Tuesday, March 18, 2014

So This Is My Rant

The other day I was grousing (that means complaining about petty things, to those of you who live in Winona, Mn.) about inappropriate word usage. Specifically, I was whining about words which, when inserted in the wrong locales of sentences, make the speaker or writer sound as obnoxious as Gilbert Gottfried on fifty milligrams of Dexedrine.

Take the word "so". Not to advance the cause for prescriptive grammar, but I cannot, in mere words, express how utterly grating it is to me when someone begins a story -or even a paragraph- with the seemingly innocuous little word. The effects of  a displaced "so" are like a black widow's venom to my psyche. Even in the business world it has become common to hear the word being used in the same vein as a teeny bopper's slang. "So the first thing we want to do is maximize our floor space for customer service personnel" would induce me to setting myself on fire and throwing myself out of a fiftieth story window, were I to have to sit in on a meeting being addressed by Sally Sibilant.

Now, I can handle a sentence beginning with "So far..." without much problem, though by now I'd already be hitting the dirt when I heard "so" being issued. But the trauma which I've endured, ever vigilant for that word-turned-weapon, has taken its toll on me. "Come on, Adcox", some would admonish me. "Why are you obsessing over one little word? So what if -"

And there I'd be, coated in a cold sweat and gritting my teeth (and partial plate), having flashbacks to the days when valley girls popped bubble gum and "for sure'd' themselves into an inescapable linguistic nightmare. It's more than I can bear, thinking of such dark times.

I'm only human, after all.

Speaking of the whole, aberrant valley girl movement, these former adolescents never fully gave up their jargon. I have a theory that there was some covert plan to overthrow our way of life, and valley girls comprised the first line of a psychological attack. Manchurian candidates who were issued horrifying phrases in lieu of weaponry. That must be the case, since no one has actually seen someone being gagged with a spoon. Mercifully, that phrase was laid to rest decades ago. In its place, however, is the misuse of the word "like" which has been passed on to future generations from the hippie days. This word doesn't rattle me as much as "so", although its potential for obnoxiousness can only be measured by a staff of professional linguists, using highly sensitive equipment, at Brown University. There is no written record of its misuse in the eighties, but veterans of the decade recount stories of fraternity brothers bandying about such phraseology as "Dude! That geology lab quiz was, like, tough!" during a Friday night kegger.

Despite my beefing, I'm all for free speech. It isn't up to me to police someone else's words. Even so, I feel compelled to modify one of Tip O'Neill's quotes: your right to butcher the language ends where my ears begin.  Feel free to speak your mind about anything you want to, but don't be surprised if you see me throw myself on the floor and cover myself with an area rug where the aforementioned words are concerned. Language is a wonderful thing. I pray we keep it beautiful.

 I can handle Spanish slang better. Maybe that's because I have no vested interest in a second language. So with that in mind, I think I'll head over to Taco Bell.

They have, like, the best steak chalupas.


 

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