Friday, December 10, 2004

Nitpicking the Language

I can get snobby about specific things at times, but one area I carry the most scrutiny is with language, grammar, and the ability to communicate effectively in print. Not a day goes by without a groan or two, upon seeing hideously bad grammar on a prominent sign, likely written by a person who's paid much more than myself. While money isn't everything, it certainly isn't commensurate with intelligence either. Similarly, I'm sure I am putting a huge target on my back with this type of blanket incrimination - and as I often am quite a dizzy idiot during the waking hours, I'm bound to commit myriad typos and mistakes in these writings as well, but then again, I don't get paid for it. I only get paid for massaging sponges and refereeing Amish rake fights.

- The esteemed village of Niles (a local town with 25 cops per capita) always posted pathetic, condescending signs by traffic signals, with catchy commands such as "shop locally". One of their better efforts involved a sign with "just say no" and the word "drugs" in one of those red circles with a diagonal line through it. So we see "just say no" and "no drugs". Ok, sure, just say no to "no drugs". Sounds good. Perhaps I'll fire up a couple joints before shopping locally.

- Redundancy is always fun to notice. Ah wasted words, quite a shame. The idiots on the elevator will say "I was up until 2 A.M. in the morning". Thanks for clarifying the morning part. Either say "2 A.M." or "2 in the morning". Not both. People still stay "tuna fish". How did this start? It's tuna. I'm sure you're not talking about having a sandwich made of Tuna Chrysler. The fish part, I figured that one out. Tonight I'm going to Boston Market and get me some of that yummy chicken bird.

- V.I.N. stands for "Vehicle Identification Number". P.I.N. stands for "Personal Identification Number". But it's always "VIN number" and "PIN number". Vehicle Identification Number Number. #@##@%^!@. See, with forethought, we could have instilled "VI number" and "PI number" into the language. Plus "PI Number" sounds so nice and tasty. Mmm Apple PI Number. I suppose the math guys might take issue with "PI number" since PI represents 3.1415 blah blah blah. Fine, stick with P.I.N. then. See if I care. Math guys stink. They can all get stuffed...we have no use for you any more, we've got computers. Here's a quiz, math guy - what's zero plus the number of girlfriends you've had? Haha! Yeah, thought so. Now get outta here and do some long division or something.

- Here's a pisser. Nobody catches this one. I'll see a catalog of instructional cassettes with titles like "Learn Spanish In 10 Minutes a Day". You can run 10 miles a day, walk 30 minutes a day, but you don't exercise in an hour a day. That's abysmal phrasing, and all these "educators" fall back on this hack title construct. Here, you overpaid bozos, I'll help. The point of the title "Learn Spanish..." is to show what little you need to "give" in order to learn the language - so we're looking for an object to the sentence that illustrates what "device" is necessary to learn Spanish. You can learn Spanish with 10 minutes per day, or learn Spanish with 10 minutes daily. To even include "in 10 minutes" is simply incorrect usage for the context. The "in" preposition illustrates finite bounds - as in you must finish the test in 60 minutes. Not 60 more minutes tomorrow and the next day, just one set of minutes here. I don't know if these goofballs are trying to fool us naive, unilingual neophytes into accidentally seeing "learn Spanish in 10 minutes" - Zoinks! I can learn 20 languages in a couple hours! Whoo hoo! Perhaps this lousy tactic has paid off in the past. I'm no fan of marketing and advertising, to be sure.

- The apostrophe thing. "It's" and "Its", especially. Grrrr, damn it drives me nuts, seeing this in books and other allegedly legitimate arenas. Only stick it in there when saying "it is"!!! Puhleeeeeze. Just remember the mnemonic "Apostrophe? It is handy". By hearing "it is" split apart, it should help.

- Separate. Not "separate". Mnemonic - "there's a rat in separate". I still use that one to this day, though it conjures up a weird image.

- The British. Face it everybody, we "thick" Americans have won the Battle of the Babel...with the internet and our mere prowess, the "American Style" English rules the roost. So stop sending us funny emails and web pages sprinkled with "bollocks", "realise", "lorry" and all those other localized (not localised) words that are about as fresh as your universities. Otherwise I will send you to a hospital (not "send you to hospital") and it won't feel like you're on vacation (not "on holiday"). We get on an elevator, not a friggin' lift. Those are trucks, not lorries. We use paper towels, not kitchen paper. I don't want to write you a "cheque", unless you want to go "fuque" yourself. Stop using old words. Just stop it. Join the team. Otherwise you'll seem just as stubborn and anachronistic as those weirdos that still speak Gaelic. Whoa boy, don't even get me started with that bunch.

- Circular logic. I enjoy times when someone intends to convey that somebody's opinion or lifestyle has turned the opposite direction. "I used to be liberal and now I'm a staunch conservative; I've done a complete 360." No, doofus, it's 180. Doing a "360" means you've ended up right back where you started. Sheesh.