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The Bastardization Continues…

Media is the biggest culprit when it comes to corrupting the English language. Back when I was in school, it was the TV personalities and reporters who started saying ‘persons’ instead of ‘people’.

‘Functionality’ began with computer geeks who never bothered to check a dictionary and started using it online.

Now TV is back to throw English right down the toilet. If you ever watch crime scene investigation type shows, and there are so many now, you’ll have heard this before. When looking at a person who’s been shot, they often discuss the ‘directionality’ of the bullet.  Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?  Let me put it a different way. Does this sound correct to you? What directionality should I drive to get to the U.S. border? What directionality is the wind blowing today? DIRECTION! The correct word is direction. There is no directionality, just like there is no functionality.

The newest trend in the destruction of the English language is using adjectives and adverbs as nouns. There is a Foodland Ontario TV commercial that is currently airing which uses ‘good’ as a noun. And no, it’s not ‘good’ as in ‘goods and services’. The young lady who narrates the commercial says things like “buy the good”, “share the good” and “cook the good”. Good lord!

A second one I’ve seen now is a Reebok/Sportchek commercial, where the narrator talks about “your better”. My better what? I keep waiting for the narrator to finish his sentence. How about my better speaking ability? My English is clearly better than yours? Maybe you better buy a dictionary?

That’s good enough for now. And no, I don’t feel any better.

The Bastardization of the English Language

I thought the English language was dead when someone decided they didn’t like the word people. Somehow it wasn’t good enough. So they started saying persons. It is to the point now where most legal and official documents use persons instead of people. That must be it. That is the end of the English language as we know it. As a former English teacher and current English nerd I was saddened by this development. What’s next, childs? There have to be others out there in the English-speaking world who agree this is a travesty of monumental proportions. But, apparently not. No one cares.

Well one little word doesn’t mean the whole language is on its way down a deep, dark, bottomless pit. If only that were the end of it. But there are, unfortunately, other reasons. For me the unholy trifecta consists of: administrate, orientate and commentate. What happened to administer, orient and comment? What does a commentator do? He comments. That’s right, comment is also a verb. This one is my personal favourite because you hear it on TV all the time. Commentators, political, sports or otherwise, are beamed into our living rooms and on our smart phones. They are authority figures, of one kind or another. And we take them at their word when they speak. Unfortunately no one has ever taught them how to speak English. They are not authority figures on the English language. Do not take them to be so.

Don’t even get me started on its vs. it’s, your vs. you’re, and any number of other mistakes a large portion of the population make on a daily basis.

And then of course there is the worst of the worst: functionality. This word didn’t exist before about ten years ago. How did English-speaking society survive without this word? How did we describe the ability of a device? Very easily actually. We used the preexisting word: function. Yes, function is also a noun. A device has function. We can increase the function of something.

I have another question for you: Is something ‘free’ or ‘for free’? It’s free. Free is an adjective, not a noun.  Don’t believe me, look it up in a dictionary. Oh, wait, that doesn’t work anymore.

It used to be that simple. If someone was mistaken and didn’t believe you when you corrected their English you could tell them to check the dictionary. Not anymore. The dictionary people have bowed to popular opinion and belief and now on a yearly basis infest the dictionary with made up and redundant words. Don’t believe me, look it up. Persons, functionality and a whole host of other ridiculous mutations of English words are now in the dictionary. I have in the past instructed my students not to use words such as functionality because it makes you sound less intelligent to anyone who actually understands the language. And I don’t mean to anyone whose first language is English because they don’t necessarily understand their own language.

Just because English is your first, and possibly your only, language doesn’t mean you understand it. It doesn’t mean you are an authority figure on it. I can play hockey, but I probably shouldn’t teach it. I can fry an egg, doesn’t mean I can teach cookery. The ability to do something doesn’t make one an authority figure on it. It doesn’t make one a good teacher. Ability doesn’t equal expertise.

English is difficult enough. But its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: it changes. Not all change is evolution though, some of it is mutation. And unwanted, dangerous mutations must be stamped out before they infect the entire language. I hope it’s not too late…

Tattoos

My wife was out last night with her friends and she snapped a picture. It was a picture of someone with a tattoo consisting of Chinese characters. My wife explained to me what the colloquial use of the phrase on the lady’s back actually means. In my wife’s country it means underwear. That’s right lady at the mall, you have ‘underwear’ tattooed on your back, permanently.

This happens all the time. My wife will see a Chinese tattoo and almost everytime she laughs as she tells me what it really means. Find out what your tattoo means! Don’t take the word of the guy, who obviously doesn’t speak the language, as to its meaning. Look it up. It’s not that difficult. Or just keep getting things like ‘underwear’ tattooed on your body. Sure gives us a good laugh.

UNDERWEAR!!!

Categories: Pet Peeves

Cash is Courteous

Can paying for your items at the cash register have moral connotations? Yes it can. I’ll explain.

The debit machine has become the most common way to pay. I admit, I do occasionally forget to pick up cash when I go out and the debit/credit card machines at the register are a saviour. I don’t, however, believe it should be the norm. But it is.

Now I’m sure many of you, if not all, are asking why is cash better. It’s very simple actually: cash is courteous.

I was buying a bottle of water to have with my lunch one afternoon. This store, like many these days, has its own VIP card. So it went like this. The cashier asks the first customer if she has the VIP card. She answers yes and the cashier proceeds to swipe the card. Then the total comes and the customer fishes around for her bank card.  She gives it to the cashier and now has to play with the machine for a while. She has to OK the purchase amount, choose her bank account type, punch in her PIN, wait for the approval notice, get her card back and finally take her purchases and leave. This was just the first customer. I had to wait for three more people to go through the exact same process. It took me over 10 minutes to buy a 99 cent bottle of water.

None of these people were buying $112 worth of groceries at the grocery store. That would be understandable. I personally don’t like carrying around big wads of cash. And seeing a person with an entire cart worth of things pulling up to the cash register, one doesn’t realistically expect to be out in under a minute. But I do expect to be out in under a minute when I’m only buying a bottle of water at the corner store. And this was not a large supermarket. Most people who go to this kind of store purchase maybe 4 or 5 things.

I don’t blame the store for this atrocity. They are simply doing what any good retailer should and does do. They are giving the customers what they want. I blame the customers. There is really no excuse not to carry cash on you. There are bank machines everywhere. This is simply discourtesy. These customers don’t care about those behind them in line. The person at the front of the line becomes a dictator of sorts, deciding how long the rest of us are going to wait.

If you care at all about your fellow customers, you will carry cash. And it doesn’t really take that long to do so. It takes about the same amount of time to get some cash from a bank machine as it does to do the whole debit-card-at-the-register process, once. And the best part is, you don’t hold up the rest of us when you do it.

If you care at all about the customers in line behind you, carry cash. If not, continue to use your card to purchase a box of cookies and a bottle of pop. Don’t worry, I’ve got nothing better to do with the next 10 minutes of my life.

Categories: Pet Peeves