Monday, February 6, 2012

"Bad grammar is a difficult thing up with which to put."*

            Let it never be said that I don’t love the English language. I’ve more or less made it my life’s work (ha ha! "Life's work." I'm priceless.). I annoy people all the time by correcting their grammar or pronunciation. In fact, I think (know) I really piss people off pretty badly when I bust out those kinds of shenanigans. But I was thinking that maybe there are some phrases and words that I should never say because they are so blatantly pretentious that only English professors (and I mean professors from England, not professors who teach English) can get away with uttering them. And, so we’re clear, I don’t think anyone else should say them either. Except, again, professors from England. Or John Cleese, in a humourous context (he would spell it with that extra “u.” Pretentious bastards, those English. Wish we’d thought of it first.). 
This man can say anything he wants. I will listen.

            These words/phrases include (but are not limited to):
1.     Loquacious. There are plenty of other ways to say this, the most obvious being “talkative.” So unless you’re writing your Master’s thesis or entertaining the Queen at dinner, keep it simple. If you’re using the word “loquacious,” you are probably guilty of being loquacious and you should consider letting someone else have a turn in the conversation.
2.     Niche, but pronounced like “quiche,” you know, the way the French say it. It’s a French word, sure, but we aren’t French now, are we? (If you are French, however, go for it.) I am super guilty of this, as I minored in French in college. My French minor has allowed me to do many amazing things with my life, like pretend to be fluent in French and pronounce things in a annoyingly highfalutin*** manner every chance I get. But I liken this to Madonna marrying Guy Ritchie, living in England for a couple of years and suddenly speaking with a British accent. Are you telling me that if they plopped you down in Jamaica for a couple of years, you’d come back sounding like Bob Marley? I don’t think so.
3.     Irregardless. First off, this isn’t a word. A person who says this probably means regardless, since, again, irregardless isn’t a word. And if you feel the need to say “irregardless,” you’re probably trying too hard to use big words you don’t understand. Don’t hurt yourself.
4.     Nauseous. Now this one has been “chapping my hide” (phrase “chapping my hide” courtesy of my friend, Emily, who may or may not have invented it). There’s some argument as to whether or not it means what we think it means, but the consensus seems to be that originally, this word meant “to inflict nausea.” As in, by saying, “I am nauseous,” a person implied that they caused others to be nauseated.  Check out this site. But now, through years of misuse, the word might finally mean what people have been wanting it to mean for years: sick to one’s stomach. But it’s still a hoity-toity way of saying, “Hey, guys, I feel like barfing.” But a very intelligent young lady I know recently told me that she prefers the word “nauseous” because it’s the only synonym for pukey (not a actual word, it seems) that doesn’t make her want to hurl upon saying it. So there’s a few ways of looking at this one. (Do you see how many ways I was able to mention vomiting, yaking, ralphing and up-chucking?)
5.     Jocularity. This word is great because it’s just funny to hear people say it, but so few can pull it off because it’s PRETENTIOUS.
6.     Defecate.  Come on. Just say “shit.” Or any of the million other words our classy society has invented for “poop.” (You know how the Eskimos have, like, a gajillion words for "snow"? That's because they see it all around them. What does that say about our words for "feces"?)
7.     Nonplussed. I actually like this word, but for all the wrong reasons.  I think it sounds like the opposite of what it means. I always thought it meant “unfazed.” But it means “surprised and confused.” Fine. It can mean that all it wants to, but I’ll never use it.
8.     Moribund. Sigh.
9.     Iconoclastic. I’m finding as this list goes on that I’m including more words that I’m confused about than words that are necessarily grandiloquent (another pretentious word meaning “pretentious.” Can you tell I’m working through the thesaurus today? I should also point out that I keep adding an extra “n” to my spelling of pretentious. It looks like this: prententious. Again, not a word.).
10. Germane. Hmmm...
11. Zeitgeist. Love how it sounds, don’t understand it. If you find yourself in my company, please refrain from using it. I will pretend to know what you mean, but I don’t and I’ll be secretly thinking that you’re “ostentatious.”

            I feel bad saying all this, truly, because I do know people that are so articulate that these words come naturally to them and they aren’t using them to sound like asses, they’re just really smart. So if you’re one of those people, keep talking pretty! This isn’t about you. This is about the person who, like me when I’m feeling ass-holish, feels the need to constantly correct the grammar and pronunciation of everyone around them. Those (we) people really need to calm down and rock out some slang every now and then. The reason not everyone loves Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe is that their sentences tend to send the reader back to the dictionary every five words or so and it’s exhausting. I don’t endorse being lazy about language, but give the listener a break! 
I never got past the first page of Murders of the Rue Morgue because this man knew too many words.

           I’ll probably update this post as more words come to me. If you want to share your most-hated words, feel free! I welcome your comments, lovelies!
*This quote comes from an anecdote about Winston Churchill that my dad (one of those people who can use big words without sounding like an arrogant jerk) told me. Apparently Churchill was giving a speech of some kind and ended a sentence with a preposition and an audience member interrupted him to point it out. The quote above was his response.
**Update. Emily told me that one of her professors uses "quantify" in this manner: "This description will help quantify the process." She is often left wondering what the hell this guy is talking about. This description will help us measure the physical amount of the process? Oh, yes, that makes perfect sense!
***I learned the word "highfalutin" from Anne of Avonlea (Kevin Sullivan, 1987) and I thought it was a sort of back-country word. Turns out, it's quite real and Word doesn't disagree with me.

1 comment:

  1. So I realize that this is a few days ago, but, whatever, I was busy being super cool on the sixth. My addition to this list would be pedagogy. Nothing annoys me more than when teachers talk about or ask about your, their pedagogy. e.g. "How might your pedagogical approach change in a high school class room?" Oh, you mean my teaching style? I think I just figured out why you didn't get tenure.

    You could probably add e.g. to that list as well.