The Linguist Elite

I’ve always been a bit of a grammar and spelling nerd, but I’ve tried to keep it on a personal level without becoming a snob. I mean, writing and speaking well is important sometimes, but so much of what makes people and cultures interesting is the way they use language. Even if most Americans speak English, we don’t all use it in the same way. And there shouldn’t be any judgement involved in the way people talk.

However, sometimes I just can’t keep a lid on it. When politicians make up words or a coworker says “Me and Leah went to lunch,” I cringe.

The other thing is that certain parts of language tend to evolve “incorrectly.” For instance, I’ve always been kind of a nazi about the word “recur.” Whenever someone says “It’s a reoccurring theme…” it takes everything in me not to jump up and yell “RECURRING! It’s a recurring theme!” But recently, I’ve noticed that the word “reoccurring” is in the Microsoft Word dictionary. If you type it in a Word doc, that damn paperclip won’t say a single thing – it just sits there, blinking at you. I can only assume that the word has been used so many times in speech, it’s become acceptable. Similarly, I saw a credit card ad online a year or two ago that actually used the word “alot” and I almost fell off my chair. (On that note, everyone should go check out this rad cartoon about alots).

And in some cases, I’m totally on board with the evolutionary system. For instance, in What Color is Your Parachute, a book I’m embarrassed to say I read, the author has a section in the preface where he discusses the use of “apparently plural pronouns” such as “they,” “them” and “their” instead of the singular he/she. He gives the example of the sign at the beach that says, “Anyone using this beach after 5 p.m. does so at their own risk.” I think anyone would agree that replacing “their” with “his or her” is just awkward and clunky. He argues that in the history of the English language, there was a time when “they,” “them” and “their” could be used in both singular and plural situations, but that changed, “at a time in English history when agreement in number became more important than agreement as to sexual gender. Today however, our priorities have shifted once again. Now the distinguishing of sexual gender is considered by many to be more important than agreement in number.” I totally agree.

I also think words like “funner” and “fishes” should be allowed to pass. But then who’s to say “irregardless” shouldn’t? (Besides me?)

And I often end sentences with prepositions when it would only make me sound stuck up or ridiculous to change them. As Winston Churchill supposedly said, “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

The point of all of this is that I can be a snob sometimes, even though I try hard not to be. And this will be one of those times.

THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

To Whom it May Concern;

1. Pulitzer was a man’s last name. That man pronounced it “PULL-it-sir.”
2. Nuclear refers to the nucleus of an atom. Say it with me, “NOO-klee-er” and “NOO-klee-us.”
3. The thing in your throat is called a larynx. “LAIR-inks.” It has a sibling, the pharynx (“FAIR-inks”) and a cousin named phalanx (“FAY-lanks”). Please note none of these rhyme with “Stevie Nicks.”

Also, Tupac is dead and Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.

That is all.

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5 Comments

Filed under About Me, Too Cool for School

5 responses to “The Linguist Elite

  1. Incorrect words should not be allowed to evolve into the dictionary. The End.

  2. This rules. This whole November blogging thing is treating you well.

    I haven’t had a real soapbox on which to stand (see what I did there?) in a while. I need to get feistier.

    (more feisty? Oh well, don’t care.)

  3. I like this very much, and I identify. Also, I kind of want a pet alot to live in our backyard. Do you think that would scare the chickens?

  4. After hearing a few responses to this post, I guess I need to clarify something. The point I was trying to make is that there is no rhyme or reason to the times when I’m a stickler about language “correctness” and the times I just go with whatever is commonly accepted. It seems that most people are this way and we all just have random pet peeves. However, just because you may fall prey to one of my pet peeves (I know I’ve got friends who say “nucular” on occasion) does NOT mean I judge you. This mostly only applies to people I don’t already know, and the judgement is always completely reversible if that person turns out to be cool. Don’t worry, friends! I still love you! And I’m not perfect, either. Have you seen some of my posts with inappropriate capitalization and overuse of commas? Not to mention the fact that I only recently learned the difference between “further” and “farther?”

  5. I should just post this to my class blog. Yesterday I saw on the National Geographic website a headline that referred to daylight savings time! Savings? National Geographic! Even worse, in the story after the first reference to daylight saving time it said in parentheses (also called daylight savings time). Someone in comments said, no, it’s only incorrectly called daylight savings time. I wanted to add my comment, but all I could get was an error message.
    I always remember your grandfather saying, “We are not savings daylight.”

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