Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pet Linguistic Hates

I'm quite fussy about my words I am. I'm not very good at them, nor do I proclaim myself to be some kind of authority on all things wordy (except in private of course), but there are things I like and things I abhor.

I like a good apostrophe, one thats' thrown in at the right place (did you see what I did their?), and proper and correct use of the words "there",  "their" and "they're". But, as Mr Wittekind, my rather inspiring old English teacher used to say, it's all communication and the point of it is to make people understand each other. So, as long as that happens, let's not get too anal about things.

Some things though just get on my fucking nerves. Simple. Here's a list of them, one that I reserve the right to change my mind about at any point in the future, or in the past, but only after, perhaps before, we've sorted out time travel:

"Can I get? / Can I ask?" - You know when someone says "Can I ask how old you are?" Well the only proper way to answer the question is to say yes or no. Perhaps "of course you can, go on then?" might also be used. And when you're in a coffee shop and say "Can I get a cappuccino, hold the tomatoes?" Well I'd just love the server to say "Yeah of course you can, it's over there, help yourself".

"It's a big ask" - The most frustrating thing about this phrase is that I've caught it creeping into my own language recently. Well I don't want it in my arsenal of phrases. It's not an "ask", it's a question, perhaps a request. As far as I'm concerned the word "ask" is a verb. Is it really that much more effort to say one more syllable and use "question"? I request you. And seriously, why is it that so many black people can't say "ask"?

"Is liking" - This is a dodgy one. Of course I blame that Justin Timberland and his McDonald's adverts, but that's another issue. I suppose, taken to extremes, if a person likes something but on an ongoing basis, like the weather at the moment or the pants I've been wearing for the last few days, then it's okay to use, as the act of liking has happened but is also continuing to happen. And, while I'm on the subject of the weather, it's bloody freezing here right now. But, if you "liked" something you saw yesterday, then just don't say that you're "liking" it. Why? Because it's wrong and we're not Americans around here now are we?

"International standard" - I reckon any Sri Lankan will understand why this fills me with strangely mixed feelings of frustration. It shouldn't be the case that some things made and / or sold in the motherland fall, or don't fall up to "international standard". The very use of the phrase implies that there is one standard for things sold within Sri Lanka and another for those sold outside Sri Lanka. Yet so often it's true and I wish it wasn't. I suppose it's entirely correct in terms of linguistics, I just wish it wasn't used, that's all.

"Safe haven" - A haven is a safe place. So why on earth is everyone's current favourite phase the aforementioned one?

"Overused cliche" - My dictionary tell me that a cliche is "a word or expression that has lost much of its force through overexposure." So, by definition a cliche is overused. Just say the word "cliche" then. The time you save in not using the word "overused" can actually be put to use when you start to use the word "question" instead of "ask". There's a thought.

What are your pet linguistic hates then?


Gypsy said...

Haha LOVING THIS, R. (Geddit?)

I have a ton of these linguistic pet hates but put on the spot, my mind has drawn a blank except for a couple.

One is "as to". I HATE when people say things like "I'm not sure as to what happened". ARGH. It's so horrible it makes my skin crawl. Not sure if it's just a Lankanism though.

Another is when people say that they want to "request for" something. You don't request FOR something, you simply request something. That's it. Leave out the bloody 'for', for God's sake! Also a Lankanism I think, I don't think I've heard it anywhere else.

The last is a Brit one I'm afraid. My boss keeps greeting me with "Are you alright?" which she means in a "Hi, how's it going?" kind of way but I keep thinking she's asking me if anything's wrong so my reply is always "No I'm fine, just tired" or some such thing. It's so embarrassing!

cj said...

Nice article I must confess I loved your previous post about the two types of people. In fact I liked it so much I posted it on my FB wall.

Marc said...

I have a friend that spells "know" as "no" in SMS speak which really pee's me off and confuses me no end ! "Do you no if you are coming ?"