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J.A.A. Purves

Words & Phrases Banned from Your Vocabulary

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Also, come to think of it, a link to George Orwell's 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language," also belongs in this thread:

 

Here's the link and the beginning is as follows:

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad -- I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen -- but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.

- Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

2. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder .

- Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa)

3. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?

- Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)

4. All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.

- Communist pamphlet

5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream -- as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma'amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!

- Letter in Tribune

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged: ...

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"friend" used as a verb

Do you know anyone who does this when not discussing Facebook? I don't see much reason to object to it in that context, as an efficient term for a very specific action.

No, but it annoys me in that regard, because I think it's sloppy and careless, and really not any less efficient to use proper English.

 

E.g.

 

I sent him a friend request on facebook.  NOT I asked to friend him on facebook.

I accepted his friend request.  NOT I friended him.

Send me a friend request on facebook.  NOT  Friend me on facebook.

We should be friends on facebook.  NOT We should friend each other on facebook.

 

 

And I remembered another abuse of English that irritates me no end: "month anniversary" - used by way too many high school/college couples in a new relationship to describe how long they've been dating.

 

The problems with this term is similar to "square circle."  The phrase is an inherent contradiction.  "Anniversary" is derived from annus (year) and versare (to turn/go around).  Saying "month anniversary" is essentially saying monthly yearly repetition.  If they wanted to coin a new term "monthiversary," I suppose I could live with that, because it would at least be accurate.

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I sent him a friend request on facebook.  NOT I asked to friend him on facebook.

I accepted his friend request.  NOT I friended him.

Send me a friend request on facebook.  NOT  Friend me on facebook.

We should be friends on facebook.  NOT We should friend each other on facebook.

Forgive me, but this reminds me very strongly of this:

 

Correct: The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software.

Incorrect: The image was photoshopped.

Edited by Rushmore

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I sent him a friend request on facebook.  NOT I asked to friend him on facebook.

I accepted his friend request.  NOT I friended him.

Send me a friend request on facebook.  NOT  Friend me on facebook.

We should be friends on facebook.  NOT We should friend each other on facebook.

Forgive me, but this reminds me very strongly of this:

 

Correct: The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software.

Incorrect: The image was photoshopped.

 

  

Yeah. I don't see the point in resisting the natural accommodation of language here.

 

Especially since how do you extend this linguistic scruple to what Facebook itself calls "unfriending"? What's the acceptable circumlocution for "I unfriended him"? "I terminated our Facebook friendship"? Seems unnecessarily fussy to me. 

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Precisely.

We live in an age where some very stupid new words became "trendy". Besides, the English language, just like any language, is supposed to have some sort of aesthetic standard. "Foodie" is another one. Are we all still in preschool?

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"Foodie" is another one. Are we all still in preschool? 

 

I've long since banned arbitrary use of the '-ie' suffix.

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"Biblically accurate." In pretty much every context, but especially when it comes to adaptations. It can only either mean [a] "gets the facts right"--which is a stiflingly banal standard to hold an adaptation to, or "gets the theology right"--which, ditto. It's just a generally unhelpful construction.

 

And, yes, this comes from my distant observation of the Noah controversies. I can't imagine what it must be like to follow this stuff as closely as some other folks do (*cough*Peter T. Chattaway*cough*).

Edited by NBooth

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"Biblically accurate." In pretty much every context, but especially when it comes to adaptations. It can only either mean [a] "gets the facts right"--which is a stiflingly banal standard to hold an adaptation to, or "gets the theology right"--which, ditto. It's just a generally unhelpful construction.

 

It also assumes no one disagrees about what the text says or means.

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"Biblically accurate." In pretty much every context, but especially when it comes to adaptations. It can only either mean [a] "gets the facts right"--which is a stiflingly banal standard to hold an adaptation to, or "gets the theology right"--which, ditto. It's just a generally unhelpful construction.

 

And, yes, this comes from my distant observation of the Noah controversies. I can't imagine what it must be like to follow this stuff as closely as some other folks do (*cough*Peter T. Chattaway*cough*).

 

After the "discussion" I just had on Facebook, I say: Amen.

Edited by Darryl A. Armstrong

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Evidently "stupid" is the worst thing a person can say at my son's school. Last time I said it at home he ran over and punched me. The new house rule is that anyone caught saying "stupid" has to put a quarter in his piggy bank. 

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I wish "the fact that" would just go away forever.

That's what it says in Strunk and White as well, and I sympathize with that in spirit. But there are just too many situations where editing it out requires a lot of effort for little apparent gain.

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I used "the fact that" on social media earlier today -- right around the time Tyler posted about how he wants it go away forever. 

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I wish "the fact that" would just go away forever.

That's what it says in Strunk and White as well, and I sympathize with that in spirit. But there are just too many situations where editing it out requires a lot of effort for little apparent gain.

 

 

Do you have an example? I can't think of a situation where it's really necessary.

 

I grade so many papers where "due to the fact that" could be replaced with "because."

Edited by Tyler

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acrossed
adorbs
amazeballs
awesomesauce
bae
bants
bestie
brain fart
clickbaity
cool beans
cray cray
creative commons
droolworthy
emoji
fast-casual
feels
fleek
fone
glanceable
grrrl
guyliner
hangry
hawt
humblebrag
jel
jeggings
kayfabe
kk
listicle
manspreading
matchy-matchy
melty
microaggression
morish
Mx.
noob
obvi
onboarding
pharmacovigilance
rly
shabby chic
shareable
shiny bum
shootie
simples
snackable
tomoz
totes
trofie
truthiness
upcycle
whatevs
woot
yaaas

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Most of those words I've never even heard of, never lone being in my vocabulary.  I guess I'm out of touch.

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Tyler wrote:
: I can't explain it. Just hate how it sounds.

I hate it when people say it like it rhymes with "myopic" (buy-AH-pic). It's based on "biography", ergo it should sound like BUY-oh-pic.

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4 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Tyler wrote:
: I can't explain it. Just hate how it sounds.

I hate it when people say it like it rhymes with "myopic" (buy-AH-pic). It's based on "biography", ergo it should sound like BUY-oh-pic.

THANK YOU. The myopic thing seems a new development, no? But it's all I hear now to the point where it made me doubt the "traditional" pronunciation. 

 

Also, either way, I'm with Tyler. 

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