29 November 2017

[TPC] - Words & Expressions Currently In Vogue That Drive Me to Distraction: A Piece by Ellis Millsaps

Sometime back, maybe 10 years ago, maybe 20 (the older I get, the harder it is to say how long ago something happened. I'm not in school; my kids are grown. I've lost my reference points), I wrote a piece for the Covington News entitled, "Words and Expressions I Don't Care to Hear Next Year," or something like that. It must have been at some year's end. Maybe Marshall can reference it for you with one of those 21st Century click-on things (ed.note: I tried but couldn't find a link for it).

I wrote about linguistic trends then annoying me. I probably harped about servers commanding me to "enjoy." I definitely ranted about the substitution of "utilize" to mean simply the time-honored little Anglo-Saxon word "use," but seemingly meant to convey a techno-scientific expertise on the utilizer's part.

"Utilize" is still excruciatingly with us, but thank god some annoying usage trends fade away. For example, maybe twenty years ago, at any rate - whenever,  the "Valley Girl" trend prevailed and many young people, especially females, interspersed their dialogue with the pointless word "like," as in, "I'm all like what, and he's like yeah." "Like," in these instances, meant essentially "uh," but moreover, "I'm like a part of this thing, which is like happening, and I'm like cool."

This has pretty much faded from our lexicon.

Another example around the same time was the tendency of young speakers - again, most likely female, which is in itself possibly a fruitful field for sociological inquiry outside the scope of this essay - to end declarative utterances with a rising intonation suggesting a question or uncertainty, as in, "I was going to the bathroom (?), but maybe I didn't need to go (?), like maybe it's just constipation (?).

Young people do not do this anymore. Maybe there is hope for their forty-something progenitors who still do. I hear them on NPR, but this too is fading away.

Like the end of a declarative sentence.

But what this rambling prologue is leading to is this: "Words and Expressions Currently in Use That Drive Me Up the Wall."

The word that currently peeves me most petulantly is "actually," as in:

"Where did you buy those shoes?"

"Actually, I bought them at Macy's."

In this sentence, "actually" means essentially "uh."

My theory of this phenomenon is that the speaker hopes to con us into thinking they're more thoughtful than they actually are.

I'm sick of hearing "iconic," which has ceased to mean anything other than someone somewhere has somehow heard of the thing so referenced. This was epitomized for me when a young British person referred to his friend who died in the Manchester terrorist attack as "iconic."

I recently invented a public radio drinking game in which the players tune into to NPR and everyone has to drink when they hear the word "iconic." Last drinker standing gets to change the station (for hardcore players there's the lightning round where one tries to get through 15 minutes of Lois Reitzes).

Lately I'm really getting sick of public speakers saying "everything from something to something."

The spectrum they envision is rarely a logical one. For example, "the play covered everything from sexism to philanthropy," or, "their music covers everything from Beatles to Beethoven."

And even if the poles of their comparisons do make some sense, IT'S NEVER EVERYTHING!

And when did it become fashionable, even amongst semi-educated people, to replace "you" and "me" as objects of prepositions with "yourself" and "myself," as in, "as someone like myself or yourself?"

Do they think it makes them look more educated?

Like saying utilize instead of use?

 Ellis Millsaps

Ellis is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield. Usually funny and at times irreverent and subversive, he leans left in his political philosophy but can always be counted on for a pretty darn good write-up. The Chronicles are proud to have him involved...