I Know What You Mean, But You’re Not Saying What You Think You’re Saying

If you’ve spent more than five minutes having a conversation with me, you know that I can be a bit of an ass when it comes to proper use of the language. As one of my cool bosses used to say, when you get to a certain point in your life or your career, “you’ve just got to know The King's English." Now maybe I’m weird because http://www.dictionary.com/ is one of my favorite web-sites, and I know I’ve mentioned before some of the most common pet peeves – it’s/its, your/you’re, there/their, to/too, ensure/insure, then/than, that sort of thing. I’m not saying I’m perfect, hell just the other day I used the word “inciteful” to describe something Brian Wood did. I didn’t mean “insightful,” I know how to use that, I meant something that had the power to “incite,” and writing fast that sounded right, but I looked it up later to find I’d just made it up and used it incorrectly, when I could have used variations of “instigate” or “provocation” instead. But three really choice ones have been popping up around me repeatedly for the last few weeks, and I just need to vent.

First, let’s examine an oldie but a goodie – use of the term “literally.” This word has been so overused as a means of random enhancement that it’s in danger of losing its literal meaning. Heh. See how I just did that? It’s supposed to be used to differentiate between a figurative (like metaphorical) and a literal (like actual) thing taking place. So yeah, don’t tell me that he “literally blew up,” or “literally shit himself,” or “literally lost it,” unless he actually swallowed a stick of dynamite and exploded, actually physically crapped his pants from laughing so hard, or was in possession of “it” and now is not.

Second, I have a coworker who insists on interjecting the word – and I’m using the word “word” loosely here – “reitify” into nearly every conversation he’s involved in. We’ll be in the middle of a staff meeting and he’ll blurt out authoritatively in his deep baritone “I think it’d be a good idea just to ‘reitify’ our policy on this.” And me being me, well I always retort “Yes Mike, we can certainly reiterate or clarify that policy if you feel it would be helpful.” But my correction seems to be lost on him. After growing tired of this repetitious scene, I finally asked my coworkers if they noticed it just to ensure I wasn’t insane. We had fun for days sending this explanation around to eachother.

Lastly, I’ve noticed a resurgence in the use of the wacky term “agreeance,” as in “Yes, I’m in agreeance with that.” This is another wholly made up word that sure sounds like it could be real, but it’s really not necessary when you can just say “agreement” in its place. Not to mention, I can’t think of any actual word in the English language off the top of my head that permits the “e, e, a” sequence for spelling. You can have “e, e” or “e, a” but I’ve not seen “e, e, a” ever.

So "than," "its" just "too" be clear, but let me "reitify" that I will "literally" die if someone "insures" me "their" in "agreeance" with any of this.


At 5:09 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

*LOL* Reitify! Lovin' it. Wish I could sit in on that staff mtg, just to hear your response and watch it bounce right off him. :)

Ryan in Africa
Elephant Eater Comics

At 4:00 AM, Anonymous ennaress said...

I am right with you regarding you of correct English; British English that is. I realise you are in the US although I can't tell if you're English or not. Anyway, the point. It's the Queen's English, not King's! It will be the King's English soon. But let's not hasten our great Sovereign's demise too soon! By the way, I am a real follower of the erosion of our language, particularly of course relating to the web / sms etc. One you don't mention above: ad hoc. How many times is this misused?!!! Keep up the blogging.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Hi Ennaress,

Thanks for the comment. I am in the US, and not English btw, but as far as I know the saying (at least in the US) is correct. This is not just a loose reference to the language of the Queen of England, but to "The King's English," referring to the book of the same name, written by the Fowler brothers in 1906 on correct English usage and grammar, more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King's_English



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