Saturday, July 19, 2008

Read the Whole Post, And I Might Let You Clap the Erasers

The junction of the writer/editor in me and the obsessive-compulsive in me is not a pleasant place.

I understand that language evolves. I believe it should or it loses its ability to accurately reflect the current culture. But I still can't help getting annoyed by misuses and abuses, especially ones that seem to be products of laziness or ignorance and not legitimate attempts to communicate something for which the right word truly doesn't exist.

With that somewhat overbearing intro behind us, here are four that have particularly grated on me:

1. Untracked.
This mainly comes up in sports, as in when a team is struggling to score points the announcer says that its offense "needs to get untracked." At first I thought I wasn't hearing correctly and they were saying "on track." I was familiar with the expression that something was "off track." Then I started seeing it in print and realized it was intentional, but I still have no idea what it means. I think it had to have come about from people hearing "on track" and thinking they heard "untracked" and just running with it without really thinking it through, in Purple Haze fashion. Shouldn't "tracked" have a definition that meant something bad for "untracked" to mean something good? I've never heard one.

2. Nother.
As in "a whole 'nother" something -- story, issue or whatever. This one probably doesn't even count any more, since it shows up in most dictionaries. I think that's a case of the linguistic guardians throwing up their collective hands as much as anything and crying "Uncle!" over the realization that it simply wasn't going to go away. Some of them cling to a shred of traditional respect and use words like "misdivision" or "informal" in the definition. But if it was a REAL concept, couldn't you have other divisions of nothers besides just whole ones? Have you ever seen a half nother or a quarter nother? I guess nothers always travel with wholes in the same way that kaboodles are always found with kits.

3. Judgement.
The British spelling of a word that Noah Webster decided long ago Americans should technically spell "judgment." I've seen the British version in decidedly un-British places, like the TV show Iron Chef and the publication Funny Times, which describes itself as "America's ad-free cartoon and humor newspaper." I suppose if someone wants to act British, that's fine. It worked for Ministry for a while. I just hope they also use colour, centre, defence and so on.

4. Everyday.
An adjective that I often see used in place of a two-word adjective/noun combo, as in "open everyday" instead of "open every day." I'm all in favor of conservation, but I didn't know there was a shortage of spaces in the world that needed to be addressed. I'll have to try harder to do my part nexttime.

Well, I feel a little better for having given voice to my inner middle-school English teacher. Part of me still feels like I should ask you all to write "I will not use a pronoun without an antecedent noun" 100 times, but I'll resist the urge.

Class dismissed!

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