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.


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?

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Keeping The Faith

I’m one of those who keeps the faith with language. I say what I mean and I try to live by what I say, though sometimes it’s hard because the inner voice of truth that comes out when I am speaking or writing is often wiser than I am.

I prefer other people to use correct language too, though I realize that’s an old-fashioned concept.

I just read an article that talked about Trump supporters spreading hate because they were getting in altercations with the protestors. So we’re supposed to believe that only Trumpers hate? That the self-proclaimed Marxist protestors who are burning and looting are doing it out of love? Oh, for cripes sake. Has the world lost its mind?

Words no longer mean what they once did. Peaceful once meant . . . peaceful. Free from disturbance. Tranquil. Not burning and looting, not screaming, not blocking emergency entrances at hospitals and chanting: “We hope they die.”

Words have always been plastic, meaning that they can be easily molded or shaped, not the way the word is now used, meaning something hard and indestructible. It seems words are even more plastic than I realized in this gaslighting era, where what we are told is the exact opposite of what we are seeing. For example, I had the misfortune to watch a television news broadcast the other day. They showed someone saying something, and then immediately afterward the newscaster told us the person had said something completely different.

In many cases, I’m one of last to keep the faith when it comes certain words. I say vegetables instead of . . . gag . . . veggies. I never use the outdated and so very sexist term “co-ed.” I don’t use permuted words like “styling,” whatever that means. (I assume it’s good because the other day someone told me my hat was “stylin.” Though with the plasticity of words nowadays, for all I know it could mean that I was wearing the ugliest hat the young woman had ever seen.)

I especially don’t say “love” when I mean “hate.” And I don’t say “peaceful demonstrations,” when I mean that people are rioting. I don’t say “taking what they need,” “expropriating property,” or “reparations” when I mean stealing. (Looting is stealing. To a person with a passing acquaintance with a dictionary, looting means to steal during a riot, and it’s a crime no matter how many people defend the act.)

It’s possible my adherence to words in their proper form and proper meaning is due to the intransigency of age, but it still doesn’t make the actions hidden in these plastic words palatable to me.

I think it’s time for me to pull in my head and channel my inner turtle for a while.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

On Writing: Coeds with Intestinal Fortitude Eating Veggies

Coed is a 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. Writers today are careful about not using other sexist terms, but coed is still prevalent. Short for coeducational student, it is demeaning when used as a term for a college woman. It says that men are students, and women merely co-students.

Writers who do not fall into that trap often fall into another, calling a man/woman team, such as police partners, a coed team. Unless it refers to education, it is meaningless. When applied to unisex restrooms, coed might be appropriate, but then, as adults, what can we learn about the opposite sex in a restroom that we don’t already know?

So, do your writing a favor, and can the coed.

Intestinal fortitude is another term that ties my guts into knots. I suppose with all the indigestible food that we eat nowadays, intestinal fortitude could refer to the digestion process and the garbage that goes in one end and the crap that comes out the other, but any other application is ridiculous.

So use plain old fortitude or have the guts to say guts, and leave the overly cute and clichéd intestinal fortitude in the toilet where it belongs.

And don’t get me started on veggies. I will merely say that kiddies might need to be coaxed to eat veggies, but we are adults, and we should eat vegetables and write vegetables.