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Birjees Hussain: My pet peeves with language
March 23, 2018
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I’ll bet that, like me, you too find the use of certain words or phrases annoying. You might also find some of the pronunciations annoying ether because they’re pronounced differently because of where the speaker hails from or it’s just plain mispronounced.

I have a few pet peeves of my own. For example, no matter how many times I’ve publicly made the correction, both in this paper and in various online forums, it doesn’t change. The first pet peeve is the use of ‘you and I’ versus ‘you and me’. Both phrases are correct provided they are used in the proper context. But a lot of people, especially on TV, have dropped the use of ‘you and me’ altogether. Clearly they’ve incorrectly assumed that it is completely wrong when it’s not.

Another much used phrase that is completely wrong is ‘I could care less’ when the speaker actually means ‘I couldn’t care less’ The first means that I, in fact, do care now more than I will later on. If I meant that I don’t care at all at this very moment in time or in the future, I would say ‘I couldn’t care less.’ I must also emphasise that the first phrase does not really exist.

Now one adjective I really dislike is ‘awesome.’ It seems that everything is awesome. The pie is awesome, the idea is awesome and the plan is awesome. Whatever happened to other adjectives like ‘great’, ‘super’, ‘excellent’, or ‘brilliant’? Another word I dislike is ‘cilantro’ which is apparently an American substitute for the herb coriander.

One word that is actually mispronounced and not subject to differences due to language or dialect is ‘croissant’. Americans have grossly mispronounced it to ‘croyzaants’. It’s a French pastry and is actually pronounced ‘kwason’ where the ‘n’ is barely perceptible. Another word that is often mispronounced is recognise where the ‘g’ is dropped and, therefore, pronounced ‘reconise’. The ‘g’ has to be pronounced. Another word that is grossly mispronounced is ‘etcetera’. Most people, even those educated and in important positions, say ‘excetra’. The actual pronunciation is ‘et-cet-ra’.

One thing I find very frustrating is the lack of the use of a preposition in certain sentences by Americans. For example, they say ‘the meeting will take place Tuesday’ instead of ‘…on Tuesday’. They also consistently eliminate the conjunction ‘and’ when quoting three or four digit figures. For example, they’ll say ‘four hundred fifty thousand’ instead of ‘four hundred and fifty thousand’.

Now since I watch a fair amount of legal and crime dramas, I always cringe when one of the characters says ‘Distric Attorney’ instead of ‘District Attorney’. I think that its mispronunciation is sheer carelessness when speaking, especially when they are actors and supposed to be eloquent. Also, it always makes me laugh when, in legal dramas, a witness is on the stand and the lawyer will ask him or her, ‘Please explain, in your own words, what happened’. My question is, whose words are they going to be since the witness is sitting right there?

I also have a number of questions about how people speak in general. For example, why do people now start their sentences with ‘at the end of the day’? To which day are they referring and why must it be at the end of it? Why not the beginning of it?

For decades we used to say ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello” but now a lot of people just say ‘hey’. ‘Hey’ used to be used to beckon someone over or to attract their attention. When did it become a greeting? As some people say, ‘Hey is for horses’.

That brings me to the use of the pronoun ‘they’ when quoting research or information to support a statement. For example, it might be said, ‘they say that we should…’ or they might say ‘people say…’ My question is, who are they and who are these people who appear not to have a name?

And why do people not just use the word ‘Signs’ instead of ‘signage’? Or ‘use’ instead of ‘utilise’ which has 2 more consonants than ‘use’ does?

And why do people add ‘you know’ either to the end or the beginning of a sentence? Surely if the listener knew, they wouldn’t be having the conversation.

Moreover, why has the use of the word ‘Transportation’ become more commonplace than its predecessor ‘Transport’? Up until the mid-90s in the UK it was London Transport, not London Transportation. It turns out that both mean the same thing but whereas Transportation is American, Transport is British.

I, for one, will stick to the British version thank you very much.

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