Natural Evolution or Cause for Irritation?

Having been in the language business for 30 years, I realize, as I’m sure you do, that languages have a natural tendency to evolve. They change, sometimes rapidly. They are living organisms. Take the last 10 years of IT terminology that will surely make it into the next edition of Webster’s – “blog”, “spam” (I’m thinking that one should be in there already?), “phishing”, etc.

Of course, I welcome new terminology when it’s needed. Otherwise we would all be saying things like “I read ‘that thing’ you put on the Internet, you know, ‘that thing’ you wrote the other day….” or “I hate checking my email. I get so many unsolicited, unwanted emails from people I don’t know trying to sell me something or looking for a date.” (Think of how much ink the word “spam” has saved when you look at that last sentence.)

What I REALLY don’t like, however, are people who use the idea that languages evolve and change to just be lazy and completely ignorant of the basic grammar we were all taught in school. At least everyone in my generation was taught those rules. Given the alarming increase in poor spelling and grammar of recent college applicants as evidenced by college entrance essays, I’m not so sure the standards are still as strict as they used to be.

For example, I have noticed an alarming increase in the number of people who pronounce the “t” in the word “often”. Please look it up, the “t” is silent.

And here’s a short list of the most obnoxious violations as I see them. At least, I personally find these the most irritating.

  1. There is NO SUCH WORD in the English language as “irregardless”. It’s “REGARDLESS”.
  2. The word “nuclear” only has three syllables “NU-CLE-AR” – come on people, you can do it.
  3. You don’t put “assesories” into your home. You use “accessories” to decorate. The first “c” is a hard “c” – please pronounce it “AK-SESSORIES”. I hear that one pronounced wrong all the time on HGTV. You would think a decorator would know better.
  4. Please don’t’ feel “badly” about something. That means you don’t know how to feel about something in an efficient manner. The correct phrase is “I feel BAD about that”.
  5. I personally get irritated by the word “utilize”. It’s a perfectly good word, but it just means “use” so please use “use” instead of “utilize” – otherwise you sound pretentious. (Sorry, I know that last sentence is awkward).
  6. I hear the word “SUPPOSEDLY” pronounced many times “supposably” – that’s not a word. Please take note.

And finally, I was watching a commercial the other day for a popular language-learning software. One young woman said when her clients found out she could speak Spanish “….they looked alleviated”. I’m sure she meant to say “relieved”, but maybe they actually left the room so her problem with them was “alleviated”.

When in doubt, LOOK IT UP. Let’s keep our language healthy so it can grow and change, but still be governed by basic good grammar.