Old Moon

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pet Peeves

You have to remember that I was once an English teacher and try to forgive my crankiness. I have a series of increasingly irritible peeves with the "media." If we're all to be exposed to so much palaver on the air and in print, it seems to me the least the talkers can do is to say what they (presumably) mean instead of getting in trouble by using words and/or expressions they don't understand, and thus leading a whole generation to follow them in their errors. I get so hot under the collar...!

For example: enormity. This word has nothing whatsoever to do with physical size! The meaning refers to something so out of the realm of morality that it exceeds all ordinary measure--of awfulness, cruelty, sinfulness.

Begs the question: this does not mean that whatever it is raises or asks a question. This is a term used in debating, and which is defined (all three words) as meaning "to evade or dodge." Therefore, to use it to suggest that an occurrence makes other questions arise is the opposite of what the speaker really means.

English is a language richer in words than almost all others. The precision it makes possible is one of its greatest attractions for me. I get pretty annoyed when people insist on saying "bring" when they mean "take." You don't bring your car to the garage for repairs, you take it there.

Why do anchors on TV programs insist on saying so-and-so has convinced someone to go or do anything? Granted, they might need to be convinced before they would be persuaded to do it. But one is convinced of something about which one was doubtful or opposed to; one is persuaded to do something. Note the prepostions.

"Sloppy" is the word that comes to mind. If people speak so sloppily, how are they to convince us that they don't think equally sloppily? It's hard for me to believe that those who learned English as a second language and learned it properly might not see this imprecision as a sign that Americans were less than in command of what is actually in their heads. Scary.

Sign this "Curmudgeon."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Joan, I understand your feelings, but as for the word enormity, our dictionary lists 'greatness of size' as a definition. It also states that it is a perfectly acceptable definition, but some people are adamantly opposed to this definition (as you seem to be). Perhaps that is one of the changes that has been added because of popular usage.