An old piece from the parish newsletter – George Jr. was president, so that dates it….
Life as a critic is dangerous. It is so easy to slip up oneself. A few months ago a friend said that she enjoyed ‘dialoging’ with me. I told her that she might enjoy talking with me, but that ‘dialogue’ was a noun, not a verb. Well, she went home and looked up ‘dialogue’ in the Oxford English Dictionary and reported that it’s been used as a verb since 1607, when it appears as one of Shakespeare’s many word inventions in Timon of Athens. So I was wrong: ‘dialogue’ is a verb. But it’s still word inflation, and ‘talk’ is shorter and simpler. It’s also better, unless you’re Shakespeare. ‘Dialogue’ for ‘talk’ is an example of word inflation, and this month I am going to abuse your patience, perhaps, by devoting this space to a number of my pet peeves, including word inflation. So, here goes:
- More word inflation. People don’t want to use simple short words when long, inflated words will do. The most common offender I can think of is ‘utilize’. What’s wrong with ‘use’? Nothing 99% of the time. Why utilize ‘utilize’ when you can use ‘use’ instead?
- Cell phones. I manage quite well without one of these, but certainly understand that many – well, some – people need one. I’ve nearly been killed often enough by drivers yakking on them that I think I am entitled to a publicly stated opinion. I like the bumper sticker that says, ‘Hang up and drive!’ The public safety menace, though, is only part of the problem. It is hard to find a quiet public place, and the cell phone invasion is making the problem worse. I find more and more often that a quiet lunch is interrupted by someone at a table nearby talking loudly on a portable phone. That’s bad enough. Two weeks ago, though, I was subjected to a young man who had a phone with a speaker function. I not only had to listen to his side of the conversation, but to both sides. What rudeness.
- Ball caps. Gents don’t wear hats inside. There are a few exceptions: men in Holy Orders in church, cooks cooking, and doctors or nurses in an operating theater. Also ball players playing indoors.
- Failure to signal turns. It is infuriating to wait at an intersection to make a turn only to watch an oncoming car make a turn without a signal. The smallest effort or consideration on the other driver’s part would allow others to proceed more quickly.
- Clergy who sign themselves ‘The Reverend Father John Smith+’ or ‘Father Smith+’. The little cross after a name means ‘The Reverend Father’ or ‘The Reverend’. Therefore a priest should write ‘John Smith+’ or ‘The Reverend John Smith’, but not both.
- ‘Easter Sunday’. It’s ‘Easter’ or ‘Easter Day’, not ‘Easter Sunday’.
- Vagantes (Latin for ‘wanderers’) are self-made clergy or clergy ordained in a Church with a mainly paper existence. The term is useful when discussing the ecclesiastical fringes. But those innocent of Latin now use vagante as the singular form. I have even seen vigante. Vagans is the correct singular form. And don’t tell me I’m being pedantic. Those who throw around Latin tags need to get them right or at least should accept being corrected. Vagante is up there with Eckcetera and the improper use of per se. Such errors are arguably a variety of word inflation: for which see above.
- ‘Nucular’. Especially from Jimmy Carter, who was himself a student of nuclear engineering and, therefore, should know better. So as to be non-partisan, I will add that our current president ought to be told by his wife or someone that ‘gooder’ is not a word and shouldn’t be used three times in 30 seconds as if it were.
- People who can’t manage to utter the words ‘thank you’ when the door is held for them.
- Sunday shopping. Doesn’t anybody think the Fourth Commandment means what almost everybody thought it meant just a generation ago?
- ‘Hello. My name is Toby. I’ll be your server this evening.’ Spare me the introduction, please.
- The person who pulls out in front of you when there is no one behind you for miles and then almost immediately stops to make a left hand turn.
- Telephone salesmen and other total strangers who use my first name. The Germans have an phrase for people who use the familiar pronoun too readily: ‘Since when did we lie in the gutter together?’
I suppose I’m a middle-aged grump. Well, you probably have your list of complaints too, and I may well offend some of them. If so, here is a proleptic (see Word Inflation) apology.