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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Teacher Tuesday: Language Alert!

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Welcome to Teacher Tuesday, where I come out of Retirement once a week to talk about something in my Field Of Expertise (English) or something Incredibly Thinky that I read or heard and want to hear your opinions about.

Today's topic is a Threat-Level-Yellow, or Mildly Irritating, Language Alert. Because I have had to be Out In Society lately, due to St. Patsy's Health Maintenance Appointments and my own errands, I have been exposed more than usual to Other People talking.

I know.

Here are the Slings And Arrows Of Outrageous Language that I was forced to Suffer:

1. All of the sudden. "Wow! That wind came up, and all of the sudden, the temperature dropped like ten degrees." This phrase is never, ever correct. There is no particular, singular instance of suddens. It is an adverb. Would you say this sudden, that sudden, those suddens? The correct phrase is and always has been ALL OF A SUDDEN.  If you don't like it or remain confused, just say the economical and always correct "suddenly."

2. I seen. "I seen you only had one item, so no use in you being behind me." This was said by such a kind and gracious gentleman ahead of me at the store, and I thanked him profusely. The persistence and proliferation of "seen" as the plain past tense of the verb "see", however, is killing me a little more each day. Why is this happening? What is wrong with the perfectly good--and correct--word "saw"? "Seen" is only used with helping verbs: I had seen; I have seen. When you add a form of "be", use the -ing: I have been seeing.

3. Have went. "I've went to that place three times now, and each time there's been no handicapped spots." I am continually mystified by this particular linguistic quirk. How did it come to pass? Why can't the speaker hear how clunky and wrong it sounds? Why hasn't he or she ever heard of the word "gone"? "Went" is simple past tense of the verb "go". I went; she went; we went. If you add the helping verbs, then use "gone": I have gone; she has gone; we have gone. Again, when you add "be", use -ing: They have been going.

4. Expresso. "That baby acts like it has shots of expresso in its bottle, I swear!" Sigh. It's ESPRESSO. There is NO "X". One of my sons came home from classes one day and said he could no longer truly respect anything his English instructor said because she persisted in pronouncing this word incorrectly. It was a tough time for him, and I completely understood how he felt.

5. Hone In On. "This particular screen can really hone in on that rotation pattern." No, it can't. Perhaps it can HOME in on it, which is what radar is designed to do. Honing is what you do with blades; it refers to the act of sharpening on a whetstone (or the stone itself). The phrase is HOME IN ON, which means to aim toward a specific target.

Have you heard these out and about?  Do they set your teeth on edge, too? 

22 comments:

  1. My current pet peeve, that I hear all of the time, is 'myself' when they should use 'me' or even 'I'. I hear it ALL OF THE TIME AND IT'S MAKING ME CRAZY!!! If you tell me, being a retired English teacher, that it is OK to say, "Mary and myself went to the store", or "He asked myself to dance", I will believe you. OK, I just lied. I will not believe you.

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    1. I hate that one too. Especially when my daughter does it.

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    2. J@jj--It's not okay. It's just NOT OKAY. I'm glad I don't hear it around here. Perhaps the speaker is attempting to sound lofty and educated and elite, like the people who pronounce the T in "often". (Which, by contrast, is technically acceptable, although really, really affected, especially for Americans.) Here are two acceptable uses of "myself", then:

      1. I knitted that hat all by myself.
      2. I myself would prefer a different president.

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    3. I thoroughly enjoyed your rant! Nice to know there are others out there like us. I, too, cringe when I hear such misuse of the English language. It grates on me when I hear "he/she and I" used the wrong way, too. I've heard it used like, "Sally gave he and I a ride to school." I've heard most of the other examples, too. I wonder if some of the uses come from certain geographical regions?

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    4. Debbie--Welcome to the Dept. and thanks for commenting.

      Pronoun misuse drives me nuts, but it's such a nuanced usage issue in spoken English that I've almost given up on it. In written English I still think it's unforgivable. It's right up there with people saying "between you and I".

      Some things are regional, yes, and some are dialectical in nature (again, a distinction with a miniscule difference), but some are just lazy misuse of The Language.

      Hope I see you here again, and thanks for reading.

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  2. Also, I can ignore a lot of 'like' in sentences by young people, as in, "I was all like, 'who do you think you are?" And she was all like, "I'm your MOTHER, and you will indeed go to school today!" Or whatever. But I shuddered the other day when I was listening to a podcast on my NPR app whilst walking Mulder, and the host of the NPR Podcast was using this vernacular. I almost passed out.

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    1. J@jj--Oh, I completely agree. Rick is also very sensitive to this, and we sometimes repeat the word "like" right back at the speaker on TV or radio each time he/she says it. It turns into a massive Likefest, and we actually feel better. Other times, I count the trespasses like an old Catholic Nun.

      I was hoping that "like" would go away, along with Vocal Fry and Ending All Sentences As If They Were A Question and Saying Initial "St-" Sounds As If They Were "Sht-" Instead, but all of them are Still Here. That is why some days are, for me, agonizing.

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  3. I hate it when people say "I seen..." It's like fingernails on a blackboard. Gosh, that saying is sure dated!

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    1. Would that not have to be a chalkboard? I know we called them blackboards. Come to think of it, you can make a pretty awful sound with a felt tip pen on whiteboard too.

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    2. Jean--I loved my blackboard in my old (more than 100 years old!) classroom. Then they had to replace them all with whiteboards because the chalkdust was damaging the new computers that each teacher had gotten installed on her/his desk.

      Mary G--They installed whiteboards, and yes, when the pens would run out--which was awfully fast for us English Teachers--they would start squealing. Or when some students would press too hard and hold them at odd angles, they would protest. I vastly preferred my blackboards; they were lovely smooth slate.

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  4. "I have went." My husband once corrected our son-in-law for saying that. We were told it was okay in Scotland, his former home. Yes?

    My pet peeve at the moment is a series of "you know?"s scattered through a sentence. And it is NOT peave. Unless you are moving logs, and then you should add a Y.

    It is also pretty dern annoying that the iPad makes you switch keyboards to get an apostrophe or quotation marks.

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    1. Mary--Scotland sanctions bad grammar? I would know nothing about that except the Profound Disappointment of it. It might be a Common Usage in some Scottish Dialects, but that does not make it correct.

      The ubiquitous "you know" drives me nuts. Akin to it is "Know what I'm saying" or "Know what I mean", which is almost unintelligibly slurred into the speech of long-winded male interview subjects.

      I got a Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad to avoid all of that goofing around. It is helpful for travel, especially, when I don't want to drag along my laptop but will have some typing to do.

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  5. So ... a few years back, a guy came to fix our washing machine. As he was leaving, he noticed a little table next to a chair in the living room, and said, "Oh I see you like anticues. My wife loves anticues." And I had NO idea WTF he was saying, so just politely said, "Yes."

    About twenty minutes after he left, I realized that he meant "antiques." Which is now how we *always* say it in our family. I just always hope to God I never say it when I am out in the world ...

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    1. Bridget--Oh my goodness. No he did not.

      Now aren't YOU wondering if he merely used a Family Silly Word by mistake in front of you, much like you are now worried about doing? Hee hee.

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  6. I had an English teacher say "aks" pretty frequently (as in, "let me aks you a question."). She also called Romeo and Juliet a "goot little story." That second instance is mean for me to point out - she wasn't foreign, but she did have a little bit of a different way of saying things. And I beg to differ - there was nothing goot about R&J - it was yet another example of teenagers acting like idiots. (Can you tell I've read one too many YA books for my book club? Ha!)

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    1. Bug--I got used to "Aks" aka "Axe" while teaching at an urban high school. It was common among many of the black students in their casual speech.

      As far as Romeo and Juliet being a good story, it succeeds in that on many levels. Are there teenagers in it that act like idiots? Yes. Is it full of gorgeous poetry and interesting characters and conflicts? Yes. Do the adults act like idiots, too? Yes.

      Why is your (presumably adult) book club reading so much young adult fiction? How bad are the adult offerings out there? I've been absent from reading for a long time, it seems, and perhaps with good reason.

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    2. I think the young adult fiction is because the group has a lot of heavy thinking in their work lives, so they wanted to read some lighter fare. And I was ok with that for a while, but then I got tired of books full of teenage hormones. I think John Green did me in. Lately we've been reading adult stuff too - we have a random book generator where we can each add books, so we're getting a wider variety.

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  7. I have always maintained (and will continue to do so until my dying day) that the reason people make this sort of mistake (well, most of them) is because they Don't Read. I would/could never have said, 'All of THE sudden' because I'd seen the words, 'all of A sudden' in print too many times. With regard to 'have went' - my next door neighbour is a lovely Scotswoman and I have never heard the words 'have went' issue from her mouth - but she's from Edinburgh, so maybe their local dialect just doesn't include alternative past-tense conjugations of the verb 'to go'. I'm less censorious about words like espresso, because they are Foreign and Foreign Words can be challenging and intimidating to pronounce if you have not studied the language. I should admit, though, I myself (see what I did there?) am the sort of person who, when confronted with an unfamiliar new Foreign Word, looks it and its correct pronunciation up straight away and uses it (to the best of my ability), no matter what anyone else says -sometimes problematic, when people have never heard the word pronounced correctly before (think, 'bruschetta') but I like to feel it's just another service I provide.

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    1. MsCaroline--Oh, I completely agree. Setting aside from dialectical quirks, lots of these result from Not Reading. I can still be snotty about espresso, however, since those who order it incessantly at the omnipresent Starbucks can and have seen it on menu boards/listings time and time again. And the baristas/counter people have hollered it at them before they've collected the insane amount of money each one costs.

      I wanted desperately to talk about the word "bruschetta" in this post, but I am shooting for more brevity. This poor, poor word has been viciously and sadly beaten up by speakers and, at least in my area, on menus as well. Let's don't discuss it here; I may still do a post on it later.

      Nice to see you here. You are missed.

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    2. Glad to be back, the world has been Very Busy but in my defence I got out of the habit of reading your blog (in fact, that was sort of when I slowed down on reading a number of blogs) when you were posting less - yours was one I always looked forward to. I felt like it was Christmas when I opened up my blog reader and found 5 (FIVE!!!!) new (to me) posts. I am already looking forward to hearing your feelings about bruschetta!

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  8. Sentence number one has my pet peeve — drop the “like” — Calif. Valley Girl talk.

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    1. joared--I wonder if being a "Valley Girl" is even still a Thing. But I'm with you and countless others--drop the overuse of Like.

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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