Say What You Mean What You Say
You might have gotten the hint by now that I’m the one of the world’s most obsessive word-geeks. I work hard not to obviously cringe when people misspeak. I’ve learned the hard way that for some reason people don’t like that. I will notice your spelling error, your grammar blunder and, most irritating to me, your misuse of words. I find that I have more respect for people and hold them in higher esteem when they speak correctly, particularly when they observe some obscure rule to which no one pays any heed…like spelling the plural of thesis as theses. Nice.
In my queries, I am pleased to announce that spelling and grammar errors are remarkably few (my nerves thank you). I love that writers these days take the time to use a spelling and grammar checker, to have the piece read by someone else, etc.
But. The misuse and overuse of common words, both in my slush pile and in every day speech is becoming more and more frequent. I’ll admit it: you lose credibility and esteem (in my eyes anyway) when you don’t have a strong enough command of the language on which you’re trying to capitalize. I do it too. I make mistakes in my own speech. The other day someone brought to my attention that I have a slight lisp and I pronounce both “then” and “than” the same way. Now I have a complex. So I’m opening up a forum for word pet-peeves. What gets on your nerves? My own pet-peeves (taken from actual queries) follow…
“She has countless pairs of shoes in her closet…” Well, since she’s able to count the shoes, they’re not countless. Misuse.
“She arrived at Barney’s looking phenomenal and…” So she looked so great it was a phenomenon? This word means that she would need to have been like a phenomenon. When the blind can suddenly see it is phenomenal. It is not phenomenal when someone gets a new hairdo. I know a person who uses this word compulsively all the time to describe food, movies, experiences, everything. She must have a great life, surrounded by all this phenomena! Misuse.
The word “awesome”: Unless your awe has been inspired by something, it is not awesome. If my boss tells me I can leave early today, I should not say, “Awesome!” because it isn’t. Am I in awe of that? Misuse.
“I could care less…” Couldn’t.
“All the sudden…” Don’t even get me started…
“She literally jumped out of her skin…” No she didn’t. That would be really gross. Please be careful with this word. Literally means whatever you say people will need to take literally.
The word “awkward.” Just because a social interaction is uncomfortable doesn’t mean its awkward. For it to be awkward, it would need to not function the way it is supposed to. Like a stool with only two legs.
“Due to the Vietnam War, his entire family was decimated…” The word “decimate” means to reduce to 10% of the original. Exactly 10%. Sometimes it is used informally to mean that something was drastically reduced, but never entirely destroyed. So “he” should have one-in-ten family members, but this author meant “his” family was gone. I see this misuse at least once a week.
“He was taken back by the rudeness…” Aback.
“She wanted to dress up as a witch for Halloween but thought it was too original…” This says the opposite of what the author wanted to say. It says that a witch costume would have been a fresh, new take on a Halloween costume, which is not the case.
“For all intensive purposes…” Intents and purposes.
“She had myriad of excuses…” You could either say, “She had a myriad of excuses” or “She had myriad excuses…”
What say you, readers?