Bad English Habits of the Educated

© Pachai Leknettip | Dreamstime.com - Grade D Plus on NotebookIs English changing, or are people mangling it?  Am I just misinformed or worse – getting old and uptight?  I have noticed a few usages becoming extremely common, which strike me as odd or even rub me the wrong way.  I’m not talking about street slang, either.  I hear these every day among journalists and educated professionals on TV and radio.  Pardon my rant.  What do you think?

The “t” in “often” is silent.  When I was growing up, my teachers adamantly drilled this into our heads.  The word is pronounced “offen,” and there is no such word as “oftentimes!”  Now I routinely hear “off-ten”, “offen-times”, and even the doubly squirmy “off-ten-times.”

To read a quotation out loud, we say, “quote” at the beginning and “end quote” at the end.  “Quote: Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.  End quote.”  Please stop it with the “unquote”, especially at the beginning of the quote!  “Quote unquote that doesn’t make any sense!”

The “H” at the beginning of a “Hu” word is NOT silent!  It annoys me to no end to hear academics talk about umans and their uge civilizations.  When the ell did this become the trendy accent of the year?

The word “forward” has two “r’s” in it!  When did the word become “foe-ward” ?!  :\

It doesn’t make sense to begin an answer with “so”!  “So” is a conjunction.  You state a premise, you say “so”, and then you explain how the premise leads to a conclusion.  Over and over in interviews now, we hear,

Q:  “How does this policy affect blah blah blah … ?.”

A:  “So, there will be a big change in blah blah blah …”

It’s as odd as beginning an answer with “Therefore.”  You have to tell me something before you’ve earned your “so”!

Does anyone remember the lost technique of projecting your voice?  It is understandable to taper off at the end of a sentence.  Now I hear people dropping their voice in the middle of a sentence, and then continuing to rasp airily away for the rest of the whole paragraph.  I’ve heard entire interviews with people that sound like frogs!  The idea of projecting your voice seems not to have reached British schools of broadcast at all.  British speakers have a habit of letting their voice fall to a whisper while on the radio, as if they’re trying to keep a secret from someone across the room.  Speak up!  The worst is when a broadcaster’s voice is so subdued that you can hear her spitty mouth and smacky lips.  >Q

My grammar teachers told us to avoid clichés.  At least some clichés make sense.  “At the end of the day” does not.  I hear it morning, noon, and night, and I still don’t understand what is supposed to be so relevant about the “end” of this proverbial day.

“Ginormous.”  Ha ha, yeah, I get it.  😐  Whoever coined this word, it was clever the first time.  Copying it from someone who copied it from someone who copied that person – sorry, it doesn’t make you clever or funny.

People always refer metaphorically to the “least common denominator” among a broad swath of society, when the mathematical concept they have in mind is the “greatest common factor”.  Remember – a least common denominator is a multiple, a big number.  The least common denominator of a diverse group of people would encompass their full diversity.  The base instincts that are shared by everyone form the greatest common factor.

“Leverage” is a noun, not a verb!  The word “leverage” literally means a multiplication of force gained by using a machine.  It is akin to the word “strength.”  Nobody would ever say, “I am going to strength my advantages to maximize my profits.”

The funny thing is that, while contemplating this blog post, I came across articles from an older perspective.  Apparently, senior citizens wince when youngsters use the word “fun” as an adjective.  “Fun is a noun!” they say righteously.  “You can have fun.  You don’t play a ‘fun game’!”  This opened my eyes, because I had honestly never heard that.  To me, “fun” has always been an adjective.  I guess that it’s a 20th century usage that shifted shortly before my time.  It seems perfectly okay to me.

I am forced to admit, then, that the objective is subjective.

At the end of the day, maybe I should have a better sense of umor, embrace the lowest common denominator, and accept the fact that language moves foeward.

3 thoughts on “Bad English Habits of the Educated

  1. Scot

    P.S. Thanks to my friend Debi Tuttle (who apparently did more research on my post than I did) for pointing out that dictionaries accept the pronunciation “off-ten” and the use of “leverage” as a verb. The etymologies make the full story more interesting. The suffix “-age” makes “leverage” a noun “by definition”. By the 20th century, so many people were using it as a verb that it became a de facto consensus and the dictionary reflected that, whether right or wrong.

    Since the 17th century, the word “often” was pronounced with the silent “t”. When literacy became more common and people saw the word in print, they mistakenly pronounced it phonetically with the hard “t”. Eventually, dictionaries went with the flow and accepted that alternative. The punchline to this story, though, is that the 17th century silent “t” was a trend too! The word is derived from the Middle English “oft”, and originally kept the “t” in the pronunciation.

    It’s enough to make your head spin. That’s what’s so interesting, colorful, and frustrating about language. What is “right” is defined both by the standards and the most common violations of those standards.

    Reply

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