10.29.2005

On the Lighter Side: Pet Peeves

Some of you may remember that I used to be a High School Social Studies teacher. I taught US History, Government, Economics, Anthropology and Sociology. All these classes required a fair amount of writing. And, for me, in addition to the content, the grammar and the flow of the writing mattered.

Because my students often received some very well marked papers back, they were convinced that I was really just an English teacher in disguise. I have never been an English teacher. However, I have a few peeves when it comes to communication :)

1. Using "I" when it should be "me." So many times I'll hear something like, "Do you have a minute for my wife and I to come by?" If it can't stand alone, it's not right. That is, you wouldn't say, "Do you have a minute for I to drop by?" Think about it.

2. At the end of a speech, someone approaches the podium and encourages the crowd to "stand to your feet." Wow, thanks for specifying. I wasn't sure whether I should stand on my head or my hands. It's always good to get that kind of clarification!

3. Someone is telling a story about a dramatic change in their life. With all the emotion they can muster, they exclaim: "I made a 360 degree turn!" So, you're right where you started? Hmmm... If you mean you're going the opposite direction, that would be 180 degrees. Just FYI.

4. People misusing words "big words," in an attempt to sound intelligent. What's worse is people who are intelligent who act like they can't think of any other word but the "big word." True intelligence, I believe, is marked by an ability to make simple the complex.

5. The term "redoubling our efforts." Is that redundant regarding the whole "doubling" thing? Or, would it be more accurate to say "quadrupling our efforts" so that the listener doesn't have to take the extra step in doing the math?

Bonus: Why are bathrooms on airplanes called "lavatories?" I don't understand.

Feel free to add your own! :)

Happy Saturday!

Update: In light of the enthusiastic response to this post, I feel compelled to recommend the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss for my fellow "sticklers." ;)

23 Comments:

At 10/29/2005 12:45:00 PM, Anonymous david said...

Speaking of the lighter side: the younger of my two daughters tunred 10 last Monday and my wife bought her a little toy/gadget called 20Q which is base on the game 20 Questions. The toy asks you to think of an object and then it goes through a series of (of course) 20 questions. My two girls were playing with it in the car on our way to dinner and the thing was guessing correctly and they kept laughing at the results. Then my wife tried it and she couldn't contain her laughter either at how the thing was guessing correctly. So finally, when we got to the restaurant it was my turn. I thought I could easily stump it, but lo and behold it guessed correctly, and my word was "oxygen". I tried several other words like "CD" "space" and "remote control" and it guessed all of them. I was truly amazed. I have been able to beat it on a couple of occassions but the percentage of correct guesses is extremely high. The things cost about $15 but it's a really nice little diversion from the troubles of the day. The biggest problem at our house is that the birthday girl has trouble getting it back because the rest of us are always playing with. If you guys get a chance, go get one and you'll have fun with it. With Christmas coming up, it might be a fun little gift.

Que Dios los bendiga.

(BTW, Lores, I like this format about posting topics other than serious political issues all the time.)

 
At 10/29/2005 01:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cute: So, as a former HS teacher, will you be promoting B. Bennett's new text book? I frankly can't wait for it to come out ... gonna buy myself a copy (and I've been out of school for ... eons). What is your present "job"?

 
At 10/29/2005 02:02:00 PM, Blogger Mark Daniels said...

Lores:
You must be expressing something endemic to "folks like us." Like you, my undergraduate degree is in Social Studies Education and I get downright peevish about bad grammar and malapropisms.

Although everyone is guilty of occasional lapses in this area, I sometimes entertain the thought that there are people who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near microphones, keyboards, or pens.

I welcome the return of the written word as a result of email and blogging. But they seem to have almost legitimized bad English.

I like your examples of grating misuses of language. But, here are a few more that bug me:

1. I cringe at the use of the nonexistent word, "irregardless," when what the speaker apparently means to say is, "irrespective" or simply, "regardless."

2. "Their" when the person means "there" or vice versa in written communication is particularly offensive.

3. It's also grating to read "there" when people mean "they're."

4. The intermingled misuse of "it's" and "its" also drives me nuts.

5. The word "fulsome" means flattering or insincere. But often, it's used to describe abundance. Of course, over time, the meaning of words can change and we may be witnessing that transformation with this word. But it's jarring and often, by its use, the speaker conveys precisely the opposite of the intended meaning.

Of course, politeness demands that in most circumstances, I not correct these errors. Given the fact that I have massive blind spots in other areas of knowledge--my facility in Math and Science are akin to that of cave men, for example, it's best for me to keep quiet. Part of loving our neighbor, it seems to me, is to accept each other's imperfections. Since I have a massive quantity of those which I ask others to ignore, I feel I owe the same consideration to those whose attacks on the English language drive me crazy.

But when I run across this sort of thing on blogs, I confess that I quickly leave the sites. I've even been heard to yell at the computer screen, "If you can't write in English, don't keep a blog!" I suppose that I'm an elitist and in the end, that's a bigger flaw than dangling a preposition or misusing a word. (I guess.)

Great post, Lores!

God bless!

Mark Daniels

 
At 10/29/2005 02:08:00 PM, Blogger Robert said...

Since "iterate" means to list again, why do people say "reiterate"?

Since RBI stands for "runs batted in", why do people credit hitters with RBIS?

 
At 10/29/2005 04:03:00 PM, Blogger Rusty said...

Wow. Your post really spoke to I. In fact, after reading it I stood to my feet and told myself it was time to make a 360 degree turn in the way I've been doing things. Such obviously demiurgic thinking, expressed not through glossolalia, but from within your own fanciful chimera, is utterly fascinating. I decided to redouble my efforts right then and there, except that nature called and I was off to the lavatory.

 
At 10/29/2005 04:59:00 PM, Anonymous KO said...

Lores- what would your advice be in correcting someone who frequently uses what he/she thinks is a word, but is not? A couple examples you might remember:

-"surrenderence" instead of "surrender"

-"artistses" instead of "artists"

-"if you will" overused and in the wrong context

Do we let it slide?

 
At 10/29/2005 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

Lores,

I think you hit a nerve with a lot of people, including me. (Or is it I? Just kidding.) The subject is very George Carlin-esque. But I'll tell you my #1, all time biggest peeve in the use of spoken English:

"That's a whole nother subject."

I hate that! The "whole" eliminates the need for an n in front of "other". This is very common, and it drives me nuts.

(I'm also campaigning to have "Aren't I?" changed to "Amn't I?")

 
At 10/29/2005 06:08:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

david: sounds like a cool gadget...glad you like the new format. it's been fun for me too :) Thank you!

mark d: YES! YES! YES! I chose to limit my 'peeves' to verbal ones. But, I cringe at the exact same errors on paper...which is worse: elitism or dangling a preposition/misusing a word? mark, that may require another post. in this crowd, elitism may be quickly forgiven. Ha ha ;)

robert: Welcome!! i hadn't thought about "reiterate" before. Would "recite" fall in the same category?

rusty: LOL!!!!!!!! :) (And, welcome to you too! It was great meeting you at the GodBlogCon.)

KO/Kim: oh yes! i think that bringing it up depends on the context.

sometimes i'll try to subtly use the correct language in conversation with the "violator," in hopes that they'll notice the difference. if it's someone with whom i can be very open, i'll go ahead and just tell them. if it's someone doing it from a podium or stage who may have some reflection on me or a group of which i am a part, i will say something to people who can talk to that person.

however, if it's outside my little sphere of influence, i will leave it alone.

jaymeister: i feel your pain!

seeing all the comments reminds me of a couple more...
1. people who overuse "etcetera, etcetera" and "and so on and so forth" in conversation. simply lazy.
2. the overuse and misuse of "so to speak." also lazy.

i have to confess that i'm happy to have discovered that so many of my readers are, to quote mark d, "folks like us." :)

 
At 10/29/2005 08:36:00 PM, Blogger Yurri said...

Great post Lores! other pet peeves in writing: your and you're.

and a little off topice but i also cringe whenever I hear people say, "I covet your prayers." --probably because almost all dictionary and biblical references for coveting are negative.

 
At 10/29/2005 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

A new word that confuses me that's being used lately: "Misunderestimate".

Also there's "enthused". Sorry, it didn't used to be a word. maybe it is now.

And when did the word "pandemic" become a word? I never heard it until the latest pandemic, Bird flu.

And "irregardless" bugs me too.

And it's becoming all too common for people to say "loose" and "quite" in place of "lose" and "quiet".

 
At 10/29/2005 11:58:00 PM, Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I like the word "misunderestimate", Mark. I've read in a book that President Bush actually gets a kick out of pronouncing "nuclear" the way he does. I think it's some sort of vernacular (or is that "vernaclear"? Haha...).

Lores, sounds like you should pick up the book, "Why do men have nipples?" Maybe it'll answer your airplane bathroom question.

My dad gets irked by the use of anything over 100%...such as when someone says, "I'm giving it a hundred and ten percent". Btw...does it matter if I spell it "percent" or "per cent"? I go either way, but wonder if anyone'll give me points off for one spelling over another.

The use of "like" in our everyday language drives me nuts! There's no need for saying it; and what's worse is that it has become so common, I on occasion say it, because it now sounds natural. The worst, of course, are the ones who use it in every sentence. And people who say "um" in every sentence, during public speaking.

 
At 10/30/2005 02:46:00 AM, Blogger Charlie said...

Fun post, Lores. I'm sorry to tell you, however, that the OED tracks "redoubling" back as far as 1477. For instance, here is a citation from 1603: "The feare which she hath lest her little one should take harme redoubleth her courage."

Redundant, yes, but it adds emotion and urgency.

Redundancies are irritating, though. "Repeat it again" is one I hear often.

I enjoy hearing people mix up similar sounding words, like "mute point," or "prostrate surgery," or ... there's another one I can't think of at the moment.

Mark's comment has finally helped me understand Johnny Cash's "Fulsome Prison Blues." Thanks, Mark!

 
At 10/30/2005 03:00:00 AM, Blogger Goat said...

I am very guilty of the typo "their" for "there" it is purely hurried typing and not a misuse, I apologize and do my best to catch it. I misuse and abuse the english language on a regular basis, sometimes intentionally, sometimes mistakenly and at others ignorantly.
I love it when the written word uses flowery and verbose language correctly to argue a flawed position, the recent James Galloway vs. Christopher Hitchens debate for example, both men are masters of the language and only Hitchens made sense.
I am a contractor, a basic american, I made a "C" in english and a "C" in history for my writing ability, not my comprehension of the stated thesis material. I appreciate and understand the compaints and grammatical failures of us scrabble bloggers, give us a little break as we are just everyday folks, not scholars.
By the way I agree with all the mentioned complaints and I guarantee I am guilty of most of most of them.

 
At 10/30/2005 03:13:00 AM, Anonymous aj4runner said...

Please 'stand to your feet' while reading this as 'I' example may send you on an absolutely totally extraordinarily colossal gigantically humongous '360 degree turn to the right... One of 'I' favorites is when someone of the current generation of high schoolers and some college students answer a reasonable inquiry with "whatEVER" or "like whatEVER". You, we and I should be compelled by social considerations into 'redoubling our efforts' to stop the youngest and most impressionable human beings from a linguistical perspective to, "no doubt about it", discontinue their propensity for utilization of such nondescript responses. --- okay ... well I'm having a little fun at the expense of 'Just A Woman'... all in good seriously serious good fun. :) :) :) ... Me was serious about the 'whatEVER' part.

 
At 10/30/2005 05:57:00 AM, Blogger Mom of 4 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 10/30/2005 06:02:00 AM, Blogger Mom of 4 said...

Here are a few pet peeves that I come across often.

1)Is it too much to ask to be able to go to a drive-thru restaurant in Southern California (which is still in the United States of America last time I checked), place an order in English, be understood, and get my food/drink order completed correctly?

2)What is the deal when people preface a comment with, "I don't mean to be proud," or "I don't mean to be rude." It is guaranteed that what is to follow will be prideful and rude. You can be sure that I will hear nothing that you have said after your "qualifying" statement.

3) I get bothered when a new roommate of mine keeps me up late at night blogging and then blames her sleepiness the next day on me. I guess that is what I can expect from a Bruin!!:)

Fight on Trojans!

 
At 10/30/2005 06:14:00 AM, Blogger Robert said...

As a follow-on to mom of 4's remarks, any time you hear a statement that begins "With all due respect" you can be assured that what's coming next will be anything but respectful.

 
At 10/30/2005 07:26:00 AM, Blogger Jaymeister said...

How about "In all honesty..." or "To be honest with you..."? Does this mean the person isn't normally honest with you?

Or, when somebody isn't interested in what you're saying, and tries to change the subject with "Anyway..." I think that's really rude.

"The fact of the matter is..." is an awfully redundant preface.

And from sports commentary: "That'll make the score 5-3." Only sportscasters can make past events happen in the future.

 
At 10/30/2005 07:31:00 AM, Anonymous aj4runner said...

robert: yeah, that's a good one.

I sometimes start a statement that is going to be critical in some way in this manner, "With all due disrespect..."

This throws a change-up towards the person on the receiving end that they are never ready for.

I can only recall using this a few times with unhinged liberals and leftists while debating an issue where they are caught up in their emoting what they want to believe is true instead of working off the facts.

 
At 10/30/2005 11:52:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I say "with all due respect" when I am about to say something that MAY offend but I don't want it to.

The words, "with all due respect" come from Military discipline. When a soldier (or sailor, etc)wants to disagree with someone who outranks him, he has to say, "with all due respect" first, to keep from being charged with insubordination.

 
At 10/31/2005 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

David (or anyone else interested). You don't need a gadget to play 20 questions. you can play it all you want online. Go here:

http://www.20q.net/

It is uncanny how good the computer does.

 
At 10/31/2005 12:41:00 AM, Anonymous sleep-deprived said...

A day late and a dollar short...but what do you expect from someone who is sleep-deprived??!!

Momof4 - I know you...and had to laugh at the roommate/blogging comment :)

I have my own group of pet-peeves. Two that irk me most often: Drivers who don't use their turn-indicators before changing lanes - and drivers who disregard people using their turn-indicators.

Another - the lost art of Thank You notes.

I'd better stop here, because the longer I think about it, the more pet-peeves I think of, the more frustrated I start to feel!

 
At 10/31/2005 02:27:00 AM, Blogger wugdy said...

I hate to play the role of "captain obvious", but I have pet peeves with the names we give things...

For example:

1) Building
"ING" is a VERB, used to describe something in action/progress. Correct? Then why isn't the building called a BUILT. It is finished right?

2) A Doctor's "Practice"
Why does the guy/girl who went to school for 10 years call their business a "practice?" Shouldn't they have practiced and mastered some of their techniques on cadavers? Or are we just giving them a legal "out" on screwing up?

And last but not least...

3) Turkey Bacon
What is Turkey Bacon? Bacon is define as "The salted and smoked meat from the back and sides of a pig." Wouldn't that mean that any meat that's NOT pig ISN'T bacon? So why don't we start a underground movement to call them Turkey Strips (with red dye)? Sounds catchy ;) Ok, maybe not, but I am a fan of turkey whatever is is because it's healthier and tastes pretty good!

I'm just sayin'

 

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