Disdaining Improper English

A character in an older book I just finished reading was a stickler for proper English. Many of his objections were constructions I had no idea were improper, such as the use of “due to unforeseen circumstance” rather than “owing to unforeseen circumstances.” Since I didn’t know it was improper, I’ve always said “due to” rather than “owing to,” though now I will make sure I say it properly.

It made me wonder what other phrases I have been using improperly all my life, which led to the realization that my own disdain of improper English is probably misplaced. If improper phrases such as “due to unforeseen circumstances” are so prevalent as to seem proper, then today’s ridiculous constructions that I abhor will become (in some cases have already become) the preferred usage among the populace. “Veggies,” for example. I despise the cutesy word, suitable only for small children who have to be enticed to eat food they don’t particularly like. It isn’t at all a grown-up word, and yet everyone uses it. I can’t remember the last time anyone but me used the proper word, “vegetables.”

“Intestinal fortitude” is a phrase used in place of courage and the strength of mind to bear adversity, which is utterly silly. “Fortitude” alone means exactly that. I imagine somewhere along the line, someone thought they were being cute, using an erudite-sounding construction instead of saying “guts,” but eek. The phrase “intestinal fortitude” irks me as much as “veggies” does.

“Supposably” instead of “supposedly” has become so common, it no longer grates on my poor ears, though I will lop off my tongue if I ever hear myself say it.

An “executive decision” is one made by a person or group of persons who have executive power, so a person who decides something for a group of people is making an executive decision, but a person making a decision for himself alone, one that affects no one but himself, is not making an executive decision, but going by what I read and hear, everyone nowadays must be an executive because they are all making what they claim to be executive decisions. A decision is a decision. It needs no qualifier.

As for “get out of Dodge.” I can’t believe how often I read that phrase in books. Characters no longer get out of town, they always “get out of Dodge,” even if they are living in a major metropolitan area that in no way could be compared to Dodge. Luckily, so far, it is only a common phrase in fiction; I don’t hear many people saying it in real life.

Did you see what I did here? I said that my disdain of improper English is probably misplaced, and yet here I am, being disdainful. At least I kept the list of words and phrases I abhor short. Be thankful I didn’t go on a diatribe about the president of the United States being called the leader of the free world. Does anyone in France consider POTUS their leader? Does anyone in England? Or Germany? Or Canada? And what is the free world anyway?

Oops. I almost went on a diatribe after all.

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What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

List of Loaths

I have a list of words and phrases I loath.

Giving 110% – – A physical impossibility, and even if it were possible, your energy and fluids and muscles fibers would be so debilitated that you might not be able to recover

24/7 — The only thing you can do 24/7 is breathe. This monstrous figuration is particularly loathsome when  used in conjunction with 110%. Giving 110% 24/7. Yeah, right.

Coed — This is a sexist term that was born in the nineteen thirties when women enrolled in previously all-male colleges, and it is a term that should have died there. Men were educated, women were coeducated. Not the same thing at all.

Intestinal fortitude This term ties my guts in knots. Use plain old “fortitude” or have the guts to say “guts”. Even better, use the word “courage”.

Veggies — I should have put this at the top of my list. This one really grates. What is wrong with “vegetables”? Are we children, that we need cute words to entice us to eat foods that are good for us?

Today, I’m adding a couple of new phrases to my list of loaths. With election year politics fouling the air, this is a good time to mention them since you are probably as sick of hearing these hyperboles as I am. These phrases refer to POTUS, the president of the United States.

The most powerful man in the world. Uh, yeah. Don’t even know where to start with this one. There are men and women in the world who head debt-free conglomerates who could buy and sell the United States. These folks buy presidents with petty cash. They shell out billions of dollars to lobbyists to make sure their agendas are met. They buy zillions of tickets to $1000 plate dinners to make sure that their needs are known.

Our government is basically a committee. The president has advisors, has to answer to appropriations committees and other congressional groups who have the power to squelch his demands. He has to answer to his party, and most of all, during his first year, he has to pay attention to the polls. The only goal a president has his first term is to get re-elected to a second term. Doesn’t sound all that powerful to me.

Perhaps POTUS is the most powerful celebrity, perhaps he is the most powerful elected official, perhaps he is the most powerful public relations icon. But he is not the most powerful man in the world. Nor, as I have heard several times lately, is he the most powerful man in the solar system. I can’t even imagine the foolish minds that come up with this stuff.

The leader of the free world. Says who? Does anyone in France consider POTUS their leader? Does anyone in England? Or Germany? Or Canada? And what is the free world anyway?

Please, before you use such in inanities in your writing, pay attention to what you are saying. I just a picked up a book where, in the first chapter, POTUS was called the most powerful man in the country. In the second chapter, he was called the most powerful man in the world. In the third chapter, he was called the most powerful man in the solar system. I didn’t stick around for the fourth chapter, where I’m sure POTUS would have been called the most powerful man in the universe. I many not know much, but I do know this: POTUS is not now, nor ever will be, the most powerful man in the universe.