Words Mean Things, Damn It. Use Them Right

Jason’s head.

My wife thinks I’m stodgy when it comes to words and when it comes to words I find that a compliment. Words mean certain things and when we use them incorrectly the world devolves into anarchy. Right?

Trigger Smith, owner of the New York East Village bar The Continental, took the abuse of the English language seriously in January. He banned customers from using the word “literally” because it is the “most overused, annoying word in the English language and we will not tolerate it,” according to National Public Radio.

I have no problem with literally when it’s used correctly. The problem is, it isn’t.

Figuratively: It sounds like it’s true, but it is not.

Literally: It’s actually true.

Good for you Trigger.

But the work of people like Trigger seems wasted when an organization such as Merriam-Webster comes out and says two words that don’t mean the same thing now do. Apparently, the dictionary folks are OK with “nauseous” and “nauseated” being synonymous. I guess I can’t trust them as far as I can throw their product.

“We must point out that nauseous, like many other words in our language, is remarkable in its elasticity and range of meaning,” Merriam-Webster posted.

Shut up.

Nauseate: Something makes you feel sick.

Nauseous: You actually are sick and probably going to hurl.

They’re not interchangeable and it’s not that hard to keep them straight.

“Language evolves,” my wife said when she got tired of listening to me rant, which is beginning to happen much more often. “Shakespeare made up thousands of words.”

I hate it when she makes sense.

Although she’s right that language evolves, if we don’t stick to the rules we eventually won’t be able to understand what anyone else is saying. It’s bad now. Have you ever tried arguing with a Texan?

Say “plethora,” I dare you.

Let me complain further:

  • I hate the word “plethora.” It is pretentious and wrong. It’s a medical term from the 1540s that means “an excess of blood.” So, go ahead and say you have a “plethora” of drink choices. I’ll assume you’re a vampire and act accordingly.
  • When someone is dragging something, the past tense is “dragged,” not “drug.” A drug is what I need to take to tolerate bad grammar.
  • Don’t use the word “just” unless you’re writing about why The Batman fights crime.
  • The word “really” is a waste of space.
  • Stop using “theory” when you mean “hypothesis.”
  • I dislike the word “lanyard.” It was once a manly sailing term. Now it’s used to describe the cord people use to hang keys, or Comicon badges.
  • Exclamation points are for the signature page in a high school yearbook. Be strong, use a period.
  • “ATM machine”? Do people not know what the M in ATM means? The same goes for PIN number.
  • There’s a difference between “everyday” and “ every day.” Figure it out.

My wife is right, language evolves, but when does that evolution simply become those who know better giving in to those who don’t?

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