Monday, January 4, 2010

Love and Loathing of Language

I love the English language. I really do. There are so many ways to express yourself, always a word better than the one you actually use. The right phrase can make you look intelligent, be persuasive, express your creativity, and emphatically make your point. Conversely, you could use the same language to lose your argument, or worse, leave the other person thinking, "Did she just say what I think she said?"

Too often, certain "colorful metaphors," shall we say, get used as a substitute for creative thinking. Oh, they're certainly versatile words; our friend the "F-Bomb" can be used as every part of speech imaginable. But it just doesn't stand out from the crowd anymore. Why, instead of saying "That f***er just f***ed up the whole f***ing thing," you could say "That moron completely wasted our time, and now we've got a calamity to deal with!" See? It's easy, and fun! Calamity is a wonderful word; it brings to mind stagecoaches running out of control, or a raging wildfire bearing down on a colorful mountain village. Doesn't that make your point much better than the old standby? You're certainly welcome to use the F-ing word, but it's not nearly as memorable as your own unique phrase.

However, there are some phrases that just make people's skin crawl. There are different ones for different people, but they annoy to no end. Most of the time, you have no idea until it's too late. So I'll gladly share a few of my peeves right now, to avoid awkward situations later:

"At risk." You've heard it. Most likely, it was "at risk children," or along those lines. At risk of what? Lightning strikes? Unruly hair? Please, we need details!

"At the end of the day." At the end of the day, the sun goes down, and people go to sleep. Most of us aren't comparing notes to figure out who does the worst job. Unless you're the type of person who says "At the end of the day, who had the best score?"

"On lockdown." It'll lead the news: "Roberts Middle School was on lockdown today, when a suspicious bag appeared in the hallway outside room 105. The bag was later determined to contain Justin Lemon's lunch, after it was detonated by the bomb squad." No, it was locked down, it's simple grammar! (Don't get me started on grammar. That's a whole new post.)

"It is what it is." Yup. It sure is. But what is it?

Now I'm curious, too. What are your favorite words and phrases to work into your conversations? Or make you want to cause a calamity? Comment below!

5 comments:

  1. The one that immediately comes to mind for me is the all-time classic "You know?" Then there's the modern variation so popular in youth culture, better known as "Know what I'm sayin'?" (or "Knowhumsayin" when the speaker prefers not to separate the phrase into words). As with any colloquialism, its occasional use is just a part of life we all have to accept. But I do feel that multiple "Knowhumsayins" in each and every sentence is a bit excessive!

    -Andrea

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  2. Yes, "you know" does grate, too. Along with "like" when it's used as a comma. I could just go on and on!

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  3. I've also wondered how the phrase "Good to go" originated. Anyone know?

    -Andrea

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  4. Good to go, I think, is just a sort of "contracted phrase." We're good and ready, let's go. You know?

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  5. Look at favoritewords.com, it's friendlier than most other sites and have original features.

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