsense that has begun to invade spoken English. Apparently, some of us still care about how English is employed and to what effect.
"Growing my business" is an expression that my friend David Young finds exasperating.
"What could that possibly mean?" he asks. "Growing my business doesn't mean anything! It's dead air. When I was working" -- David is now happily retired from some sort of shady accounting enterprise -- "I used to hear that all the time. It just gets on my nerves."
Beverly Shebs took the time to write a long e-mail about her concerns:
"Your column of today caught my eye, and I enjoyed it immensely.It struck a chord! Being a grandmother of many older children, the every other word of 'like' used to drive me insane.
"The biggest problem, however, is grammatical errors, not only theirs, but in the media. Grammar was a very important part of our English language when I was growing up, but has since been forsaken. I cringe whenever I hear the following on Fox News, the History Channel, or even the National Geographic Channel: 'further instead of farther, or vice versa'; 'take instead of bring, or vice versa'; 'me instead of I, or vice versa' I correct them, but they don't hear me.
"Furthermore, they do not know how to pronounce common Western states, i.e. Colorado or Nevada. Colorado is pronounced like 'rad as in radish'; Nevada is pronounced like 'ad as in addition.' In California, we grow 'apricots,' pronounced as in 'April,' not as in 'apt.'
"Bill O'Reilly is the only commentator 'of whom I am aware' that I have not had to criticize. Well, maybe once! He does send us to the dictionary looking up his weird words describing that which he considers to be his acts of frustration, either for him or his viewer. Too bad, Bill -- I can't remember what they were!
"This may be some 'food for thought,' or is that an English phrase only used by us of a past generation?"
Bill Lindau also had a lot to say:
"More a response than an expression, but it's annoying as hell to me. Especially after you've just shared some really important or interesting news with that person.
"That kind of deadpan answer, coupled with a hangdog, droopy-eyed look, can really wreck a wonderful mood. Examples include:
You: This is really fabulous. I just got a job doing so-and-so....
Listener: (looking at you with droopy bloodhound eyes): Oh, OK.
You: Man, oh, man. Bono just got the Nobel Peace Prize.
Listener: Oh, OK.
You: Wow. My neighbor's wife just gave birth to identical dectuplets with four arms.
Listener: Oh, OK.
"Saying 'Oh, OK,' gives me the impression that the person who says this really doesn't give a hoot, or he just doesn't comprehend it. That's what makes my blood boil.
"I've said it myself a few times, but that doesn't excuse it; I know the person I've said it to has just had his/her proverbial parade rained on.
"I think if you can't feel the same delight or interest that somebody has just shared with you, at least act as if you're happy or interested. Say, 'Hey, that's really nice,' or 'Oh, man, cool,' or 'Wow, that's something.' Break into a smile to make your reaction more convincing."
Good points, Bill.
If you've got a language concern, e-mail it to me at email@example.com.
Stephen Smith is a former English professor at Sandhills Community College.
More like this story