Tolerance low for poor word usage [UPDATED]Published 9:32am Friday, August 2, 2013 Updated 11:37am Friday, August 2, 2013
As time goes by, I find that I have less and less patience with some of the word misuse I hear, read and see. By some of it, I mean that when it comes to verbs, I’m pretty obsessive about correct use. When it comes to creatively misusing other English words, I’m all for it.
But that doesn’t mean I’m too involved here in verb structure. I never did really get the whole conditional, imperative, subjunctive, indicative thing, or any other name English perfectionists tried to pound into my head.
First, I’m all for “ain’t.” I think ain’t is a great American invention. No one else has it. Go for it, I ain’t gonna care. (Future pluperfect. Bragging a little.) “Gonna” is one that I have no problem with. Like ain’t, it’s here to stay.
But I have a lot of difficulty with otherwise educated people who haven’t cared enough to figure out the present, past, or future use of the verb “see.” Present: I, you, we see. Past: I, you, we saw. Future: I, you, we will see.
Simple. But. I seen her yesterday. Oh, you did? You seen her yesterday? No, you did not. You perhaps saw her, or you perhaps have seen her at some time in the past, but you did not seen her. That one gives me trouble. Really, for someone like myself who doesn’t care about a lot of other misuses and abuses of the English language, I cannot quite forgive that one. It grates on my brain when I hear it.
Lately, I’ve come across misuses of the word “geometric,” as people say or write something like: “Interest rates are rising at a geometric rate.”
No they are not. Interest rates have nothing to do with squares, triangles, and circles; therefore, they cannot rise at square, or circular, or triangular rates. They can, however, rise at exponential rates. The word “exponential” refers to math in a fashion that will support statements about stuff changing at an ever-faster pace. Take the number two. Two squared is four. Three squared is nine. Now, there, the change from four to nine is an exponential rate of change. Not. Geometric.
At many meetings in academia, I heard many ideas presented. I also heard many references made to “flushing” those ideas out, to fill in the details involved in implementing those ideas.
Folks? We flush the toilet, we do not flush ideas out. (Well, not strictly true. In 15 years of teaching, there were a lot of ideas that should have been flushed down the toilet. Were it only possible.)
Instead, we “flesh” an idea out, because basically, the idea was just the bare skeleton of an idea, and the object is to build on it. “Flush.” Not with words or ideas.
Finally, there’s the occasional mistake that pops up in the news. The other day, I read about a Japanese beetle invasion. “These beetles were,” someone said, “extremely vivatious.” The dictionary defines that word as “lively and gay,” for the most part. Really? Lively and gay? Destructive insects that were more lively and gay?
What he meant was, the beetles were “voratious,” as in ravenous, having a big appetite. It was a short article; probably the next thing he said was: “I seen’em, those darn vivatious beetles.” Ow.