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Dead languages
September 24, 2010 7:15 AM   Subscribe

The English language, which arose from humble Anglo-Saxon roots to become the lingua franca of 600 million people worldwide and the dominant lexicon of international discourse, is dead. It succumbed last month at the age of 1,617 after a long illness. It is survived by an ignominiously diminished form of itself.
posted by caddis (147 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
The end came quietly on Aug. 21 on the letters page of The Washington Post. A reader castigated the newspaper for having written that Sasha Obama was the "youngest" daughter of the president and first lady, rather than their "younger" daughter. In so doing, however, the letter writer called the first couple the "Obama's.

HA!

However, it would be cool if Hell were full and the undead English walked the Earth. Then we could read zombie William Safire.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:17 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have a suspicion that small-market newspapers have been printing typos and cranky old men have been overreacting since the invention of the printing press. Get with it Weingarten!
posted by ghharr at 7:19 AM on September 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


Dammit, Gene Weingarten is too good a writer to phone in a column like this.
posted by chinston at 7:19 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Filler.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:20 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This just in: There was a typo in the Lewiston Sun-Journal. Everybody PANIC!
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:20 AM on September 24, 2010


Language evolves get over it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:21 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's a lot of florid prose to cover for this fellow's profound misunderstanding of what languages are and how they evolve, but what struck me most is how this was set off by some minor abuse of the language in a letter to the editor. Has this wannabe George Will never seen the internet?
posted by mhoye at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2010


This is the guy that writes the OpEds for The Stranger, right?
posted by Artw at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, most of these are gripes about spelling and not grammar or word use. Truth be told, I wouldn't mind if our spelling system "succumbed after a long illness."
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:22 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


'younger daughter' is that good US English? Google says not so much.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:23 AM on September 24, 2010


I hate hate hate hate the phrase "reach out to". Hate it.
posted by procrastination at 7:23 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


What an asshole's.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:24 AM on September 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


English just died? Man, I didn't even know it was still alive.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:24 AM on September 24, 2010


stop the press! death of the [insert] Language.. I'm pretty sure i've read this story once or twice before...
posted by mary8nne at 7:24 AM on September 24, 2010


> Has this wannabe George Will never seen the internet?

This dude is just a few YouTube comment threads away from committing seppuku.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:25 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'll out myself as one of the great unwashed who is destroying the English language, and by extension, the world: Could someone please explain why calling Sasha Obama the "youngest" daughter is incorrect? The Obamas do not have any younger children, so it seems a cromulent distinction to me. But hell, I just used "cromulent" in all seriousness, so what do I know?
posted by sonika at 7:25 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's a newspaper?
posted by nomadicink at 7:25 AM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


For all intensive purposes, this article was impactful, but it literally begs the question as to whether it would make a good webinar.
posted by briank at 7:26 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


'younger daughter' is that good US English? Google says not so much.

I believe you use 'youngest' when comparing three or more daughters, and 'younger' when comparing two daughters. Not sure how you describe sons.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:26 AM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


[W]e finde in our English writers many wordes and speaches amendable, and ye shall see in some many inkhorne terms so ill affected brought in by men of learning as preachers and schoolemasters: and many straunge terms of other languages by Secretaries and Marchaunts and trauailours, and many darke wordes and not vusall nor well sounding, though they be dayly spoken in Court. Wherefore great heed must be taken by our maker in this point that his choise be good.
posted by theodolite at 7:27 AM on September 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Signs of its failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America's daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the language has traditionally been measured.

I laughed at this and stopped reading.
posted by WalterMitty at 7:27 AM on September 24, 2010


'You haven't a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,' he said almost sadly. 'Even when you write it you're still thinking in Oldspeak. I've read some of those pieces that you write in The Times occasionally. They're good enough, but they're translations. In your heart you'd prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don't grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?'

Winston did know that, of course. He smiled, sympathetically he hoped, not trusting himself to speak. Syme bit off another fragment of the dark-coloured bread, chewed it briefly, and went on:

'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we're not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there's no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It's merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won't be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,' he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. 'Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?'

posted by Artw at 7:28 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


In the past year alone, as the language lay imperiled, the ironically clueless misspelling "pronounciation" has been seen in the Boston Globe, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Deseret Morning News, Washington Jewish Week and the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, where it appeared in a correction that apologized for a previous mispronunciation.

Can maybe Mr. English Are Great explain to me how a newspaper mispronounces something, and why it is ironic to misspell 'pronunciation'?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:30 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I could care less is a phrase that really annoys me. I see I'm not alone.
posted by ob at 7:30 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I read this, I just kept thinking about how much the progressive linguists over at Metafilter were going to wring their hands. I really couldn't help but like it anyway. I thought it was cute. Anyway, on with the hand-wringing.
posted by kingbenny at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the guy that writes the OpEds for The Stranger, right?

Based on this article, he's apparently the conductor of the Crybaby Express.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


'younger daughter' is that good US English? Google says not so much.

"younger daughter" is the formulation in a particular acrolect. in all other registers and in many grammars of the same register it is non-standard.
posted by thesmophoron at 7:32 AM on September 24, 2010


What a tosser.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 7:32 AM on September 24, 2010


Typos in newspapers = artifact of having to generate 1000's of words daily with an (ever-diminishing) number of copyeditors. Frankly, it's surprising there aren't more errors in the paper every day.

Though maybe there are, since I, like most Americans, no longer read the dead-tree editions :(
posted by emjaybee at 7:33 AM on September 24, 2010


Drama much, WaPo?
posted by grubi at 7:35 AM on September 24, 2010


It all went downhill after cats started speaking it.
posted by Artw at 7:35 AM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


'younger daughter' is that good US English? Google says not so much.

I believe you use 'youngest' when comparing three or more daughters, and 'younger' when comparing two daughters. Not sure how you describe sons.


I get you. Well his examples are mostly a bit fey. Kids are growing up only being able to write text speak, and he thinks a minor grammar point that is so common it's debatable whether it's a 'mistake' is a problem...
posted by Not Supplied at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


> The English language, which... became the lingua franca...

Iseewhatyoudidthere.
posted by ardgedee at 7:38 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your favorite English sucks.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:39 AM on September 24, 2010


When they started spelling "f" as "s" everyone knew it was in trouble.
posted by Artw at 7:39 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think the only logical thing for Mr. Weingarten to do is to stop writing dumb newspaper columns and take up a new career as a grammar nazi on Reddit.
posted by chasing at 7:41 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paging Languagehat. He's our only hope.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:41 AM on September 24, 2010


What an idiot. Someone should ask him to critique the grammer in beowulf
posted by delmoi at 7:43 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the "it literally begs the question" link above, they call them laissez-faire linguists. Love it.

But they offer a reason for getting the knickers in a bunch too: the meaning of BTQ [beg the question] become[s] diluted to the point that we must constantly distinguish between the traditional usage and the erroneous "modern" usage. This is why we fight.

And this makes sense to me. It's not derivations of spelling that cause problems over the long run or using LOL instead of "bon mot, good sir!" It's having to use phrases like "I think they meant this...." Clarity is crucial for 911 calls, recipes for bombs, and, um, thought.
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:43 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The English language, which... became the lingua franca...

Iseewhatyoudidthere.


I don't think he actually "did" anything there.
posted by kingbenny at 7:43 AM on September 24, 2010


When they started spelling "f" as "s" everyone knew it was in trouble.

I think you're talking about ſ
posted by delmoi at 7:43 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, fuck it. I'm going back to speaking Irish.

Tá. Sin níos fearr.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:44 AM on September 24, 2010


Many people interviewed for this obituary appeared unmoved by the news...

Shocking.
posted by heyho at 7:44 AM on September 24, 2010


The language's demise took few by surprise.
I feel like this should be a line from the opening number of a really terrible musical.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 7:45 AM on September 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


This dude is just a few YouTube comment threads away from committing seppuku.

In fairness, aren't we all?
posted by mhoye at 7:46 AM on September 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


I bhfad níos fearr.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 7:46 AM on September 24, 2010


I'd be happy if people stopped mixing up "your" and "you're".

/off to read a book, read a book, read a motherfuckin' book...
posted by spoobnooble at 7:47 AM on September 24, 2010


tl;dr
posted by cjorgensen at 7:50 AM on September 24, 2010


Netcraft hasn't confirmed it, so I don't believe it.
posted by inigo2 at 7:50 AM on September 24, 2010


Once again let us take a moment to mourn the loss of DFW. Now there was a man who could write a proper screed on the drifting target that is good grammar. Who else could turn a review of a new usage guide into a fundamental analysis of descriptive vs. prescriptive language and what one's position on that divide says about one's general outlook on society.

Now, if everyone could please stop saying try and do something. If you try and do then try is no longer relevant as you have already done it. Also it is perfectly acceptable to have one's cake and eat it too. That is the natural order of all things cake. It isn't possible, however, to eat one's cake and have it too.

Now please vacate my lawn.
posted by Babblesort at 7:51 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


What an awful article. Utterly lacking in insight, and doesn't even compensate with any trace of humour. A few typos mean the entire language is dead? Really? Not only dead, but survived by... itself? (Suggesting a failure to understand the meaning of the word "dead", which is pretty ironic for someone having a hissy fit about proper use of language.) Not even a nod to the endless "prescriptive vs. descriptive" approach to linguistic "correctness"? All references to US media, with apparently no awareness of English English, let alone Jamaican, Indian, Australian, ad infinitum? Just some whining old grump having a tantrum because some provincial newspapers nobody cares about displayed some slack copyediting? Sorry, but that was seriously the worst thing I've read in a long time. Pretty ironic that this piece is (as far as I noticed, albeit without a fine-tooth comb scan) free of spelling and grammar errors, and of essentially zero worth, whereas someone out there is an error-strewn article this guy would presumably sneer at for its mistakes, which, despite them, communicates something worth communicating.
posted by Slyfen at 7:51 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Language evolves get over it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:21 PM on September 2
4

This tiresome, clichéd and thoroughly lazy excuse for bad English never gets any more impressive.
posted by Decani at 7:52 AM on September 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Is iad na Wombles de Wimbledon Common againn.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:53 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, that was inevitable. someone out there = somewhere out there.

And before avid readers of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star get offended, feel free to replace "nobody cares about" with "99.9% of English speakers will never read or care about".
posted by Slyfen at 7:55 AM on September 24, 2010


kingbenny: Anyway, on with the hand-wringing.

Reading the comments before commenting on the comments might have helped you choose a better subject to snark about; seems to me that around 95% of the commenters so far are annoyed with the columnist, not the "death" of the English language.

Weingarten has missed the entire point of his own essay--this is about the death of newspapers, not the death of English. You fire all of your editors, and this is what you get. Doe he honestly think that newspaper reporters and columnists and essayists and (oh please!) the people who write letters to the editor never used to make errors? There were just far more people to catch and correct them before. Now newspapers are lucky if someone in the newsroom is willing to give others' work an occasional glance in the hopes that a second pair of eyes might catch these things.
posted by tzikeh at 7:55 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


You want to see bad English? I'll give you Bad English.
posted by chinston at 7:56 AM on September 24, 2010


Me: "I could care less."

He: "You mean, you couldn't care less?"

Me: "I mean, I can't even be bothered to express a coherent opinion about it."
posted by wobh at 7:56 AM on September 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Language evolves get over it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:21 PM on September 24

This tiresome, clichéd and thoroughly lazy excuse for bad English never gets any more impressive.


Don't you mean 'never becomes any more impressive' ;)
posted by Not Supplied at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2010


Reading the comments before commenting on the comments might have helped you choose a better subject to snark about; seems to me that around 95% of the commenters so far are annoyed with the columnist, not the "death" of the English language.

Maybe I didn't make it clear, but... I know. That was what I expected the wringing of hands to be about. The thread is living up to my expectations. Which is nice.
posted by kingbenny at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2010


I hate hate hate hate the phrase "reach out to". Hate it.

The people who have been saying this are now using "solve" as a noun. Also, occasionally, "recommend." As in, "we're reaching out to you to see if you can give us a solve for the widget issue. We'll go with your recommend."

So while I'm absolutely on board with the idea that grammar is descriptive, and not prescriptive, these people make me wish gmail would allow the attachment of a ruler-wielding nun to replies.
posted by condour75 at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


he thread is living up to my expectations.

Go raibh tú ag súil le Gaeilge?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:00 AM on September 24, 2010


This article is stale fluff which really need not have been published, and the idea that a few hideous usage errors could ever have anything to do with the death of English is not worth anything even as a joke. But, for the most part, we are talking about hideous usage errors. "Spading and neutering"? "Prostrate cancer"? These are mistakes. They have a long way to go before they become correct from either a descriptivist or prescriptivist point of view. This has little to do with language evolving.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:01 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has this wannabe George Will never seen the internet?

I know. What a looser. I could of written a better article.
posted by mmrtnt at 8:02 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was so much better a couple hundred years ago, when fewer people were making spelling errors because more were illiterate.

We need to return to mass illiteracy. It's the only way.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:02 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thread is living up to my expectations. Which is nice.

Hey, so long as it isn't living down to your expectations. :D
posted by tzikeh at 8:03 AM on September 24, 2010


Go raibh tú ag súil le Gaeilge?
posted by Astro Zombie Fresh [+]


No, I suppose I hadn't really any expectation of the fine Irish I'd see here today.
posted by kingbenny at 8:05 AM on September 24, 2010


This tiresome, clichéd and thoroughly lazy excuse for bad English never gets any more impressive.

In Soviet Russia, language refudiates YOU.
posted by norm at 8:05 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, the writer is behind the times. As far as I'm concerned, the English language died around eight or nine years ago, when people wrote into the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle to complain that an op-ed writer had used the word "infelicitous." Because the word was just too fancy.

Since then, I have been avenging this assault on "infelicitous" by using it when I comment on student papers.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:06 AM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's not the death of English, really. It's just the rise of Americanish.

(Which is quite a bit less stuffy than Europeanish.)
posted by RoseyD at 8:09 AM on September 24, 2010


Aon duine ag súil riamh an Gaeilge breá!

I measc ár armra eilimintí éagsúla, mar shampla eagla, ionadh, éifeachtacht neamhthrócaireach, an deabhóid beagnach fanatical chuig an Phápa, agus éidí deas rua!
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:10 AM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


So, I don't like "reach out to", either, but I understand where it's coming from, it tries to be inclusive of phone, email, SMS, etc... But there's got to be a better way.

Anyway, I was hoping for something a little more than get-off-my-yard-isms (although "Doggy dog world" is a laugher!) - something about actual linguistic drift: maybe a marked increase or decrease in words in common usage, or the standardization and influence of Indian English, or evidence that what we speak today would be unintelligible to someone in the 18th century. That would have been cool.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:11 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cild ábútan gærswyrt -- gán1!
posted by maudlin at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2010


'You haven't a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,' he said almost sadly.

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a teenager standing on your lawn -- forever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:17 AM on September 24, 2010 [24 favorites]


"wrote into" = wrote in to

This always happens in threads involving grammar and/or the English language. Surely the phenomenon requires a name.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:20 AM on September 24, 2010


Yes, these vile verbal vices are certainly a much bigger stain on the reputation of the ostensibly venerable broadsheet than mindless cheerleading for endless war, indefinite detention, and limitless torture.

I"M LOOKING AT YOU, WAPO!
posted by [citation needed] at 8:21 AM on September 24, 2010


I would like to favorite ROU_Xenophobe's comment eleventy-squillion times.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh teenagers R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.
posted by tzikeh at 8:24 AM on September 24, 2010


Loo what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte egges or eyren, amirite?
posted by everichon at 8:24 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would like to point out that Mr. Weingarten, or perhaps the Post, eschews the Oxford comma.
posted by knile at 8:25 AM on September 24, 2010


The language isn't dead, it's just... well, the OED did add bromance and defriend this year.

This language has been brought to you by the Tri-Deltas, with additional funding from Facebook and the partners of CBS Television in Hollywood.
posted by heyho at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2010


Not worthy of "best of the web." It's yet another "barbarians at the linguistic gate" essay. On top of that sin of mediocrity, it treats people who gave us celebrity name spicing and "-gate" as a suffix for trivial scandals as its guardians.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:30 AM on September 24, 2010


It's when it's policy that baffles me. The NY Times seems to have an obsession about putting grocers' apostrophes after every pluralised initialisation. Like, CDs become C.D.'s - that's a deliberate abomination right there.

I've also noticed an unusual tendency of only semi-pluralising the verb-pronoun descriptions of corporations or other collective nouns. Such as, say, "Google are..." instead of "Google is". Or people will begin with "Google are..." and then use singular forms throughout. Or even worse, mix and match. They seem unable to hold clearly in their heads the idea of a consistent singular or plural noun to describe a collection and to preserve it long enough to write it consistently throughout whatever passage they are creating. Wikipedia is full of this rubbish, and it's *got* to be influencing an entire generation of schoolkids eagerly cribbing their homework essays.
posted by meehawl at 8:31 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


...to complain that an op-ed writer had used the word "infelicitous." Because the word was just too fancy.

I would have agreed with you, if I hadn't just come across "cromulent"
posted by mmrtnt at 8:31 AM on September 24, 2010


This tiresome, clichéd and thoroughly lazy excuse for bad English never gets any more impressive.

So what exactly constitutes good English? Because you know not only does that differ between England and the U.S.( example: preposition usage), but has also changed over time. I.E. language evolves.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:39 AM on September 24, 2010


I love the phrase lingua franca, and how it is almost never used in reference to French.
posted by molecicco at 8:41 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't take a grammarian seriously if he does not know the difference between US English and English as a whole. Really, if you must be a prescriptivist pedant at least do it in the right flavour.

Wikipedia is full of this rubbish

Possibly because things are edited by both US and UK English speakers - we have different rules for count and mass nouns, and before I realised this it really confused me. See also: the different meaning you have when you refer to 'Asian people'
posted by mippy at 8:41 AM on September 24, 2010


As in, "we're reaching out to you to see if you can give us a solve for the widget issue. We'll go with your recommend."

What?! I could say, "Can you solve the widget issue? We'll follow your recommendation." The jargon is longer.
posted by reductiondesign at 8:44 AM on September 24, 2010


1. Why was this published?

2. Why was this linked to MeFi?
posted by Doohickie at 8:47 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by brundlefly at 8:50 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, if English is dead, I'd better get on those Welsh lessons tout de suite. So to speak.
posted by kalimac at 8:52 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This article actually made me more sad than if there were some linguistic reason that English was actually dead. It's more like a zombie version of English, clamoring for brains, and finding little.
posted by Xoebe at 8:52 AM on September 24, 2010


I always figured the 'I could care less' = 'I could care less, but that would take effort and interest that, quite frankly, I am unwilling to invest in the subject.'

Of course, I just verbally shorthand it to rolling my eyes and invoking some deity for aid (ie. Jeebus, Kali, Cripes (whoever that is), and the ever popular plural, ye gods).
posted by LD Feral at 8:57 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by webmutant at 8:57 AM on September 24, 2010


ALSO: I personally dislike the '[Thing], much?' phrase. Where did this come from? It always looks grammatically suspect and doubly grating when used by UKers.
posted by mippy at 8:59 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've also noticed an unusual tendency of only semi-pluralising the verb-pronoun descriptions of corporations or other collective nouns. Such as, say, "Google are..." instead of "Google is".

That's quite correct in British English. I take your second point about mixing them up, though.
posted by ob at 9:04 AM on September 24, 2010


ALSO: I personally dislike the '[Thing], much?' phrase.

Arrggghhh! I share your pain. I find that fucking annoying.
posted by ob at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2010


1. Languages evolving is one thing. Using the wrong fucking word is another thing and suggests that one is either ignorant or a complete idiot (or just careless).

2. As for typos? A typo is hitting the wrong key when you're typing. For using the wrong word, see #1 above.

3. What scares me is that this is only the second of Weingarten's articles that I've appreciated - and I have delivered to my door every Saturday (in the Sunday Post Magazine). I stopped reading him years ago so will, from now on, read him only when he's mentioned here.
posted by Man with Lantern at 9:08 AM on September 24, 2010


Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say proofreading is dead?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:12 AM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


I could care less, but that would take effort and interest that, quite frankly, I am unwilling to invest in the subject.

Love it.

I've never had a problem with "I could care less", as it always seemed satirical, like saying "That ought to make them happy" when it really wouldn't.

The one word that I can't stand, however when used dismissively is, "Whatever".

When people say, "What. Ever.", I take it to mean, "You're right, but I don't want to admit it"
posted by mmrtnt at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love the phrase lingua franca, and how it is almost never used in reference to French.
posted by molecicco at 10:41 AM on September 24


It doesn't have much to do with French, so that makes sense.
posted by kingbenny at 9:18 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this the same Weingarten guy who's always judging on Iron Chef America?
posted by slogger at 9:25 AM on September 24, 2010


You say tomato, i spel it tamado
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:26 AM on September 24, 2010


Who is this guy Frank anyway?
posted by Artw at 9:34 AM on September 24, 2010


Is this the same Weingarten guy who's always judging on Iron Chef America?

Nope. That's Jeffrey Weingarten, who can write circles around this precious dweeb. His (i.e. Jeffrey W.'s) The Man Who Ate Everything is one of the best books about food I've ever read. Would make a fine palette cleanser for the dry, sour fruit of that Gene Weingarten piece, actually.

That palette/palate error's in there just to make you feel a little sic'er, Gene . . .
posted by gompa at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2010


So, I don't like "reach out to", either, but I understand where it's coming from, it tries to be inclusive of phone, email, SMS, etc... But there's got to be a better way.

If anyone thinks of a word that can take all these things into account, please contact me.
posted by condour75 at 9:37 AM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


1. Languages evolving is one thing. Using the wrong fucking word is another thing and suggests that one is either ignorant or a complete idiot (or just careless).

Which is how languages evolve. Innit?

I love the phrase lingua franca, and how it is almost never used in reference to French.

It doesn't have much to do with French, so that makes sense.

Oh, it did once. Now it's used more in the sense of English taking over that role, while retaining the subtext of being the language that follows other languages into dark alleys and mugging them for what's in their pockets.

A friend and I used to joke that if there was an established Academy of English, it'd be called the Academie Anglaise.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:43 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Languages evolving is one thing. Using the wrong fucking word is another thing and suggests that one is either ignorant or a complete idiot (or just careless).

But this still begs the question. What is the right word and who is the authority?

For example which is correct?

I live on Cherry Street. or I live in Cherry Street.

Another example is the use of the verb 'to be' with conditionals

Again which is the correct form?

If she were sick, she would stay home. or If she was sick, she would stay home.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:51 AM on September 24, 2010


I think you want AskMe.
posted by ob at 9:58 AM on September 24, 2010


A lingua franca (originally Italian for "Frankish language" - see etymology below) is a language systematically used to communicate between persons not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both persons' mother tongues.
posted by caddis at 10:01 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


English is dead? We should have a funeral to mark it's passing.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 10:04 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Aon duine ag súil riamh an Gaeilge breá!

I measc ár armra eilimintí éagsúla, mar shampla eagla, ionadh, éifeachtacht neamhthrócaireach, an deabhóid beagnach fanatical chuig an Phápa, agus éidí deas rua!


I like to think that my ancestral tongue has a word for 'fanatical'. After all, we did give you hooligans up to shenanigans galore knocking things to smithereens with their shillelaghs.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:10 AM on September 24, 2010


This seems like as good a place as anywhere to announce that I hate when people (esp. media types) say "slammed", "blasted", [are those commas placed correctly?] and other words like that to mean "criticized" or "disagrees with". OOOH, he "slammed" Obama's speech? He picked it up, and slammed it on the ground? ARRHKGKJGJK
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 10:11 AM on September 24, 2010


I wish the OED would stop adding new words and get to work on some of the old ones.

Because I really need a detailed definition of the meaning of "alestall" or "beerstall" [it's some kind of barrell, I think, but I need to know if its just for storage or for actually brewing beer].
posted by jb at 10:16 AM on September 24, 2010


I think you want AskMe.

Touche. :) But I know the answer. They are all correct. It just depends on which authority you consult.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:20 AM on September 24, 2010


Blah blah blah blah language drift blah blah blah blah non-native speakers now more common than native speakers blah blah blah.

Jeezus. These prescriptive blowhards show talk to a fucking linguist and learn how the world works in practice, not principle.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:29 AM on September 24, 2010


... show me how you can say "in July," and I'll go down on you.
posted by Graygorey at 10:33 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


This seems like as good a place as anywhere to announce that I hate when people (esp. media types) say "slammed", "blasted"...

Taking off from there, I'd like to add that I cringe when media types say "sprayed" when talking about gunfire, as in "sprayed with bullets".

"Spray" to me, connotes cologne or misters.

"Hammered", "blasted", "riddled", "pounded" - all would be better substitutes.
posted by mmrtnt at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2010


Nope, that's Jeffrey Weingarten...

FSM forgive me for my pedantry, but it's Jeffrey Steingarten. But otherwise, I'm in total agreement with gompa.
posted by bakerina at 11:45 AM on September 24, 2010


> I don't think he actually "did" anything there.

If I can't take amusement in English being called the language of the French, then the tyrants have won.
posted by ardgedee at 11:50 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Once we're all on board with whatever language replaces English, maybe we'll finally be able to put the tater thing to rest.
posted by Shohn at 12:14 PM on September 24, 2010


"Hammered", "blasted", "riddled", "pounded" - all would be better substitutes.

"Drunk," "Really Drunk," "Cesar Romeroed," and "Laid" work better?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:33 PM on September 24, 2010


As they once said about punk: English isn't dead, it just smells that way.
posted by Hactar at 12:37 PM on September 24, 2010


Once again let us take a moment to mourn the loss of DFW.

This.
posted by steambadger at 12:38 PM on September 24, 2010


Once again let us take a moment to mourn the loss of DFW.

Wishful thinking. Although I think ORD is worse. Maybe.
posted by norm at 12:48 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, basically, if you write a letter to WaPo complaining about the diminishing quality of their proofreading, they'll get out their heavy guns to rub your nose in it.
posted by markkraft at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


AElfwine Evenstar: But this still begs the question. What is the right word and who is the authority?

The answer to this is almost always RTFSG, (Read the Funking Style Guide.) If it is in the style guide, fix it. If it is not, pick the way that seems most reasonable and let the editor deal with it.

If there's no style guide and no editor, do your best and killfile the pedantic dicks.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:34 PM on September 24, 2010


"Drunk," "Really Drunk," "Cesar Romeroed," and "Laid" work better?

Oops. Didn't see that one coming. I must be Really Romeroed.
posted by mmrtnt at 1:34 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought it was funny. Not DFW Tense Present brilliant-funny, but an amusing article to send to my friend who shouts "LY!" whenever anyone on TV says "I felt bad".
posted by operalass at 1:58 PM on September 24, 2010


Less than 24 hours ago, I observed that my preferred sweetmeat vendor had employed a copywriter who asserted that his employer's product consisted of tender pork, complimented by a rich variety of spices. As I chewed upon this culinary offering, I reflected that the spices were every bit as nice as one would expect; but I detected a somewhat aloof quality in the pork itself, which had not deigned to so much as acknowledge the many praises heaped upon it. My eyes pricked with tears.

Deficits in literacy, I can cope with - they're something we might aspire to rectify. What's troubling is an increasing sense that people no longer feel such things matter. It's considered more important nowadays to get your message out quickly than that it represent you well. For a truly cringe-inducing example (amid a forest of them), that Chicago law professor who lately lamented the difficulty of being well paid gives us this: "Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school."

I would bet money that he deducts a point for every such error on his students' writing assignments; I dare not contemplate the awful consequences of a poor showing by any of his heirs.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:08 PM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seattle's mayor has an inner boggie.
posted by Tube at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2010


chinston: "You want to see bad English? I'll give you Bad English "

I see you Bad English, and raise you a Bad Lieutenant (totally NSFW).
posted by bwg at 4:53 PM on September 24, 2010


my friend who shouts "LY!" whenever anyone on TV says "I felt bad"

Am I missing something? Usage experts traditionally say that "feel badly" is wrong. Ironically, so many people think that "feel badly" is correct that now it is starting to work its way into acceptable usage.
posted by Pyry at 5:35 PM on September 24, 2010


my friend who shouts "LY!" whenever anyone on TV says "I felt bad"

"Feel badly" is wrong. "Badly" is an adverb; thus "I feel badly" means that you're not good at emotions. "Bad" is an adjective; thus "I feel bad" means that how you are feeling is unpleasant.
posted by tzikeh at 9:27 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have to take shit from a man who can't use "lexicon" idiomatically.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:44 PM on September 24, 2010


Gene Weingarten is such a twat.
posted by bardic at 10:00 PM on September 24, 2010


I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the alot from Hyperbole and a Half, which in the author's words, "is an imaginary creature that I made up to help me deal with my compulsive need to correct other people's grammar".
posted by BobsterLobster at 11:06 PM on September 24, 2010


I personally dislike the '[Thing], much?' phrase. Where did this come from? It always looks grammatically suspect and doubly grating when used by UKers.

In all honesty I find my own slang preferences primarily dictated by my tolerance for those most likely to use the terminology. For example, variations on "____ rocks!" or "...such a rock star!" are nearly always uttered by people who are clearly trying way too hard to assert some form of decadent hipness, so the usage of such terminology automatically grates on me... I don't even take the time to mentally process exceptions anymore.

But probably the worst offender for me the past few years has been the simple "lol". Not even so much because it's such an unnecessary neologism ("ha!" already existed and doesn't require any more keystrokes) but because it's become a meaningless placeholder that doesn't always mean that a person finds something funny at all.

Particularly in the texting/IM world, where often it merely means "just letting you know I got your text/IM, but I don't feel like typing out an intelligible response so please accept this obligatory LOL with all due apologies". Nothing is more annoying than typing out an observation and then, several minutes later, having your phone vibrate, fishing it out of your pocket, and executing whatever sequence of keystrokes brings up your inbox only to find that someone has sent you the dreaded "lol" auto response. It ought to be ruled a hate crime and legislated accordingly.
posted by squeakyfromme at 12:25 AM on September 25, 2010


Languages evolving is one thing. Using the wrong fucking word is another thing and suggests that one is either ignorant or a complete idiot (or just careless).

Hear hear. It's one thing to label someone a boor for being a spelling nazi, but when you say "nucular" or refer to midnight as 12 p.m. you're fucking with the language at it's most basic level.
posted by squeakyfromme at 12:34 AM on September 25, 2010


Squeakyfromme, it seems to me that a LOL like that has meaning, even if it has very little content. For one thing, it's an acknowledgement of what you said and an affirmation that it was funny, which is sort of a nice gesture coming from someone who was obviously actually too busy or just left too cold by your message to formulate a more involved response. There's also the LOL of "This conversation is over, so here's nothing to respond to", and that too has a lot of terrific applications**. In any case, I doubt there's any word you could excise from the language that would make this phenomenon, which is really just the IM version of going "mmm" or grunting in response to something somebody says, go away; in a LOL-less world it would be "ok", or at best "ha! ok". Would that really be better?

FWIW, I like LOL. It's adorable. Sprinkle it over your message and goodwill radiates from its textual pores. It's more like smiling than laughing out loud, and less distracting than :), which can sometimes be too expressive for the situation. Also, my Spanish- and French-speaking friends use it when we IM and put off just a little while longer that inevitable moment when they'll say "jajaja" or "hihihi" and I'll do a double take for the millionth time. LOL is so universal, lol.


** There are people, however, who will wait 15 minutes after their last "lol" and then try to pick up the conversation, as though you were the one who dropped the ball - most infuriatingly with a "u there?" I get this mostly from guys I gave my number to out of politeness, drunkenness, or surprise. These are the people to avoid, who don't understand how a conversation works and that they actually have to bring something to it. Like... words.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:51 AM on September 25, 2010


Whoa, squeakyfromme, I somehow skipped over a whole sentence of your post, namely the first line of the last paragraph. Sorry. Disregard the parts of my reply that say things you already know.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:55 AM on September 25, 2010


in a LOL-less world it would be "ok", or at best "ha! ok". Would that really be better?

You seem to be arguing that a complete non-response that requires someone to stop what they're doing and fumble with their mobile device is somehow more polite than merely letting the conversation drop? Sorry, I don't get it. When it was just email and not texting people didn't think twice about just not responding to the last email if they got bored with the conversation or had nothing further to add.

FWIW, I like LOL. It's adorable. Sprinkle it over your message and goodwill radiates from its textual pores. It's more like smiling than laughing out loud, and less distracting than :), which can sometimes be too expressive for the situation.

OK, now that's just smarmy as fuck.
posted by squeakyfromme at 10:59 AM on September 25, 2010


I suppose I would taken my post a bit more seriously if I'd realised that you actually considered having to push a button on your cell phone sometimes to be a real problem. I don't see the point of arguing about that, and in any case am now bored with this conversation and have nothing further to add.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:31 AM on September 25, 2010


lol
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:34 AM on September 25, 2010


So what exactly constitutes good English? Because you know not only does that differ between England and the U.S.( example: preposition usage), but has also changed over time. I.E. language evolves.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:39 PM on September 24


So does MRSA, dude. That doesn't make it a good thing. And that, dude, is the point. I wish you hadn't been so tactless as to make me have to spell it out.
posted by Decani at 1:04 PM on September 25, 2010


Can we just institute newspeak already?
posted by SpaceJazz at 1:43 PM on September 25, 2010


my friend who shouts "LY!" whenever anyone on TV says "I felt bad"

Am I missing something? Usage experts traditionally say that "feel badly" is wrong. Ironically, so many people think that "feel badly" is correct that now it is starting to work its way into acceptable usage.
posted by Pyry at 5:35 PM on September 24 [+] [!]


my friend who shouts "LY!" whenever anyone on TV says "I felt bad"

"Feel badly" is wrong. "Badly" is an adverb; thus "I feel badly" means that you're not good at emotions. "Bad" is an adjective; thus "I feel bad" means that how you are feeling is unpleasant.
posted by tzikeh at 9:27 PM on September 24 [1 favorite +] [!]



Thank you both for clarifying that for me. Of course the rare time I post a comment and attempt humour I get the facts wrong. Shit.
posted by operalass at 10:07 AM on September 27, 2010


I think you're talking about ſ

Ah, yes, Paradife Loft.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:20 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


You mean the reality show where they pack a bunch of humanities grad students into a trendy apartment? Yeah, I loved that thing. Pity VH1 cancelled it after the first season.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:59 AM on September 28, 2010


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