"Inconceivable!"
September 11, 2005 11:58 PM   Subscribe

What words do people use that consistently make you cringe and wonder if they understand what they are saying?

The spelling peeve question a couple days ago was very interesting and got me thinking about advanced word usage. I'm particularly interested in words which may enjoy some common usage, but which people just don't seem to understand. Perhaps they are just wrongly used in general, or are foolishly chosen by people trying to look intelligent.
posted by Invoke to Writing & Language (241 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
"virtually"

I know that common usage does allow it to mean "nearly", but it is such a great word when its pure meaning is understood.

Dictionary.com: "in essence or effect but not in fact; "the strike virtually paralyzed the city"; "I'm virtually broke"

I think it is particularly useful word for the internet and computing. "Virtual Worlds", "Virtual representation", etc. The common usage of "a fancy word for almost" always rubs me the wrong way.
posted by Invoke at 12:03 AM on September 12, 2005


literally -- "He literally ripped my head off!" Um, no, he didn't.

electrocute -- "I electrocuted myself working on my TV!" Um, no you didn't. Electrocute = electric + execute (as in KILL). If you're still alive, by definition you weren't electrocuted.
posted by kindall at 12:08 AM on September 12, 2005


Islamofascism or Islamist. Also, semantics when it's used to mean pedantry.
posted by Jenga at 12:10 AM on September 12, 2005


Meme. Paradigm (shift).
posted by NekulturnY at 12:15 AM on September 12, 2005


Also: grammer, when they're trying to say "grammar". (just kidding!)
posted by NekulturnY at 12:16 AM on September 12, 2005


"I'm going to try and call her."

Apparently, you're going to try and you're also going to call her. However, we are left to wonder what it is that you will try to do, as you don't specify.

Perhaps you meant "I'm going to try to call her"?

Let's see, what else...

"Irregardless" always kills me.


The misuse of quote marks, particularly on signs which are presumably produced by people who are paid, you know, more than minimum wage for their work. Serving "fresh" eggs!. "Honest" salespeople . Okay. So your eggs are not actually fresh, though you call them that. Strange thing to admit in your advertisment. And you call your salespeople "honest" when in fact they are not? Wow. Maybe we should contact local law enforcement officials regarding your business. Or at least the BBB.

Oh, and in the bdsm community, folks don't seem to understand that there's a difference between "dominant" and "dominate." You'll see people describing themselves as "a 35 year old dominate with ten years of experience." Drives me right up a wall every single time.
posted by Clay201 at 12:24 AM on September 12, 2005


What bugs me are words that, due to common misuse, eventually take on the new (incorrect) meaning. I know, I know, that's how language evolves, but...

Anyway, a few that come to mind are fortuitous, effete, and presently.
posted by rob511 at 12:27 AM on September 12, 2005


People who use "beg the question" incorrectly. Don't use the phrase if you don't understand what it means!

Also, people who say "I could care less."
posted by Justinian at 12:34 AM on September 12, 2005


supposebly - I hear it everywhere.
posted by wsg at 12:38 AM on September 12, 2005


"Penultimate" used as a super-intense version of "ultimate", or as a synonym for "exemplary".

And while pronouncing "patina" as pa-TEE-nah is technically not wrong, it really pisses me off.
posted by Vervain at 12:47 AM on September 12, 2005


I second the vote for "meme". As many as there are people who use it without understanding it's meaning, even more of them have no idea how to properly pronounce it. Hint: it's not pronounced "me+me".
posted by RoseovSharon at 12:48 AM on September 12, 2005


"a tad bit".
posted by influx at 12:52 AM on September 12, 2005


Along with registering my approval for paradigm and the phrase 'beg the question,' I feel I should contribute the word 'fallacy.' It means a logical argument that seems convincing at first, but ultimately is not. A classic example is: X happened before Y, therefore X caused Y. People did a lot of shopping in early December; this caused Christmas.
posted by sindark at 12:52 AM on September 12, 2005


Awesome -- this one is a lost cause, I know, and I'm guilty of misusing it myself...it's just a shame that a word that was once fit to describe things like the Grand Canyon can now be applied to...pizza.

Ecstasy -- what once could encapsulate a complex and overwhelming feeling of conflicting emotions beyond the realm of reason now just means really really really really happy.
posted by samh23 at 12:54 AM on September 12, 2005


blog
posted by angry modem at 12:56 AM on September 12, 2005


"Legos"

Years ago, a guy in my class did an oral report about "Sheeps". It was very jarring to listen too (He had an excuse though, English was his second language.)

A few years ago, I moved to North America, where people very commonly do the same jarring error when talking about Lego. It's pretty much unheard of outside North America, but here it's so common it's bascially an accepted form.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:02 AM on September 12, 2005


Although I'm deeply amused by those who insist there is some monolithic thing out there called "proper English", I will confess that some phrases and usages send me into a momentary petite mal. I don't question the users intelligence; as a practitioner of Zen Linguistics I just wonder how such usage came about. Case in point: When I answer a switchboard from time to time, I get an unusally high number of people asking me to "contact" them to someone or another. "Proactive" still strikes me as a frivolous word (though pedants have gone through Herculeans gyrations to rationalize it to me). In the end, the only words that really push my buttons are not the so-called grammatical errors -- but political euphemisms.
posted by RavinDave at 1:05 AM on September 12, 2005


It really gets under my skin when someone says "irrelevant" and means "irreverent".
posted by evariste at 1:10 AM on September 12, 2005


"Borrowed" for "lent" also bugs me, and it seems to be getting more and more common. You didn't borrow something to someone, you lent it to them!
posted by evariste at 1:12 AM on September 12, 2005


I just noticed the title. Ha ha! That one never bothered me before, but will now bother me for the rest of my life. Thank a lot ;-)
posted by evariste at 1:12 AM on September 12, 2005


Sweet -- OK for the kids, but when it started appearing in ads.
posted by phewbertie at 1:13 AM on September 12, 2005


Thanks
posted by evariste at 1:15 AM on September 12, 2005


ha ha - awesome's a great one: an awesome pizza indeed!

How about "eclectic?" From dance music, to clubs, to cuisine, it's become an inveterately abused word that simply means, "I have no idea what I'm talking about...".

On preview: "proactive" is born of the devil
posted by forallmankind at 1:16 AM on September 12, 2005


You know what really gets me? People who borrow foreign phrases improperly. Penultimate is the most common (even though I've caused a bit of controversy with my definition), but here's some others that get me:

* in memorium or in memorian
* etc. when they mean et al.
* et tu, Brutus
* Deus meam (yes, someone actually used that on a forum)

But most "improper" English usage doesn't bother me (any more). I just find it more curious than anything else. I guess that's what you get when you spend more time looking at all the oddities in the language over the centuries.

(ohh... and I don't see what is wrong with the title)
posted by sbutler at 1:18 AM on September 12, 2005


(Ummm ... what's wrong with "Thanks", evariste?)
posted by RavinDave at 1:18 AM on September 12, 2005


i dont think people who use these phrases are foolishly trying to look intelligent, the communication has been made, and everyone knows what is meant, whether its technically correct or not

youre the ones on the trying-too-hard high horse
posted by Satapher at 1:18 AM on September 12, 2005


(Ooops ... nevermind. I see you were correcting an earlier post.)
posted by RavinDave at 1:21 AM on September 12, 2005


It really bugs me when politicians who want to create new entitlements-by definition, current-account spending-pretend it's an "investment", but that's not an honest mistake, it's deceitful and disingenuous.
posted by evariste at 1:21 AM on September 12, 2005


Satapher: we might be on our high horses, but up here we can see you on yours ;-)
posted by forallmankind at 1:22 AM on September 12, 2005


sbutler-a lot of people call things inconceivable that are, in fact, perfectly conceivable. "A nuclear exchange with the Soviets would eradicate our major cities? Inconceivable!", to contrive an example. "The nature of God is inconceivable" is more like it.
posted by evariste at 1:24 AM on September 12, 2005


People thinking it's trendy to signify thousands using metrics, when they don't actually understand how to do so.

Eg:
"Unreal Tournament 2k4"
"Madden 2k5"

This stuff is strictly defined - the k denotes the multiplier (thousand) and the (decimel) point at which to multiply. Aeroplanes fly because there is no other correct way to interpret this.

2k5 means 2.5 thousand, ie 2500.

Game publishers clearly know this, as the official publibations were always correctly titled (eg "Unreal Tournament 2004"), but more recently, I'm pretty sure I've seen semi-official and possibly official materials bow to the popularity of the error.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:25 AM on September 12, 2005


Irony does not mean "faintly amusing and/or annoying" however much some people may want it to.
posted by Hartster at 1:28 AM on September 12, 2005


Ohhh... and I'm currently torn about the pronunciation of forte.
posted by sbutler at 1:30 AM on September 12, 2005


Ooh! People who say "My position is 360 degrees from yours". You mean 180 degrees, because 360 brings you back where you started.
posted by evariste at 1:34 AM on September 12, 2005


I really hate when people refer to "the verbiage" when they simply mean "the wording/phrasing", "the copy", "the writing" or "the text". When I hear "verbiage", I hear a very negative word, but people casually toss it around, not realizing that it's quite a derogatory term.

What's wrong with a neutral term like "the text" or "the piece" or "the copy"? I can't help but feel insulted if "the verbiage" is my own work, even though I know they just don't know what the word means.
posted by evariste at 1:42 AM on September 12, 2005


I so totally second awesome!

(Oh, and totally, too.)

Also:

- The less/fewer distinction (a lost cause).

- "Going forward" and a list of management bullshit we've all heard and loathed before.

- "Client", when used to refer to someone who supplies or provides a good or service. I've seen it used this way only rarely, generally by management types who tend to incorporate the known universe into their definition of "stakeholders" (another peeve).

- "Hopefully", as in "Hopefully, the pizza will be awesome", instead of "I hope the pizza will be awesome". People, the pizza is not going to be awesome in a hopeful manner. It might be cheesy, though.
posted by bright cold day at 1:43 AM on September 12, 2005


"From whence".
posted by evariste at 1:47 AM on September 12, 2005


"Wherefore".
posted by evariste at 1:48 AM on September 12, 2005


I'm not sure if this counts, but "discombobulated" always stops me in my tracks - it's such a ridiculous sounding word that I always think whoever's crowbarring it into a sentence is trying to impress me; and I get all... discombobulated....
posted by forallmankind at 1:50 AM on September 12, 2005


Oooh, ooh, teacher, pick me! I've got another one, and it's a double: the word model.

Apparently, there are no longer any female models: they've all become supermodels. And a man who models is always a "male model," as though he could be another kind.
posted by rob511 at 1:54 AM on September 12, 2005


Affect/effect.
posted by evariste at 1:55 AM on September 12, 2005


I really hate when people refer to "the verbiage" when they simply mean "the wording/phrasing", "the copy", "the writing" or "the text". When I hear "verbiage", I hear a very negative word, but people casually toss it around, not realizing that it's quite a derogatory term.

Oddly enough, verbum is the latin word for word.

"Hopefully", as in "Hopefully, the pizza will be awesome", instead of "I hope the pizza will be awesome". People, the pizza is not going to be awesome in a hopeful manner. It might be cheesy, though.

Jesus wept. Is this copied straight from S&W? Because Lord knows, this is the only example where an English word takes on a meaning other than the one its construction suggests.
posted by sbutler at 1:56 AM on September 12, 2005


nuculurr
posted by fire&wings at 1:57 AM on September 12, 2005


I don't like the word cogent. Nothing to do with this thread, it just got me thinking about words that I'm not fond of. I also dislike "snarky".
posted by evariste at 2:02 AM on September 12, 2005


To "go and" do something.
posted by shoos at 2:03 AM on September 12, 2005


I find this is sometimes the underlying cause of these mistakes:

Person X assumes no-one really cares when he makes a certain error, because it doesn't bother him in the slightlest when someone else makes the same error. Thus, he doesn't bother to cease making the error.

This terrible assumption leads to unforgettable (and horrifying) moments, for it runs unaware of how much the perception of the same error changes person to person, social group to social group. One man's "It's probbaly not completely right, but no-one cares" is another man's "WTF? How could someone make it through school without learning that? Does he have a learning disability?"

Many times, I seen someone do something that lowers (or utterly destroys) the opinion their peers have of them because they made the mistake of thinking that a shockingly basic error (to their peers) was something everyone did and overlooked as normal. Instead, people were, well, shocked.

Having seen the ugly ugly results of complacency over what seems to the person like a trivial nothing, I figure it's better to be paranoid enough to try to learn not to make mistakes, even if they seem trivial.

But I make exceptions for writing on the internet, 'cos you guys are unlikely to be hiring or firing me any time soon :-P
So I'm person X today :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:04 AM on September 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


I was about to say "font of knowledge" for "fount of knowledge", but apparently I'm mistaken. It still sounds wrong, damn it!
posted by evariste at 2:04 AM on September 12, 2005


"they" - in reference to [insert marginalized group of people here].

It's been particularly frustrating recently, due to Katrina.
posted by dsword at 2:07 AM on September 12, 2005


When people mean "deprecate" and say "depreciate" also depresses me.
posted by evariste at 2:13 AM on September 12, 2005


Error ladder rankings, by Google:
"NFL 2k5" - 373,000 hits
"ATM machine" - 755,000 hits
"go and do" - 1,310,000 hits
"from whence" - 2,610,000 hits
and so on. I was just curious :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:23 AM on September 12, 2005


"a myriad of [things]", rather than "myriad [things]"
"try and do something" rather than "try to do" (which is only so painful because I'm guilty of it)
"troll" for opponent
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:27 AM on September 12, 2005


I have a thing about "erstwhile," mostly because I used it incorrectly for many years myself. I had to have picked that up from somewhere else.

Incidentally, sbutler & evariste, the title more than likely refers to The Princess Bride, since that's the first word that came to mind when I read the question. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
posted by Moondoggie at 2:27 AM on September 12, 2005


A recent favorite of my was from the Michael Jackson juror, Tammy Bolton, who lamented: "I don't think the mother inflicted good values in her kids and that made me have a hard time believing anybody in the family ... ".

I suspect she meant inculcate, or something less stoopid.
posted by RavinDave at 2:39 AM on September 12, 2005


Proactive (as opposed to reactive?) is actually "active".
Burglarize should be "burgle".

"meme" is particularly wank.
posted by Pericles at 2:47 AM on September 12, 2005


Moondoggie-ah. I've never seen that, although everyone I know has. I guess one of these days I'll rent the damn thing.
posted by evariste at 2:51 AM on September 12, 2005


Nauseous.
posted by granted at 3:12 AM on September 12, 2005


"but yet"
posted by granted at 3:13 AM on September 12, 2005


"For all intensive purposes"

I have a coworker who is very, very fond of saying this.
posted by makonan at 3:14 AM on September 12, 2005


'Momentarily'

Many yanks use this incorrectly. It actually means 'for a moment', but often Americans use it to mean 'in a moment'. e.g: 'I will push the button momentarily' means 'I will push the button for a moment' not 'I will push the button in a moment'.

Also, the other one that pisses me off is people saying 'insure' when they mean 'ensure'.
posted by pollystark at 3:23 AM on September 12, 2005


What on earth is wrong with "go and" do something? That's UK/Commonwealth usage. To us it sounds just as bad when Americans leave off the "and" part.

I keep hearing people on TV and in movies saying they've got a "possible suspect", which drives me insane.

A suspect is someone who has possibly comitted a crime. What's a possible suspect? Someone who might possibly have possibly comitted a crime?

I had a colleague who constantly confused similar-sounding words. He'd say "absconded to a project" instead of "seconded" for instance, or "tactile" instead of "tangible". He does this all the time. What drives me most crazy is I seem to be the only one who notices. What do the other people think he's talking about?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:32 AM on September 12, 2005


Liberal
Conservative
Preplanning (or pre- anything else when you're actually doing the thing - preboarding, prescreening, etc.)
Utilize
Fact (often used to refer to an opinion)
75% of the words that weathermen use ("as we head into the evening hours;" "overnight tonight")
Proactive (because it can't be maligned enough)
Preventative
Refugee
With a single click (almost always a series of clicks, but it's only the last one that matters, apparently)
Decimate
Mandate
Attitude

I don't have a problem with "go and." Weren't we supposed to "Go forth and multiply?" The multiplying part eventually became a problem, but not the and part.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:42 AM on September 12, 2005


functionality for function

methodology for method

productize for produce

(Any number of "-ize" ending for verbs that didn't need them, actually.)
posted by madman at 4:03 AM on September 12, 2005


"a myriad of [things]", rather than "myriad [things]"

Myriad is noun and adjective, so both uses are fine. In terms of style, I do prefer the latter, though.
posted by nthdegx at 4:09 AM on September 12, 2005


Alternate when used to mean Alternative
Beg the question used by people who don't know what it means
Misuse of amount/number and less/fewer ("less calories" ARGH!)
e.g. and etc. used together
i.e. when used to mean e.g.
literally when used to mean figuratively

And I just hate the word utilize. I know it's not wrong, but it's a useless word. Why not just say "use" and save two syllables?
posted by duck at 4:12 AM on September 12, 2005


Calvary vs. cavalry . . . argh!

Also, "Let's chat 'live'." But then, in the mgmt consulting world, the annoying made-up words and phrases are nearly endless.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 4:20 AM on September 12, 2005


Oh, yes, all that engineerese: functionality, utilize, prioritize, jargonize!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:26 AM on September 12, 2005


Lost cause: enormity. Still worth fighting for: disinterested.
posted by teleskiving at 4:32 AM on September 12, 2005


Yes, I know, language is fluid and no one has the right to impose rules as long as the message is understood. These are aesthetic judgements and they hurt my ears.

I wish I would have gone.

Also, "If I was" for "If I were". (Unreal condition takes subjective mood. "If I were a rich man...")

For misused hopefully, how about hopedly? (Somehow I doubt it will catch on)

Hung for Hanged

"By rights she should be taken out and hung
For the cold blooded murder of the English tongue"

(Lerner knew better, but couldn't bear to give up the rhyme. Story is that Noel Coward was the first to call him on it)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:59 AM on September 12, 2005


I don't see what you're arguing about this...

It's a mute point.
posted by ph00dz at 5:03 AM on September 12, 2005


I always found the use of "invest" to mean "to spend" odd. Example: Car owners will have to invest more at the pumps to fill their cars.

However, the usage is probably correct.
posted by malp at 5:23 AM on September 12, 2005


I thought the e in i.e. was for exemplum, so I never thought about it until now.

shows what years of latin did for me!
posted by evening at 5:25 AM on September 12, 2005


supposebly - I hear it everywhere.

Supposably isn't necessarily wrong.
posted by McIntaggart at 5:36 AM on September 12, 2005


"i.e" when they mean "e.g."
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:40 AM on September 12, 2005


"Unctuous" used as a positive adjective in food writing. "Fraught" used on its own and not as filled with something unpleasant.
"Female" used as a noun.

According to several online dictionaries, these are proper usages, but they still set my teeth on edge. (Female what?)
posted by brujita at 5:48 AM on September 12, 2005


People in MMORPGs who say "rouge" instead of "rogue".
posted by Skyanth at 5:52 AM on September 12, 2005


Using 'comprise' as in the following:

"The team was comprised of eleven players."

Brrrrr. It ought to be:

"The team comprised eleven players."

'Comprise' means 'to consist of'. Thiink of it as a synonym for 'contain'. Please please please never say "X is comprised of Y". It's just wrong.

(I also hate it when people say things like "SAT tests" and "VCR recorders" and "ATM machines".)
posted by jdroth at 5:52 AM on September 12, 2005


Harlequn, try your error ladder on 'comprised of'. I'll bet it grabs a top rung.
posted by jdroth at 5:54 AM on September 12, 2005


It's amazing how many of the uses described as "incorrect" here are sanctioned by many dictionaries and usage manuals. But clearly1 random posters on MetaFilter know more than the language scholars who created these materials.

1 Uh-oh, a disjunct adverb! Bright cold day doesn't like those so I better stop using them.
posted by grouse at 6:13 AM on September 12, 2005


Ditto on some of the political terms mentioned above, but I will also add: Reactionary. This word is so frequently and brutally misused that I think it has finally lost its meaning.

Also, technno or business babble sends me over the edge:

* taxonomy
* repurpose
* to task someone with something
* to multi-task as it refers to people
* synergistic
* to drill-down or to shore up
* take this off-line
* use of the expression "to flush out" when what is intended is is "to flesh out"... in other words, to flesh out the requirements, meaning to add more context and detail... not to chase a gopher out of hole with a garden hose, which has nothing to do with any requirements.

And, slightly off topic, people who pronounce the word across as "acrossed".

This is something that I noticed in the Pacific Northwest, but nowhere else. Very odd.
posted by psmealey at 6:14 AM on September 12, 2005


"As per" - as opposed to just "per"

Use of nouns as verbs, e.g., "Dialogue"

My wife say umbiblical for umbilical, which cracks me up.....
posted by Pressed Rat at 6:15 AM on September 12, 2005


It's amazing how many of the uses described as "incorrect" here are sanctioned by many dictionaries and usage manuals.

For example?
posted by jdroth at 6:16 AM on September 12, 2005


sbutler--the title is taken from the movie the Princess Bride. One of my favorites.

Vizzini: HE DIDN'T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE.
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by adamrice at 6:16 AM on September 12, 2005


"Incent" as a back-formed verb from the noun "incentive."

"Incentivize" is just as bad. The word they're looking for, of course, already exists: "enchant," which is where "incentive" comes from.
posted by jimfl at 6:21 AM on September 12, 2005


Deplaning for when you get off a aeroplane.

I don't care if it is a real word or not - it needs to die.

Deplane is at determinal!
posted by schwa at 6:21 AM on September 12, 2005


The word they're looking for, of course, already exists: "enchant," which is where "incentive" comes from.

Is that true? I had always thought the proper form was "incite", but I could be wrong. When I use that word, and people look at me sideways, I usually fall back on the wordier: "provide incentive for", but I had never considered "enchant".
posted by psmealey at 6:29 AM on September 12, 2005


I second 'literally' and 'verbiage'.

How about people that use 'less' when they mean 'fewer'?

Or my wife who omits the 'to be' in the phrase 'needs to be fixed' or 'needs to be cleaned'? These phrases become 'needs fixed' and 'needs cleaned'


//Wild_Eep works with marketing people and hears most of these other entries at least twice a week.

///goes and looks up spelling thread...
posted by Wild_Eep at 6:31 AM on September 12, 2005


The one that makes me yell is "should of/could of/would of" instead of "should HAVE (et al)".

Stupid contractions ruining english.
posted by softlord at 6:32 AM on September 12, 2005


Moot--it means it *is* open for discussion or an argument.
posted by 6:1 at 6:37 AM on September 12, 2005


patriotism, most people who use don't have any.
posted by substrate at 6:46 AM on September 12, 2005


Cutting off your nose despite your face.
Pre-madonna.
posted by monkey closet at 6:47 AM on September 12, 2005


"Footwear" for shoes

Rightsizing for firing people.
posted by lukemeister at 7:00 AM on September 12, 2005


Decimate -> to kill 10% of a group. Not to completely annihilate said group.

Also:
  • Perhaps the fish will go for the bait; you can only wait with bated breath.
  • Pour yourself some tea and pore over a good book.
  • Hair replacement infomercials are frequently harebrained schemes.
  • Lounge in the chaise longue.
&c:
  • I feel restive waiting for the restless crowd to abate.
  • It was fortuitous that I ran into my ex-girlfriend today. It was fortunate that my current girlfriend wasn't there.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:12 AM on September 12, 2005


6:1:Moot--it means it *is* open for discussion or an argument.

moot
adj.
1. Subject to debate; arguable: a moot question.
2. 1. Law. Without legal significance, through having been previously decided or settled.
2. Of no practical importance; irrelevant.

I have always seen moot used to denote an issue which can be argued but shouldn't because it doesn't matter.
posted by Who_Am_I at 7:13 AM on September 12, 2005


pollystark:
Straight from Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: mo·men·tar·i·ly
Pronunciation: "mO-m&n-'ter-&-lE
Function: adverb
1 : for a moment
2 archaic : INSTANTLY
3 : at any moment : in a moment


Seems you're dead wrong on this one.

My pet peeve is "effected" for "affected". Riles me up every time.
posted by splice at 7:13 AM on September 12, 2005


My hipster friend calls anything strange "meta___".

Apoligies to MeFites.
posted by zardoz at 7:15 AM on September 12, 2005


It really bugs me when politicians who want to create new entitlements-by definition, current-account spending-pretend it's an "investment", but that's not an honest mistake, it's deceitful and disingenuous.

The peeves I like to hunt down and kill so I can wrap myself in their furry carcasses and do the peeve dance are hyphens, dashes, em-dashes, and en-dashes that have been mis-used.

(teasing evariste)
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:20 AM on September 12, 2005


lukemeister, I can actually understand the "footwear" thing, as annoying as it may be (oh and it is), footwear could be shoes, sandals, boots, cleats, moccasins, fuzzy bunny slippers, so on and so forth.

The hung/hanged thing always burns me IJ. While most men would do anything to keep from being hanged, many if not most would be overjoyed to be hung.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:24 AM on September 12, 2005


-at- superfluousness..
dilatate for dilate. There are a few more that escape me at present.

Can I have my pet Americanisms peeve dump? (now that's a formidable sentence *cough*)

-smarts
-my bad
-math
-golfing
-word!
-represent!

[I'll accept the middle two by way of compromise]
posted by peacay at 7:26 AM on September 12, 2005


RavinDave, I think she meant "instilled."

My two personal favorites are i.e. when they mean e.g., and eck-cetera instead of et cetera.

I could go on for hours, but I won't.
posted by misterbrandt at 7:28 AM on September 12, 2005


jimfl: While "enchant" and "incentive" derive from similar roots, their meanings have diverged enough that you cannot use "enchant" to mean "provide incentive."

While it's true that "enchant" can mean "to attract and delight," which could be interpreted to mean that one who is enchanting is providing an incentive of some sort, incentives are not inherently good things. For instance, the police provide you with an incentive not to speed—that being that, if they catch you doing it, you will be pulled over and given a ticket. Somehow that seems less than enchanting to me.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:30 AM on September 12, 2005


WRT "momentarily" meaning "in a moment": The word used to only mean "for a moment," but it has over time grown to also mean "in a moment." English is a living language, folks, so sometimes new words get added to it and sometimes old words acquire new meaning. You just have to get over yourselves and deal with it.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:34 AM on September 12, 2005


I always preferred presently to momentarily, common (ab)usage notwithstanding. It sounds more formal, and more formal = more gooder in my book.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:42 AM on September 12, 2005


I'm not a fan of people using "ironic" incorrectly...

All my others have been mentioned - but "literally" is a particular annoying one, which literally makes me slightly annoyed.
posted by benzo8 at 7:42 AM on September 12, 2005


Oh, and peacay, smarts is a perfectly good word when used correctly: to indicate a sharp pain. As in, "Ouch! That smarts!" Sadly, the sort of person that prefers this usage also tends to be the sort that says things like "that's swell" or "whatcha' doin', fella'?"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:45 AM on September 12, 2005


(You know, when making a post regarding spelling or grammar, there seems to be some law of nature which decrees that one must misspell at least one word in the post. Sheesh.)

Great responses, everyone. Yes, many of the words we're talking about are technically correct, I agree. My example word, "virtually", even directly notes that. What many people posting on this thread are pointing out is that the newer, less precise usage misses something, or loses something. A great example is "disinterested". That is a word not easily replaced without a phrase, and so its loss represents a loss for the language.
posted by Invoke at 7:46 AM on September 12, 2005


The one that makes me yell is "should of/could of/would of" instead of "should HAVE (et al)".

I assume people who say "should of" (which is not a contraction, but a phrase made up by people who were asleep in grade two) mean "should've" (which is a contraction, and fine anywhere where other contractions are acceptable) not "should have."
posted by duck at 7:48 AM on September 12, 2005


Irregardless really irks me.

Also, the misuse of good and well is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears.
posted by necessitas at 7:49 AM on September 12, 2005


English is a living language, folks, so sometimes new words get added to it and sometimes old words acquire new meaning. You just have to get over yourselves and deal with it.

I don't want to be a reactionary here, but I find that discomforting. It's just a little disappointing when you have an excellent, descriptive words that, through continued misuse and laziness their meaning becomes deluded. It's probably inevertable, what you say, but should this sort of thing really be incouraged or incentivized?

;-)
posted by psmealey at 7:49 AM on September 12, 2005


disingenuous.
posted by ifjuly at 7:51 AM on September 12, 2005


The word "penultimate" to mean "really ultimate". That one slays me.
posted by kahboom at 7:54 AM on September 12, 2005


1. People who use a modifier with unique, ie: New Orleans is a really unique city.

2. "Lifestyle."

3. All postmodernist language--tropes, signifiers, etc.

4. Fascist, communist.
posted by LarryC at 7:56 AM on September 12, 2005


Civil_Disobedient, I have no problem using 'smarts' to refer to pain. But -

1. Sharp mental or physical pain. See Synonyms at pain.
2. smarts Slang. Intelligence; expertise: a reporter with a lot of smarts.
It's the slang derivative that annoys me, but I think you knew that :P
posted by peacay at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2005


Utilize - just say use.

Also, model. 99% of the time this word is used it doesn't have to be. Don't use this word unless you are referring to the small model town around a train set.
posted by xammerboy at 7:58 AM on September 12, 2005


And trope is a good word!! and can't really be regarded as being postmodern (or even postmodernist) unless you're aware of some egregious use....

[Latin tropus, from Greek tropos, turn, figure of speech. See trep- in Indo-European Roots.]
posted by peacay at 8:00 AM on September 12, 2005


"intellectually dishonest"..."ad hominem"...people who think they can win debates by using phrases like these.
posted by johngoren at 8:04 AM on September 12, 2005


Compulsive for compulsory, perspective for prospective. Spoken mistakes don't bother me (I'm always tongue-tied), but I cringe when I see them in writing.
posted by Marit at 8:07 AM on September 12, 2005


Ah, and "principal" vs. "principle".
posted by kahboom at 8:10 AM on September 12, 2005


People who say "impact" when they mean "affect" or "effect," e.g. "those who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina" and "it had an impact on them." On my watch nothing is "impacted" except my wisdom teeth.
posted by scratch at 8:13 AM on September 12, 2005


leverage (v.)
posted by Succa at 8:18 AM on September 12, 2005


Anything on a Starbucks sign

"I'd like to order a tall"

GRRRRR
posted by KirTakat at 8:21 AM on September 12, 2005


Irregardless, when people tell me it isn't a word.

Also ain't, again, when people tell me it isn't a word.

If they're good enough for 3 dictionaries, they're good enough for me.
posted by shepd at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2005


I hate when "honorarium" is misused. It is a payment to a professional for services rendered for which there is normally no charge. It is not a gift made in honor of someone or something.

The word "shindig" also puts my teeth on edge. If you're throwing a party in which dancing my occur, then shindig is appropriate. If you're just having people over for dinner, please do not use it. I dispise shindig because in certain settings it is the only word used to indicate a party.
posted by onhazier at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2005


I have always found that most people who describe something as being surreal are actually decribing something which is, in fact, quite real.

I love this kind of thread
posted by Richat at 8:32 AM on September 12, 2005


I'm not annoyed by a lot of these...I use totally, literally, and awesome all the time. Yes, I know this pizza is not literally awesome but it's pretty damn good, and I like being dramatic.

I haven't seen this yet: "gay" as an adjective to describe something that is stupid. As in, "This assignment is gay." HATE IT. Wrong, and offensive, and a lot of kids don't even GET that it's offensive.

Also, with meme...I was annoyed with this when I thought it was pronounced "me+me" and used to describe stupid surveys on livejournal. Now that I know more about the actual idea and pronunciation, it doesn't bother me as much. Which brings me to another point - sometimes I don't know how to pronounce words I only encounter reading online. Anyone else?
posted by jetskiaccidents at 8:34 AM on September 12, 2005


=== "I didn't like that story, because the characters were so one dimensional."

It makes sense for characters to have three dimensions. Such characters have depth. It makes sense for characters to have two dimensions. Such characters are flat. But ONE dimension? The characters are points?

=== I hate it when people on the internet (and teenagers passing notes in class) write like this... You know, they end every sentence with an ellipsis... What is that supposed to mean?... What is the point of it?... People always say, "That's the way I think"... WHAT is the way you think?... You trail off at the end of every thought?... You pause at the end of every thought?... They probably mean stream of consciousness... Well, (a) I don't want to read some unedited stream from your brains and (b) putting "..." at the end of every sentence doesn't somehow join your sentences together into a stream... Sentences are naturally joined together by the simple fact that one follows the other... Some people seem to think "..." adds profundity to their writing... As if writing "If God created the universe, who created God...?" is somehow more profound than, "If God created the universe, who created God?" ... UGH ...

=== "People don't really use just 10% of their brain. That's a myth."

I'm sure the dictionary allows it, but I hate the use of "myth" to mean common mistake, lie, misunderstanding, etc. Myth is such a beautiful word and I would love for it to be reserved for Oedipus, Paul Bunyan, Robin Hood, etc.

=== xFilter. I've always hated mathfilter, mycatissickfilter, harddrivefilter and the like. I thought these were attempts at jokes. If so, they're not funny. But I was told on Metatalk that they were simply a form of tagging. Well, now that we have real tagging, can we put xFilter to bed? While I'm venting about that, I'll say that I'm really sick of googlefu too. Also not funny.
posted by grumblebee at 8:37 AM on September 12, 2005


Oh, and, I have given up using ironic for the most part, because I am so afraid to being part of the problem.
posted by Richat at 8:37 AM on September 12, 2005


A lot of so-called bad usage is because word meanings change over time. That change isn't universal and older people and purists will try to hold off the change. Ain't gonna happen.

Awesome is a perfect example. The correct meaning of awesome is no longer awe-inspiring, but what it means to most people under forty. Something along the lines of great, fabulous, or terrific. Bemoaning that is like bemoaning the fact that people say I feel lousy when they have a cold. It would be silly to lecture people to say I feel lousy only if they are infested with lice, the original "correct" meaning.

There are some word usages, however, that do drive me nuts. I find that most of them are from advertisers or marketing people

Using the word home when you mean house, and especially the word "Townhome". You buy a house. You hope to make the house into your home. Realtors (not real-i-tors) sell houses. A realtor will never, ever, sell a home.

Family Room for what we used to call a den or a living room seems straight ouf of Real Estate Marketing 101.

And I don't know why, but gear in any context other than an actual gear strikes me as phony. If I take up a sport, I don't go to a sporting goods store for gear, but for, stuff, or things, or equipment. I think this may, however, be a regionalism. I've never heard it in New York other than Manhattan, which has a huge percentage of non-New Yorkers living there.

Could care less drives me to contemplate violence.
posted by xetere at 8:49 AM on September 12, 2005


It's just a little disappointing when you have an excellent, descriptive words that, through continued misuse and laziness their meaning becomes deluded.

I think you meant "diluted".
posted by Clay201 at 8:52 AM on September 12, 2005


I HATE "kick butt" as in "let's go kick some butt." When I was a kid, we said "kick ASS." Back then, "ass" was a dirty word. So "kick butt" was the cleaned up version, like "gosh darned" or "heck." Somehow The Man won and "kick butt" became common usage. Now tough guys say it on TV, even though it's now okay to say "ass" on TV. But it always sounds silly to me when a tough drill instructor talks about kicking butt.
posted by grumblebee at 8:53 AM on September 12, 2005


I think you meant "diluted"

I think you missed the joke. Re-read the paragraph.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:08 AM on September 12, 2005


130 comments and no one's mentioned "heighth"? I understand this might be a regional thing, but it makes me want to claw my eyes out. It sounds so utterly ignorant.
posted by peep at 9:10 AM on September 12, 2005


What's heighth?
posted by duck at 9:12 AM on September 12, 2005


Amazing. Everything is amazing nowadays; nobody recognizes that it's no small thing to be amazed. Also, so amazing. There aren't degrees of amazement; you're either amazed or you're not. I blame Felicity for both of these.
Hate as a noun (i.e. technically not incorrect—I looked it up—but hatred is always preferable).
Infer in place of imply and vice versa.
Nearly every piece of 'business' jargon ever.
Irregardless.
They still say Homicide bomber on Fox News when everyone knows perfectly well that they mean a suicide bomber.
posted by willpie at 9:14 AM on September 12, 2005


=== "I didn't like that story, because the characters were so one dimensional."

It makes sense for characters to have three dimensions. Such characters have depth. It makes sense for characters to have two dimensions. Such characters are flat. But ONE dimension? The characters are points?


Hrmm. I never thought of dimension in this sense really referring to spacial dimensions, as much as to 'aspects of character'. A one dimensional character would be a character that really only has one aspect to them; they are a single stereotype with no other characteristics - the screeching harpy, the dumb blonde, the mincing gay man - that exist as set dressing as much as characters.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:15 AM on September 12, 2005


DVD to stand for Digital Video Disc.

I actually saw this given as the right answer on a TV quiz show. I very nearly wrote a letter.
posted by alby at 9:15 AM on September 12, 2005


Such characters are flat. But ONE dimension? The characters are points?

No, such characters are lines. Or at least they have lines. Points have no dimension.
posted by kindall at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2005


"beckon call" to mean "beck and call"
and I see "compermise" ALL the time in personal journals....
posted by nile_red at 9:21 AM on September 12, 2005


Heighth
posted by peep at 9:25 AM on September 12, 2005


What's heighth?

It's how you measure the tallness of your signage.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:25 AM on September 12, 2005


Explicity trust: "I explicity trust my assistant to complete the task."

Exponential: "The river was rising exponentially."

Rate of speed: "He was travelling at a high rate of speed." (Hint: speed is a rate, e.g., miles per hour)

Intoxicated: "I had too much to drink last night. I wasn't drunk, I was intoxicated.
posted by GarageWine at 9:31 AM on September 12, 2005


I'm sure the dictionary allows it, but I hate the use of "myth" to mean common mistake, lie, misunderstanding, etc. Myth is such a beautiful word and I would love for it to be reserved for Oedipus, Paul Bunyan, Robin Hood, etc.

Me too. One of my favorite things is when I have an opportunity to use the notion of creation myths and include the bible. Because, well, it is.
posted by agregoli at 9:31 AM on September 12, 2005


It's amazing how many of the uses described as "incorrect" here are sanctioned by many dictionaries and usage manuals. But clearly1 random posters on MetaFilter know more than the language scholars who created these materials.

Grouse, dictionaries just describe what people do. Save for the usage notes in American Heritage, they don't really care about what's "correct." But I'd bet you'd find a number of these in any usage manual.
posted by dame at 9:32 AM on September 12, 2005


"anxious"

It should denote worry or dread, but people misuse it to indicate excitement or impatience.

I'm pretty liberal about grammar, etc., but people misuse this word all of the time, and for some reason it really bugs me.
posted by lilboo at 9:37 AM on September 12, 2005


People in MMORPGs who say "rouge" instead of "rogue".

God, I want to kill these people. Especially because it's not just a semi-common typo -- many people seem to not even recognize that there is a difference. I also saw a level 60 dwarf priest named "Preist".
posted by dagnyscott at 9:38 AM on September 12, 2005


Annoying Britishism: "orientate." The word is fucking "orient"! And harlequin, "Legos" is a real word in North America. You can hate it, but it isn't incorrect.
posted by dame at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2005


It bothers me when people say "I graduated college..." or "Ms. Spears graduated high school in..."

Technically, your college graduated YOU, but it's easy enough to include the word "from" in there.

I graduated from highschool in 2000. Just so you know.
posted by bonheur at 9:40 AM on September 12, 2005


No, such characters are lines. Or at least they have lines. Points have no dimension.

You're quite right, kindall. Thanks for the correction.

Hrmm. I never thought of dimension in this sense really referring to spacial dimensions, as much as to 'aspects of character'. A one dimensional character would be a character that really only has one aspect to them;

jacquilynne, I see where you're coming from. But (if you know a little geometry), the 1D, 2D, 3D thing creates such a strong image in your mind. 2D is like a piece of paper. It's flat. And you hear people saying, "the characters are so flat." I suspect that 2D characters came from this idea and that it was then bastardized into 1D characters.

This sort of thing happens all the time. "Greatest" means "as great as it's possible to be," but people don't want to settle for that, so they start saying things like "most greatest." I bet 1D character is supposed to mean a character that is even FLATTER than a 2D character. But nothing can be flatter than 2D.
posted by grumblebee at 9:41 AM on September 12, 2005


"Orientate" has made its way across the pond, I'm afraid.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:46 AM on September 12, 2005


I probably shouldn't add anything here because I've abused many a word, but the hung/hanged also rankles me. An English teacher gave the following memorable example:
That man was hung.

I also hate "utilize" with a passion.
posted by Tuwa at 9:48 AM on September 12, 2005


Adding to psmealey's list of irritating business jargon: "on a going forward basis" (what's wrong with "from now on"?)

Also, "webinar" needs to die die die.

What's a better word or phrase for drill down?

I'll second evariste on "from whence" and misused wherefores.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:48 AM on September 12, 2005


Dimensions don't have to be spatial, grumblebee. Maybe they mean the character is developed with only a single characteristic. E.g. he's the most jocktacular jock who ever jocked. Whereas 2D could refer to a character who is broadly but shallowly defined.

/stops talking out of ass.

(On topic. I've given up on "beg the question." "Penultimate" still hurts. "Literally" used incorrectly makes me literally wince. I also hate, when people use commas for no reason.)
posted by callmejay at 9:48 AM on September 12, 2005


Senator Landrieu misused "unprecedented" to describe the response to Hurricane Katrina:
Congress is going to an unprecedented session to pass a $10 billion supplemental bill tonight to keep FEMA and the Red Cross up and operating.
I'm pretty sure Congress has both had sesseions and passed multi-billion dollar supplemental bills.

"Weapons of mass destruction-related program activitives."
posted by kirkaracha at 9:53 AM on September 12, 2005


This could be splitting hairs here... but I think there's a genuine difference between colloquialisms (awesome, amazing, lousy, etc.) and improper usage (I was literally beside myself). There's probably no hard and fast rule for that, but like Potter Stewart I (mostly) know it when I hear it.
posted by psmealey at 9:57 AM on September 12, 2005


Does anyone have a dead horse? 'Cause I'd like to beat it.

2D could refer to a character who is broadly but shallowly defined.

I'm having trouble picturing such a character. I guess we could say that Scooby-do is a 1D character, Scrooge is a 2D character and Lear is a 3D character. But the 2D thing is a little fuzzy in my mind if you mean take dimension to mean "number of traits." I guess it would literally mean that the character has two traits. He's mean AND he's cowardly. I don't think we generally care about shades of characterizations. We just want to know, are the characters Saturday-Night-Live skit characters or are they Chekhov characters? Flat or fleshed out?

But if you take 2D to mean "flat" (like a cartoon character) and 3D to mean "with depth" (fleshed out), everything becomes clear. At least to me. And last time I checked, I ruled the world.
posted by grumblebee at 10:07 AM on September 12, 2005


tow the line.

it's TOE the line, dogg.
posted by fishfucker at 10:13 AM on September 12, 2005


"I've said my piece/peace."
posted by agregoli at 10:16 AM on September 12, 2005


Flaunt for flout, e.g., he was flaunting the law. Television reporters seem to get this wrong a lot, I've noticed.

Gift as a verb.

Wrong pronouns (e.g. "Between he and I")

Fewer for less (and vice versa). Fewer beans, less water. Though idiomatic usage frequently makes even the wrong choice sound (almost) right, e.g. One less bell to answer. Clearly lyricists have a part in the adaptation of wrong usage (see hanged/hung above). Probably a thesis in that for some aspiring linguistic student.

Imply for infer.

Alternatives for options. Sticking to the Latin, you can only have one choice and one alternative (paper or plastic). Beyond that, you have options. Box? Bag? Gunny sack? Shopping cart? (I know this one was lost years and years ago, but it still bothers me.)

Curious language, English. Easy to pick up, nearly impossible to master.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:24 AM on September 12, 2005


wild_eep: your wife must be from pennsylvania? "needs cleaned" seems to be a part of the regional dialect in western penn anyway. maybe parts of ohio too.
posted by joeblough at 10:30 AM on September 12, 2005


Actually, I should recuse myself from any further grammar-related posts. I said "hate with a passion," but you can't hate something dispassionately, can you?
posted by Tuwa at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2005


I don't like the word "dude," but I think this is because I'm too old to understand the way it's currently being used. When someone says, "Dude, you should try some of that pizza," is the "dude" just a friendly sort of title, like a friendlier, more casual form of "Mr."? (I know people use "dude" for women, too.) I always feel like, when someone calls me "dude," they're condescending to me (maybe in a good-natured way). But I'm not sure why I feel this way. My gut reaction to, "Dude, the book you want is on the shelf over there," is "YOU THINK YOU'RE BETTER THAN ME!?!?!" Am I crazy?
posted by grumblebee at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2005


I agree with psmealey about colloquialisms. I'd rather chat with someone who says "hopefully" (to mean "I hope") than with a self-appointed grammar cop who has to correct any usage foible they spot.

Still, the one that does make me cringe is "I got bit by a bee." Bees don't bite. Bees sting, goshdarnit, bees STING. That's just bad zoology.
posted by quarked at 10:39 AM on September 12, 2005


Freakin, eff'n -- just say fuckin.' This coy substitute is so stupid in today's world -- everybody knows the f-word, we won't be shocked, just say it!

I hate it when I read that somebody 'lighted' their cigarette. Lit, dammit! (I say read because I only see this in print for some reason. In non-contemporary text.)

Yes, orientate. (shudder)
posted by Rash at 10:40 AM on September 12, 2005


What about "best?" When someone describes something to me as "the best" I'm thinking, "what, in the whole wide world?"

alby: DVD can stand for Digital Video Disc - from Jim Taylor's (the godfather of DVD) DVD FAQ:

What do the letters DVD stand for?
And the official answer is? "Nothing." The original acronym came from "digital video disc." Some members of the DVD Forum tried to express that DVD goes far beyond video by retrofitting the painfully contorted phrase "digital versatile disc," but this has never been officially accepted by the DVD Forum as a whole. The DVD Forum decreed in 1999 that DVD, as an international standard, is simply three letters. After all, how many people ask what VHS stands for? (Guess what, no one agrees on that one either.)
posted by forallmankind at 10:43 AM on September 12, 2005


A gal I work with says, "So, I went acrossT the street...."

And when folks say, "The car needed washed." No. The car needed TO BE washed.

Like nails on a chalkboard, I tell ya!!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:43 AM on September 12, 2005


Oh, and those to whom every air disaster is a crash. The shuttles didn't crash, they broke up. TWA flight 800 (and for that matter, the Hindenburg) didn't crash, they exploded. In order to crash, you gotta have a collision.
posted by Rash at 10:44 AM on September 12, 2005


"Heighth" is terrible, but just yesterday I heard someone say "weighth". I couldn't understand how anyone could make this mistake.

I also know someone who pronounces "else" as "eltse". This drives me crazy.

Those are pronunciation complaints, though. For some reason I'm bothered by sentences like "If I would have gone outside, I would have gotten wet." Shouldn't it be "If I had gone outside..."? I realize that "would" is conditional, but it gets on my nerves every time I hear it used like that. Maybe I'm wrong.

Thank you, this was therapeutic.
posted by tepidmonkey at 10:47 AM on September 12, 2005


"like"

"I was like no you didnt"

"I was like all depressed and stuff"

Not sure exactly sure where it started but it seems to have been among young people. Maybe it was the Valley Girls.

More and more people use this. Old and young. You might even catch yourself saying it. And if you have a question don't "ax" me.
posted by Justin Case at 10:56 AM on September 12, 2005


ordnance = bombs, ammunition, military hardware
ordinance = a law or official policy
posted by Monk at 10:57 AM on September 12, 2005


Reticent for reluctant.
Renumerate for remunerate.
Vicuna for Vicuña.
posted by horsewithnoname at 11:02 AM on September 12, 2005


I mentioned this in the recent spelling thread, but a general irritant for me is when people needlessly use "big words" when shorter words would be more appropriate and less likely to be misunderstood.

For example, you could say "utilize an excavation implement to maneuver excrement," or you could say "shovel shit."
posted by kirkaracha at 11:05 AM on September 12, 2005


That's interesting kikaracha, but of course you have to beware the opposite: assuming people are just using big words to show off when, in fact, they are using the word that seems most appropriate.
posted by dame at 11:07 AM on September 12, 2005


This morning while speaking to the press in New Orleans, Bush said workers were "dewatering" the city.

I nearly bit right through my pen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:11 AM on September 12, 2005


Similarly to "penultimate" (above), people use "Quantum" (as in "Quantum Leap") to denote large (radical) change.

A quanta is the smallest discreet change that can be measured.
posted by Crosius at 11:17 AM on September 12, 2005


There are thousands of ways to pronounce etcetera and asterisk, but only one of them is right. (I use asterisk on the phone a lot, and it drives me so nuts I just call it a snowflake, hoping they can't screw that up.)

Decimate.
Et al, i.e., and e.g. If you don't speak enough Latin to know what it means, don't use it. (See decimate.)

Ax instead of ask, or anything with an S in it that ends up with an X they don't need.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 11:34 AM on September 12, 2005


Crosius: but if you were an electron, I imagine the "quantum leap" from one electron shell to another would seem pretty big. Not to mention sudden.

A neutron walks into a bar. The bartender says, "For you, no charge."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:36 AM on September 12, 2005


no one opposes the prevalent term "expresso"? It's bad enough when people SAY it, but when i see it on a menu in a coffeehouse, I barely contain my rage/laughter. When did this country stop caring about proper word usage? What the hell is an "Expresso" anyway and why does it look so much like "Espresso".
posted by Dantien at 11:37 AM on September 12, 2005


"Dewatering" pisses me off too, since everyone knows it's called Unwatering.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:37 AM on September 12, 2005


mr_crash_davis: If we're going to start listing ways Bush abuses and misuses the English language, we'll probably bring AskMeFi to its electronic knees from the sheer volume.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:37 AM on September 12, 2005


Ok so here is a question: does one say "that didn't faze me" or "that didn't phase me"? Because I always assumed the former, but I have seen 3 people on this site today use the latter so I'm doubting myself.

As for things I hate: utilize (with a passion), less/fewer, and 'za for pizza. grrr.
posted by gaspode at 11:41 AM on September 12, 2005


"mr_crash_davis: If we're going to start listing ways Bush abuses and misuses the English language, we'll probably bring AskMeFi to its electronic knees from the sheer volume."

Well, my point was actually that this time he managed to use the right word, but I don't think it was on purpose, which is what made me cringe and wonder if he understood what he was saying.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:44 AM on September 12, 2005


It bugs the hell out of me when an athlete wins a game or tournament or whatever and in the post game interview they say it was "a very humbling experience". A humbling experience would be if they lost the big game but I've heard this spouted over and over again as drivel.
posted by quadog at 11:46 AM on September 12, 2005


no one opposes the prevalent term "expresso"

Holy shit I hate expresso. HATE it. Along with axe (as in, "I axed you a question"), it's like a yellow star of abject stupidity.

I also hate, hate, HATE it when caramel is pronounced "car-mel". You're dropping a syllable, you fucking idiot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:47 AM on September 12, 2005


psmealey and jimfl,
While I suppose "incite" or "enchant" could be used in place of "incent" or "incentivize", I might suggest a business would be best served to use "entice." Incite connotes violence or rule-breaking. Enchant connotes magic or a hypnotic state. While the note about an incentive having a negative or positive side is well-taken, a business is typically interested in happy-happy joy-joy speak and thus entice might best fit the bill. Just my two grammatical cents.

I'll have to think about the "hopefully" example.
posted by Slothrop at 11:47 AM on September 12, 2005


Now that I think about it, any marketing weasel worth its anthropomorphic salt would suggest that "entice" connotes some duplicity. Hmm...
posted by Slothrop at 11:49 AM on September 12, 2005


emails.
Another case of computer geek language butchery that became commonplace.
heh.
posted by madajb at 11:50 AM on September 12, 2005


Oh, and also when college graduates refer to themselves in the singular as an "alumni". The singular is "alumnus", as in "I am an alumnus of University of X". You went to school to learn that type of stuff, dammit!
posted by quadog at 11:51 AM on September 12, 2005


HATE it. Along with axe

Careful there, Civil. "Axe" is a perfectly acceptable alternate for "ask" within the African-American community.
posted by quadog at 11:57 AM on September 12, 2005


The singular is "alumnus", as in "I am an alumnus of University of X".

Unless, of course, the speaker is a woman, in which case she is an alumna.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:58 AM on September 12, 2005


A quanta is the smallest discreet change that can be measured.
That's discrete change.

The double "is" meme has been going around for about five years now, and it drives me nuts. Highly educated people use it: "The problem is is that..." It's not a pause for thinking time; it's a grammatical error, like pre-programmed, pre-planned, or raise it up a little higher. You rarely, if ever, see it in writing-- psmealey has used it above, but that's likely a cut-and-paste error.

"For free" bothers me. Yes, I know, everybody says it. But "free" means "free of charge", and "for free" is a stupid mix-up with "for nothing".
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:59 AM on September 12, 2005


mr_crash_davis: I understood your meaning. I just thought your post might precipitate a torrent of Bushisms, and hoped to forestall that.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:00 PM on September 12, 2005


Ok so here is a question: does one say "that didn't faze me" or "that didn't phase me"? Because I always assumed the former, but I have seen 3 people on this site today use the latter so I'm doubting myself.

Gaspode, "faze" is correct.


You're dropping a syllable, you fucking idiot.

Civil_D, I bet you (like me) also can't stand it when those fucking idiots ADD syllables: "Kathaleen is a good athalete."

And one more goddam thing: Adding that unnecessary "s" to "all," making "alls." "Alls I gotta do is axe Kathaleen a few questions, eck cetera eck cetera."

*head explodes, cubicle mates look on in horror*
posted by scratch at 12:02 PM on September 12, 2005


I am also frequently astounded by the continued existence of people who spell "lose" with an extra "o". This one was big in the early days of the web and it shows few signs of dying off. It is like the "nucular" of spelling mistakes.
posted by Succa at 12:03 PM on September 12, 2005


I have a million of 'em, but I usually try to let them slide. There are a couple that always drive me nuts, though: saying "I seen" instead of either "I have seen" or "I saw." Also, people who substitute either "I" or "myself" for "me." "Please contact either Bob or myself if you have any questions." "He gave Jane and I invitations to the party." GAAAAHH! My hunch is that it comes from some hypervigilance that using "me" always sounds uneducated or something.
posted by scody at 12:03 PM on September 12, 2005


"Lighted" for "Lit".
Rooms used to be lit.
People lit matches.

Now, for some reason, they've decided that rooms are lighted and in that room, Bob lighted a cigarette.

For all I know, it's technically correct, but it bothers the bejesus out of me.
posted by madajb at 12:10 PM on September 12, 2005


psmealey has used it above

W-GP, I did what to whom? Is there a "double is" in something I wrote above? I can't find if so.

On preview... ditto what scody said. It also bothers me when people misuse subject and object personal pronouns: I/me, she/her, he/him, etc. That one is not a question of snobbery or elitism: unless the schools have given up on this, it's basic third grade english grammar.
posted by psmealey at 12:17 PM on September 12, 2005


In the electronics store, the aisle labeled "Walkmans."

Why? WHY? Is it because the chairman became the chairperson, suddenly the plural of "-man" was forgotten?
posted by Rash at 12:18 PM on September 12, 2005


"As far as" without the "goes".
posted by tangerine at 12:20 PM on September 12, 2005


Walkman is an exocentric compound (ie, the meaning has little to do with "man"), therefore Walkmans is the correct pluralisation.

"Orientate" bothers the hell out of me, but if Auden and Huxley happily used it, I almost feel guilty. How about "antiquitated"?
posted by RGD at 12:24 PM on September 12, 2005


Civil_D, I bet you (like me) also can't stand it when those fucking idiots ADD syllables: "Kathaleen is a good athalete."

Then don't move to Baltimore, scratch. Patapsco is "Patapsico" and Westminster is "Westminister". Of course Bel Air is "Blair" so give a syllable, take a syllable.
posted by gaspode at 12:27 PM on September 12, 2005


W-GP, I did what to whom? Is there a "double is" in something I wrote above? I can't find if so.

It's in your first comment: ...what is intended is is "to flesh out"
I found it when searching to see if anyone had mentioned my peeve. But, as I said, I don't think people write this way. They say it all the time, however.

Walkmans aside, how about those Toronto Maple Leafs? When they had a contest to solicit names for their basketball team, I submitted "Gooves", the Toronto plural of "goof".
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:54 PM on September 12, 2005


"impactful"
posted by macinchik at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2005


Dame:

"And harlequin, "Legos" is a real word in North America. You can hate it, but it isn't incorrect."

I'm interested to know why you think it is correct.
Even dictionaries, which list usage, not correctness, seem to reject it. Which dictionaries are you thinking of that list it? (There are some key ones I don't have and so can't check) Is it listed as slang or colloquialism? Does it indicate region?

Obviously, according to Lego themselves and the English-speaking world, it is incorrect. Ebay (USA) treats it as a spelling error in your search, etc. In fact, I'm finding it hard to think of anything that recognises "legos" as a word. The closest thing seems to be LegOS (Operating System for lego computers), which is valid everywhere, but not really related to the topic.

Is it your view that the (mis)use is so common here that it has become a locally accepted word? (I already said that in the message you were replying to, and I'm not sure what other grounds their could be for claiming that it's ok).

More on the topic, it's not just a case of "I hate it", I don't think many North American's quite appreciate how big an error it is in the English speaking world (minus the area where the colloqualism is used). Not because anyone gives a shit about Lego, but because it falls below a kindergarten-level grasp of basic language, which is usually pretty shocking regardless of what kindergarten-level error is made.
Imagine what you'd think of the guy who constantly said "sheeps" instead of "sheep" if English wasn't his second language - that's how big - you might wonder if he was retarded. Many people (like me), are aware from travels that it's a common use in North America, but be aware if you're travelling, a lot of people won't know about it (since lego trivia isn't exactly the focus of people's life :), and some may simply wonder if you're mildly retarded or something :-)


Regardless, can you tell me what "legos" means to you - is it regionally correct to refer to, say, wood toy bricks as legos, or do they actually have to be Lego bricks before you can call them legos?
posted by -harlequin- at 1:35 PM on September 12, 2005


It's in your first comment: ...what is intended is is "to flesh out"

Ah... got it. Yeah. That was a typographical/paste error. Funny how we develop blindspots to our own typos. I wonder if there's a word for that phenomenon.
posted by psmealey at 1:37 PM on September 12, 2005


(First posting - please be gentle)

Hot water heater (why heat hot water?) - it may be a western Canadian colloquialism

Paranoid - delusions of persecution is what you're trying to get across, but a paranoid person may also experience delusions of grandeur

"Probly" or "prolly"

Free gift - department of redundancy department

"Loan" money - one lends money, or gets a loan. Loan is a noun.

Ironical - just bad

"Them guys" - maybe another Canadian colloquialism, but it gives me the shudders, especially when an adult uses it

To Willpie - the use of "Homicide bomber" is an attempt to negate the sacrifice of the bomber, and ignores the point that virtually all bombers are trying to commit homicide.

By proxy, for my father, "Veggies". Pisses him right off.
posted by ykjay at 1:54 PM on September 12, 2005


I really really hate it when people say "that's just semantics." Of course, this is probably because I'm a linguist studying semantics, and semantics in the technical sense has very little to do with the word in that saying, but people often form the impression that it must.
posted by advil at 2:10 PM on September 12, 2005


I HATE it when motorcycle is pronounced motor-sickle. It makes me want to barf every time.
posted by curlyelk at 2:13 PM on September 12, 2005


In the electronics store, the aisle labeled "Walkmans."

Why? WHY? Is it because the chairman became the chairperson, suddenly the plural of "-man" was forgotten?


For the same reason that there is a hockey team called the Toronto Maple Leafs: a Walkman is not a man, hence it does not pluralize like "man."
posted by kindall at 2:14 PM on September 12, 2005


"Regardless, can you tell me what 'legos' means to you - is it regionally correct to refer to, say, wood toy bricks as legos, or do they actually have to be Lego bricks before you can call them legos?"

In the U.S. at least, "legos" refer to the actual plastic bricks manufactured by the Lego Group. Just curious, what is your source for saying that "Lego" is the company's preferred spelling for plural lego bricks? I'm looking through their website, and every reference I'm finding is to "LEGO bricks", "LEGO figures", etc. I don't see any references to either "lego" OR "legos" as a plural term for their products.
posted by tdismukes at 2:21 PM on September 12, 2005


Mo Nickels: heh. I'd actually love to be a pedant about that, it would be my style. Sadly, every time I read about correct usage of dashes, en-dashes, em—dashes and hyphens it goes in one eyeball and out the other.

rash and kindall: William Safire Orders Two Whoppers Junior always cracks me up.
posted by evariste at 2:22 PM on September 12, 2005


On Lego/Legos: I think that companies which invented words shouldn't get to prescribe their usage. Screw Lego, I'm calling them Legos.

The language belongs to us, not to them.
posted by evariste at 2:24 PM on September 12, 2005


"I HATE it when motorcycle is pronounced motor-sickle. It makes me want to barf every time."

Being open to multiple pronunciations greatly increases your lyrical rhyming opportunities.

"I don't want a pickle.
I just want to ride on my motorsickle.
and I don't want a tickle,
I just want to ride on my motorsickle.
And I don't want to die,
I just want to ride on my motorcy ... cle.
"
posted by tdismukes at 2:27 PM on September 12, 2005


Paranoid - delusions of persecution is what you're trying to get across, but a paranoid person may also experience delusions of grandeur

While it's true that paranoia may include delusions of grandeur in addition to delusions of persecution, the delusions of persecution are in fact necessary for the condition to be referred to as "paranoia," and, therefore, for a person with the condition to be paranoid.
posted by cerebus19 at 2:49 PM on September 12, 2005


I don't think many North American's quite appreciate how big an error it is in the English speaking world (minus the area where the colloqualism is used)

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that people (other than you) would see it as an actual error and not a simple math/maths trunk/boot difference in regional English. It would be a pretty dumb conclusion to draw.

Regardless, can you tell me what "legos" means to you - is it regionally correct to refer to, say, wood toy bricks as legos, or do they actually have to be Lego bricks before you can call them legos?

Legos are the bricks made by LEGO, and as far as I am concerned, also other bricks that work interchangeably with them irrespective of who made them.

If you hand-carved tiny wooden bricks with nubs and hollows that worked interchangeably with the product of LEGO, then you would have wooden legos.

I certainly don't care what the marketing drones at LEGO think I should call them, any more than I care that the people at Xerox think I should say "photocopy."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2005


Maybe its just the jerk in me but I've always wanted to go on Jeopardy and get every response right but intentionally butcher the pronunciation everytime just to needle Trebek.

And I hate it when people say "Don't take this the wrong way" or "I don't mean to insult you but.....".

Other phrases I hate:
"Cowboy Up" is among the dumbest catchphrases in use today.
"Don't go there" is thankfully dying out of use but some wankerbe hipsters still throw it out every so often. They should be publicly mocked for using it. Just like any dumbass who wears a beanie anymore.
When people use "addicted" when they mean "addiction".

I'm sure I'll come up with many more as the week progresses.
posted by fenriq at 2:53 PM on September 12, 2005


tdismukes:
Just curious, what is your source for saying that "Lego" is the company's preferred spelling for plural lego bricks?

Not spelling, usage. I'm thinking of the spoken language here. The most uh, infamous example I found in a quick search is what you get if you type www.legos.com into your browser :-)
They specifically asks that you not refer to "LEGOS", before redirecting you, 10 seconds later, to their front page.

(This touches on a point I should clarify - because I'm writing about spoken word usage, not written, I tend to avoid writing Lego in all-caps (as you would in order to evade the spell-checker), because when talking about spoken language, capitalising is often used to indicate spoken emphasis or shouting, which isn't the case here. In formal writing, you would try to write it as their brand-name, including their capitalisation "LEGO" rather than "Lego" or "lego", but all of these are all the same word when spoken, and I'm running on the assumption that muddying in stuff specific to the correct written form isn't helpful when focusing on spoken. If you prefer me to ditch that assumption, I can, it simply reads more like speech to me if I write it the way people actually say it).
posted by -harlequin- at 3:12 PM on September 12, 2005


In the U.S. at least, "legos" refer to the actual plastic bricks manufactured by the Lego Group. Just curious, what is your source for saying that "Lego" is the company's preferred spelling for plural lego bricks? I'm looking through their website, and every reference I'm finding is to "LEGO bricks", "LEGO figures", etc. I don't see any references to either "lego" OR "legos" as a plural term for their products.

I don't cringe when I hearLegos. However, if I did, I would say this: Lego is a non-count noun. It doesn't refer to an individual Lego brick, but to a bunch of Lego.

It's like corn or oatmeal or dirt or water. You wouldn't refer to corns (as in the vegetable) or oatmeals or dirts or waters, because you can't make them plural (they're not really singular to start with -- now that's probably not a precise description and maybe a liguist can explain it better).

If you want, you can talk about a kernal of corn, or a flake of oatmeal or a grain of dirt or a drop of water, and all those can be made plural. But there's no dirts or corns or oatmeals and there's no Legos. There are Lego bricks.
posted by duck at 3:30 PM on September 12, 2005


They specifically asks that you not refer to "LEGOS"

And Xerox asks you not to refer to your Canon photocopier as a "xerox machine" and not to say "I'm going to xerox this," and Kleenex asks you to refer only to facial tissues and never to kleenexes (kleenices?).

But why would I care about any of their self-serving attempts to keep their trademarks active, or care about calling it acetylsalicylic acid instead of aspirin as Bayer would probably, to this day, prefer I do?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:57 PM on September 12, 2005


Frankly, I find it hard to believe that people (other than you) would see it as an actual error and not a simple math/maths trunk/boot difference in regional English. It would be a pretty dumb conclusion to draw.

Man, what is it with lego/legos? It's like a hornet's nest :)
This is my experience:
I'm British/US "bilingual" to an extent that I often get asked to translate or explain the more obscure slang to one side or the other. Even despite this, since I wasn't into Lego (other than having some in childhood), the word "legos" was as unheard of to me as to most other people around me. I had been living in North America for quite some time before I had a conversation about Lego.

My explanation for how this happens is my honest observation, I'm not sure which part of this chain you find hard to believe:

(Note, this generalisation isn't all people, or even most people, but enough that I don't consider it fancifal)

1. People don't care much about Lego, other than it being a toy from their childhood. Lego trivia just isn't part of their world.
2. Therefore, chances are high people have never ever heard someone say "legos"
3. In contrast, people have been familiar with trunk/boot, math/maths since birth, due to (among other things) the majority of TV and movies being American. People know North American language like their own, yet not only to many not know legos, they don't know that they don't know it. They assume (correctly) they already know regional differences quite intimately. The problem is that Lego doesn't feature much in movies, or conversation, or anything really, so it slips though the net, even though that net is very fine and deemed reliable.
4. When someone repeatedly says legos, it might not register as regional, because if it was regional, the listener would presumably already know about it.
5. But people have heard plenty of 4 year olds say "sheeps" and similar. And are aware that some people make basic lingual mistakes even as adults.
6. Thus the error is of a type more strongly associated with basic language error than region. It may be quite surprising that someone could make such an error, but it doesn't seem like a stretch.

Yes, wondering if someone maybe has a learning disability because their reigionalism sounds more like inability with the language than regionalism, is a dumb conclusion to draw in this particular instance, but only because it happens to be wrong. In other instances, the same thinking may lead to the right conclusion more often than not, thus may be somewhat justified. So it's really more of a wrong conclusion than a dumb one. There are not many regional words that are in this category - it is nothing at all like the trunk/boot regionalism. You can converse with someone from the other side of the world for weeks, without hitting a word you don't know. (In that case, the legos thing would get cleared up pretty quickly, since you're conversing, but some people remain politely silent.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a similar regional word that is both completely unfamiliar to North Americans and sounds more like an error than a regionalism, but I'll keep an eye out for one. I think you may be being a little optimistic as to how many people judge other people. Certainly, I imagine the confusion usually gets cleared up, but better to avoid that middle phase altogether :)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:00 PM on September 12, 2005


" The most uh, infamous example I found in a quick search is what you get if you type www.legos.com into your browser :-)
They specifically asks that you not refer to "LEGOS", before redirecting you, 10 seconds later, to their front page.
"

Interesting ... when I looked at their site earlier, I followed a link from Google, and didn't get the redirect. The redirect apparently only comes when you go directly from the site.

Anyway, the redirect page doesn't really support your point. It asks you to refer to their products as "LEGO toys or bricks." As I mentioned in my question, the plural is contained in "toys" or "bricks". That's different from just "lego" as a plural noun. Their request regarding the name seems to be an attempt to protest their trademark, probably on the grounds that "legos" sounds too much like a generic noun, rather than a ruling that "lego" follows the same usage as "sheep."
posted by tdismukes at 4:06 PM on September 12, 2005


ROU_Xenophobe:

But why would I care about any of their self-serving attempts to keep their trademarks active

Irrelevant. I was asked to give a link to an instance of the company's official view on the use of their name. No more.
I did so, and you have quoted this information as if I was somehow arguing you should follow their orders because the company said so.

No more strawmen today please. I have wasted time today looking for ANY source that recognises "legos" as a word, from various dictionaries, to professional publications and websites, to worldwide usage, to the company themselves. I have found nothing in favour. And despite the myriad replies, it seems no-one else has found anything either.

Is there any other world usage in this thread that fails so many tests outside of being a regionally acceptable (mis)use, yet people are so determined to consider legitimate? I'm starting to wonder if "legos" hits a nerve. :)

The post in which I mentioned "legos", I said it was widespread enough in the region to be accepted use here. Has anything of substance been added to that?

As far as I can see, my first post was bang on - worldwide, legos is wrong, it's an accepted use in N.A., and it can sound worse to people not from that area than regionalisms normally do. Is there anything more to add, or should the first post have also been the last?
posted by -harlequin- at 4:41 PM on September 12, 2005


The growing use of obligate/d, which actually seems to mean oblige/d.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:43 PM on September 12, 2005


"Hot water heater (why heat hot water?) - it may be a western Canadian colloquialism"

Heh, that one crossed the border, too. It's common in the Seattle area, at least.
posted by litlnemo at 4:54 PM on September 12, 2005


Quote is a verb and quotation is a noun. People always use quote when they mean quotation.
posted by princelyfox at 4:56 PM on September 12, 2005


Now, for some reason, they've decided that rooms are lighted and in that room, Bob lighted a cigarette.

When is "now"? Hemingway at least was writing about clean well-lighted places long before most people today were around. ^_^
posted by Tuwa at 4:59 PM on September 12, 2005


'"Go and" do something' bothers me because it's so often used as a space filler. Eg, "I'm going to go and use the bathroom," or "Why don't you go and get your car?"

I have no idea how "the commonwealth," whatever that is, uses it.
posted by shoos at 5:01 PM on September 12, 2005


Schizophrenic

You know..Like...
posted by madstop1 at 5:13 PM on September 12, 2005


"Transition" is a noun. "Transit" is a verb. Learn the difference, and love it as I do.
posted by NortonDC at 5:38 PM on September 12, 2005


I can't stand vocal chords and lynchpins. And those things that keep the water out of low-lying areas are dikes. NOT DYKES.
posted by Guy Smiley at 6:18 PM on September 12, 2005


Harlequin:

As others have said, to me a lego is one of the little plastic bricks with bumps made by Lego, or some generic version that looks exactly like one. A wooden block or a plastic block with no bumps is a block.

As for your little dictionary fit, no version of "lego" shows up in Merriam-Webster, and on dictionary.com, the only definition I'm getting is from WorldNet 2.0. So, as far as I understand, in America, Lego is just the brand name for those kind of blocks, and so calling many of them legos is like calling many copies xeroxes--incorrect in the sense that you're using a brand name as a general noun, but not a massive usage error on par with others cited here.

So are you finding loads of dictionaries defining the plural of lego as lego, or are you just being really chauvinistic about a stupid toy?
posted by dame at 8:01 PM on September 12, 2005


I'm with dame. Let the legos fall where they may.

Drives me crazy: "near miss," especially in the context of something or someone having "dodged a bullet." Even if something "nearly" missed you, you still got hit.

And the in-laws (whose first language is not English) never fail to provide nails-on-the-chalkboard questions such as, "Do you have what to eat?" "Does she have what to wear?" I shiver just typing that.
posted by youarejustalittleant at 8:59 PM on September 12, 2005


I go away for awhile and a lego war breaks out.

I have many friends of the breeding variety. These many friends have bred many children. All of them have legos. All of the parents — every single one — says "would you like to play with legos?". I have never heard them say — not once — "would you like to play with lego?"

I'm near Portland, Oregon, and grew up using legos as a plural to refer to multiple lego bricks, whether they were manufacturd by Lego or by a third-party.
posted by jdroth at 10:18 PM on September 12, 2005


Q: What did the Lego pirate say when he lost his leg?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:29 PM on September 12, 2005


advil, you can hate all you want but just because you are studying semantics doesn't mean that semanticists have a monopoly on the meaning of that word.
1. Linguistics. The study or science of meaning in language.
2. Linguistics. The study of relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent. Also called semasiology.
3. The meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form: We're basically agreed; let's not quibble over semantics.
"It's just semantics" is a correct observation (depending on the circumstance) -- the word has meaning outside of academic cloisters. I'm going to put my memory on the line by asserting that the non-academic use of the word predates scholastic application. OED anyone?
posted by peacay at 11:26 PM on September 12, 2005


just because you are studying semantics doesn't mean that semanticists have a monopoly on the meaning of that word.

I wasn't particularly trying to say that they do (in fact, saying such a thing is rather contrary to many of the main ideas of modern descriptive linguistics). Most of semantics is even about what things mean "outside of academic cloisters." (Actually, a fair amount of semantics in some form or another goes on outside these cloisters, in natural language processing.) What I was alluding to was the fact that linguistics generally and semantics in particular are relatively unknown, and most people seem to only know the word "semantics" from that saying, which makes semantics out to be rather trivial and silly (I don't think it is, but you don't have to take my word for it). Perhaps this is outside the scope of Invoke's original question, and I apologize if so; it just seemed relevant when I posted it.

I'm going to put my memory on the line by asserting that the non-academic use of the word predates scholastic application. OED anyone?

I do in fact have OED access, and I went in fully expecting you to be right (after all, the field as it exists now has only really been around about as long as generative linguistics). However, it turns out that as far as I can see, the word, while derived from greek, does not really have an earlier use than a technical one by philologists in the late 19th century:

2. a. Relating to signification or meaning.
1894 E. W. FAY in Amer. Jrnl. Philol. XV. 433 Freedom of interchange between r and l is limited by semantic considerations. 1895 BLOOMFIELD in Amer. Jrnl. Philol. XVI. 412 The semantic value of the older reduplications....
etc. (this and related entries are quite long)

The use we were discussing, seems to have originated in the mid 20th century:

b. In weakened uses.
1944 M. RYSKIND in Sat. Rev. Lit. 23 Dec. 4/1 The technique of character-assassination instead of arguments is..standard totalitarian semantics. 1966 N.Y. Post 3 Aug. 6/4 Sen. Pastore said that everybody was engaged in semantics. `It comes down to a very fine point,' he said, stating the obvious in a nutshell. 1978 K. HUDSON Jargon of Professions 16 Almost daily in the press briefing, whenever a newsman raises his hand to ask for clarification of some mealy-mouthed statement: `I am not going to debate semantics with you,' the spokesman replies.


There is a much earlier version that isn't clearly related at all:

1. Relating to signs of the weather. Obs.
1665 J. SPENCER Prodigies v. ?1 (ed. 2) 300 'Twere easie to shew how much this Semantick Philosophy..was studied.


But like I said, as a generative linguist I don't actually believe that the oldest use wins - no one wins. As long as a use is common to some reasonably large group of people, it might as well be called real.
posted by advil at 1:14 AM on September 13, 2005


advil, thank you for going to such trouble and for your reasoned response. That mid-20th century commencement is astounding - I'm not doubting you (as soon as I typed the 'OED anyone?', I had a vision of being shot down) - I'm just very surprised.

My liking the common meaning (for the majority) of semantics should not be taken as any commentary on your area of study. It was because of my love for our language that I leapt in. We all have our achilles tendons and some things will prompt me to defend them -- as we see from the length of this great thread, we all have emotional ties to language, one way or another. Come the revolution, I will decree what words are disallowed ;- )
posted by peacay at 2:37 AM on September 13, 2005


My water heater heats hot water.
/lego derail
posted by pointilist at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2005


A quanta is the smallest discreet change that can be measured.

In addition to the discreet/discrete confusion here, which weapons-grade pandemonium already pointed out, it is not "a quanta." Quanta is plural; quantum is singular.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:10 PM on September 13, 2005


We're all so damn pissy.
posted by LarryC at 3:33 PM on September 13, 2005


Leggo my legos!
posted by scody at 4:24 PM on September 13, 2005


...people who say "incorrect" when they mean "not in keeping with my personal stylistic preferences".
posted by moss at 12:10 AM on September 14, 2005


A: "Where'd my Lego leg go?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:31 AM on September 14, 2005


« Older Car CD Player (without car stereo)?   |   Recommend old-school companies. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.