02 December 2023

Rocks in My Socks


  

This post comes to you today from the Pet Peeves Department here at the SleuthSayers Building. Many of us who work at SS have occasionally posted about annoying words or phrases, usually those encountered in fiction but sometimes those we run into every day in the wild. This is one of those posts, so if you'd rather not hear someone grumble this soon after a day of thanksgiving, feel free to skip it and do something that's more fun. If you do read it, feel free to disagree with its contents. I'll probably look at this next week and disagree with it myself.

As of this moment, though, these are the current burrs under my saddle--or, as Dr. Suess might say, the rocks in my socks:


- Business terms and buzzwords like paradigm, deliverables, added value, takeaways, productivity, etc., when used in everyday speech. "Can you tell me the takeaways from To Kill a Mockingbird?" 

- Modern language in historical fiction. Words/phrases/slang like hairstyle, shenanigans, scrapbook, mommy, daddy, mesmerize, sadist, hello, hit the road, okay, rat him out, etc., have been around awhile, but they still probably aren't as old as you might think. Same thing for most fantasy fiction. "Yo, Gandalf. Whassup?"

- Data/dayta/datta. This is a pronunciation thing. I like dayta. I don't like datta. Can't help it. I also don't like asterix, nuke-ular, and expresso, but those are truly incorrect. Dayta's a personal preference.

- Alright. I like all right. I don't think alright is all right.

- A coffee, as in "I need a coffee." I prefer "I need coffee" or "I need some coffee" or "I need a cup of coffee." To me, saying you want a coffee or an iced tea is like saying you want a bread or a soup. Yes, I realize it's common usage, but it still bothers me. (Irritable Vowel Syndrome?)

- Everyday. I think everyday is an adjective, and only an adjective. "I'm wearing my everyday shoes" is right. "I wear these shoes every day" is right. "I wear my every day shoes everyday" is wrong. Same thing with words like backyard and backseat. "My backseat driver sits in the back seat" is right. So is "My backyard swing is located in my back yard." Switch those up and they're wrong.

- Setup. This one probably hurts my foot more than any of the other rocks. "The operation we set up was a setup" is right. "I setup the rooms without any help" is wrong.

- Impact used as a verb. Yes, I know that's allowed, but I think it works best as a noun. I've noticed that most news anchors and weather forecasters these days are using it as a verb because I guess they think it makes their statements stronger and more powerful. ("Garbage pickup problems impact city residents!" "Cold snap impacts the homeless!") I think affect works just as well. Maybe it's because I have medical people in my immediate family, but I always think of someone who's impacted as someone who's agonizingly constipated.

- Other nouns like dialogue and journal and fellowship used as verbs. "We need to dialogue," or "I've been journaling" or "Come to the church tonight and we'll fellowship" sounds wrong to me. I probably need to Google it (which, for some reason, sounds correct).

- The overuse of as and ing constructions in writing. Since it's not grammatically incorrect, this mistake is sometimes hard to catch in our own writing--but it's silly and amateurish. "Turning, I saw her leave. Running after her, I shouted to her as she climbed into the car. As I reached the sidewalk, she smiled as she waved goodbye. Sobbing, I walked back inside." Talk about instant rejection--that'll do it.

- Phrases like for you and I. It should be for you and me, as in for you and for me. The sad thing is, you see and hear this blunder ALL THE TIME, and from people who should know better.

I could care lessI know this phrase has been around for years, but I still haven't gotten used to it--maybe because it makes absolutely no sense. One word I have finally agreed to use is done instead of finished, but even that one took me a while to accept.

The reason why this happened is because . . . Enough said, about that. A discussion of redundancy would keep us here all day. In fact, it would keep us here all day.

- The use of then without a preceding comma. An article I saw some time ago, and I can't remember where, said that a lot of writers nowadays are doing that. Here's an example: "I waved to my neighbor then started mowing my grass." I think that's incorrect. And sure enough, I noticed last night that this has been done three times already in the new Jack Reacher novel, and I'm only forty pages in. What's up with that? I think it's correct to say either "I waved to my neighbor, then started mowing my grass" or "I waved to my neighbor and started mowing my grass." But if you do use then, I don't like leaving out that comma.

Like. I'm like, don't even get me started on this one.

- Media and data. Those words, like family or group or herd, are collective nouns that I think work best with singular verbs. I like the data is correct. I don't like the data are correct. And I dern sure don't like the datta are correct. And yes, I know that's nitpicking.

- Utilize. I think utilize is a needless word that people say to try to sound more intelligent. Use use instead. Writers often know this, so it's mostly something you hear on TV--and hearing it impacts me!

Writers saying a character crosses to the bar, the bed, the door, the kitchen sink, etc. Example: "John crossed and answered the phone." I realize we should try to use as few words as possible. but if it's necessary to say someone walks across a room I think maybe he should "walk across the room." This is a small thing--most of these are--but I see it so often I thought I'd mention it.

- You guys. Old-school or not, I don't much like referring to a mixed-gender group as you guys. A local TV reporter at a crime scene said "you guys" four times in less than a minute the other might when addressing the news team in the studio. (Full disclosure: I use the phrase occasionally myself. But I don't like myself when I do.)

- The use of Ms. with a woman's first name only. Using Miss with a first name--usually when addressing older ladies--is a sign of familiarity, especially in the south. "Hi, Miss Ellie." Married or not, politically correct or not, it's never, ever Ms. Ellie. If you want to use Ms. (or Mrs.), say Ms. Ewing.

More words/phrases I've grown achingly weary of hearing and seeing: "It is what it is," "no problem" (when did this replace "thank you"?), "stunning video," "iconic," "functionality," "let's do this!" "outside the box," "my amazing husband/wife/etc.," "give it up for," "reach out to," "got your back," "begs the question," "feeling nauseous," "at this point in time," "my journey," "it's problematic," "a sense of closure," "know what I'm sayin'?" "low-hanging fruit," yada yada. For that matter, I don't even like "yada yada." (And sportscasters are a whole 'nother story. I could possibly understand saying "w" in place of "win" if there was any reason at all to do it. Actually it takes longer to pronounce the letter "w" than it does to say the word "win.")

Other things I don't like are air-quotes, chains on eyeglasses, Botoxed lips, flat-billed baseball caps, The Bachelorette, mullets, cold weather, downer endings, present-tense writing, submission fees, head-tosses, loud cellphone conversations in public, and TV commercials urging you to "tell your health-care professional about such-and-such medication." For God's sake, if your doctor needs to be told how to treat your ailments, you need a new doctor.

The good thing about saying I dislike all these things is that the older I get, the more people will forgive me, or just disregard my opinions. ("Hey, he's old, what does he know." Usually spoken with a toss of the head.)

What are some of the annoying things in your life, and especially in the spoken or written words you hear or read? (Not necessarily wrong, but just irritating?) And yes, you can include opinion-column blog posts. The longer this one gets, it's becoming irritating to me too. If you by chance like this kind of thing, here are two of my SS posts from several years ago that talk more about irksome words/phrases, and are a little less opinionated: "Do's and Don'ts, Wills and Wont's, Part 1" and "Do's and Don'ts, Wills and Won'ts, Part 2." 

Having pointed out all these thorns in my side, I should mention that there are thankfully many things I do like, and not just my family, my house, and my friends. I like seafood, warm weather, Apple computers, lemon-icebox pie, homemade chili, Netflix, straight pool, reclining theater seats, Word Hunt, Joe Lansdale, Harry Nilsson, Cass Elliot, beaches, burritos, mystery magazines, the guitar, the piano, Yellowstone, Jeopardy, and The Sopranos. Not necessarily in that order.

And SleuthSayers. I like SleuthSayers. I hope you do, too.

On that note, next time I promise I'll be more upbeat. Until then, I can't help remembering something a colleague said to me several years ago. "I'm done with all this positive-thinking stuff," he said. "I knew it wouldn't work, and sure enough, it didn't."

Hard to argue with that.



48 comments:

  1. Harry Nilsson! I knew we were brothers, John!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha!--Yep, I'm crazy about Nilsson, Josh. I think I started liking his music after the first few minutes of Midnight Cowboy, back in college.

      He'd be a good basis for one of your "inspired-by-the-songs-of" anthologies (though I doubt enough people know about him).

      Delete
  2. Jesse, what a grouch! Just kidding, John. I agree with much of what you say. The chalk against my blackboard is the misuse of whomever, as in “When I find whomever stole my wallet, I’ll punch him in the nose.” Whoever is the subject of the clause, not the object of the verb. The whole clause is the object.
    Edward Lodi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Edward! I still like the old rule that says "Use who (or whoever) if you can replace it in the sentence with he, she or they. Use whom (or whomever) if you can replace it with him, her, or them." Or something like that. The truth is, I usually take the coward's way out, and try not to use "whom" at all.

      Grumble, grumble . . .

      Delete
  3. Very interesting! I had no idea "hairstyle" was slang. And I still never know which version of "all right" to use.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I doubt "hairstyle" is slang, Leone, but I read awhile ago that it's one of those many words that hasn't been in use very long. As for alright, I solve that problem by never using it at all--though you still see it a lot, especially (for some reason) in screenplays and subtitles. Guess it takes up less space.

      Delete
  4. Being one myself, I like cranky old men. I like you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jerry, I certainly fit both those adjectives. I think I grumble most while watching news broadcasts or weather reports--those folks are supposedly professionals and should know the rules of language. (I gave up long ago on sportscasters.) And writers, whether we write fiction or not, should certainly know better.

      Thanks for stopping in for my rant.

      Delete
  5. Love, love, love the rant, John. Re those ubiquitous prescription drug ads, what really burns my wick is that everyone looks happy, happy, happy (a woman with stage 4 cancer buying high heels? And twirling in them? Really?), while underneath the scroll of side effects is running to the masculine voice reading them, so that now every child in America knows what the perineum is, in lurid detail. And they want to ban books in schools for talking about body parts...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eve, TV commercials in general are hilarious, and the polar opposite of real life. Just once I'd like to see a family arguing while on vacation, or dirty dishes sitting in the sink, or a new car moving at a normal speed instead of flying down the road. As for that scroll of side effects, I learned long ago not to read (or listen to) those. In the be-careful-what-you-wish-for department, I once remarked to my wife that deodorant commercials should go ahead and show people rolling it onto their underarms instead of the backs of their hands. Well, now they DO show it--so I'm careful not to criticize Preparation H commercials.

      And don't get me started, on book-banning . . .

      Delete
  6. I smiled all through this, John! So many things I could comment on... Strange, isn't it, how 'you and I' came into use by, as you say, people who should know better. I used to focus on this in my fiction writing classes (pronoun agreement) even though it was grammar, not fiction writing. And Eve - oh my goodness - I have said the very same thing about those cancer drug adds. Have they ever met anyone with terminal cancer? As you know, my first husband died of cancer, and I get angry every time I see the ads.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Melodie. Actually, the misuse of common grammar and language rules honestly doesn't bother me that much in casual, day-to-day life--conversations, emails, phone calls, etc. What bothers me is when it's done by people who should *know* those things. Journalists, authors, the broadcast media, TV and radio personalities, clergy, politicians, those who interact with and are in front of the public all the time. That irritates me.

      Maybe I should go take a nap.

      Delete
  7. Couple of things that great....

    The idea that "aircrafts" is a thing. Back in the ancient times when dinosaurs roamed and we used card catalogs, and liked it, I was taught that aircraft could be singular or plural. Now we have adult children reporters coming at the viewer with---"Many aircrafts were left waiting at the gate due to the ground stop." Grr... so many things wrong.

    That that horrible word, "unprecedented" is being used for anything and everything. We had a cold snap here a few days ago. Every couple of years we get smacked in the face with one this time of year. The adult children reporters across every local station called it unprecedented. Like hell.

    I am awaiting the adult child reporters to be stationed at the malls the Saturday before Christmas and surveying the lots while telling us that this view of cars everywhere and people milling about is unprecedented.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, you've made ME laugh, Kevin. Adult children reporters--I've have to remember that. And yes, all those stalled aircrafts sounds unprecedented.

      You'll like this: one of our local TV reporters made a comment the other night about a long-ago game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Olivers. Gotta learn to read that Teleprompter right, young lady.

      Thanks as always for stopping in, here!

      Delete
    2. Kevin, I'm waiting for one (or more) of those adult child Christmas reporters to use the word "unpresentented" when ever they view an empty cart. You know it will happen.

      Delete
  8. Love this! I am a proudly precise broadcaster and I agree with almost everything. I might add "lost their life," which I find disrespectful. People die or are murdered. Simple and dignified. I know it's a losing battle, but it's good to know you're fighting for yours too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathleen, I certainly don't include all broadcasters in my raving and ranting. It's only the ones who make the worst mistakes who get remembered--and God knows I've made enough mistakes of my own . . .

      I'd never thought of "lost their lives" as being disrespectful, but I see what you mean. That's interesting. I know I've heard a lot lately about the fact that some folks don't like the phrase "passed away," and would rather just hear "died." As you said, simple and dignified. Personally, I try not to say "Sorry for your loss" anymore--it's been used so often it almost sounds cliched and unfeeling.

      Lost of landmines out there, in the language world.

      Delete
  9. I’m old enough (okay, I’m in my dotage) to remember when half-hour TV shows had one commercial before the show, and one after. Oh, the public outcry when a third interrupted the middle. In those Paleolithic times, correct grammar was important. Like was never substituted for as—until “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” Again, a public outcry—at least among academics.
    Edward Lodi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, the old days. I even remember the tune of that Winston ad. One thing my wife find disappointing, these days, is the fact that the national-news anchors feel the need to provide such long "teasers" for what's coming up later in the broadcast, sometimes mentioning things like "Tonight we remember a well-known actor" several times before finally revealing the name, late in the program. Can't quite picture Huntley or Brinkley or Cronkite doing that kind of thing.

      Delete
  10. I feel much better I'm not the only one who grinds my teeth over some of these. I HATE "impact" as a verb instead of "influence" or some other synonym. "All right" has always been two words, and a prepositional phrase ending in ...You and I is sheer pretentious ignorance. The only peeve of mine that you've missed here is the use of "myself" instead of "me" in the same cases as the "you and I" gaffe above.
    Thank you, John, for this public service.
    From another grumpy old guy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Steve! Public service, indeed--you're too kind. Most of these are just personal preferences.

      This "impact" thing has grown far more obvious recently. EVERY newscast and EVERY weather report--national or local--seems to use "impact" in this way, and I'm convinced it's because it somehow sounds more dire and forceful. But somehow "light rain will impact weekend plans" just winds up sounding silly to me.

      And yes, "myself vs. I" is still around, and probably always will be. Just picture Tony Soprano shrugging and saying "Whayagonnado?"

      Delete
  11. "You guys" grates. It's vulgar. Usage should be limited to men drinking beer in a bar, or better still, exclusively while watching the Super Bowl. I am driven crazy by the misuse of their. Don't they still teach that subject and verb must agree? Trigger warning. Get out the smelling salts. A middle school teacher I know told me that he and his fellow teachers are not permitted to teach grammar. They sneak it in. "Trigger warning" should be relegated to that great grammar graveyard in the sky.
    Paula

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Good ones, Paula! I hadn't even thought of trigger warning. Yes, there are a LOT of words and phrases that ought to be in the grammar graveyard. (Like "alright". . .)

      Thanks for chiming in.

      Delete
  12. I love Nilsson Schmilsson and Son of Schmilsson. As for words that grate... The current one that goes right up my nose is when you order something, especially at a cafe, and the clerk says "Perfect!" Thanks for your opinion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was me, Robert Lopresti. Standing proudly by my opinions.

      Delete
    2. Rob, I think Nilsson wrote some of the best songs I've ever heard.

      As for "Perfect!"--hey, maybe what you're ordering is really perfect! The thing that gets me is that every server now says "no problem," which apparently can substitute for both "thank you" AND "you're welcome." It's always tempting to say something like "were you expecting it to BE a problem?"

      Man, I'm feeling grumpier and grumpier . . .

      Delete
  13. "The two walked to the car" instead of "the two friends walked to the car" or "the two men walked to the car" grates on me. I think it is grammatically incorrect, but I can't convince my critique group that it is. I so wish I could.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mary! Hey, all you can do is try, right? Besides, if everyone in a critique group agreed, it would probably mean the earth has veered off its axis. Keep up the good work!

      Delete
  14. The use of “hone” when one should use “home”, as in “Let’s hone in on the problem.” It hurt my fingers just to type that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whoa--Good one, Roger. I still hear this all the time. I used to tell my writing students to imagine a "homing" beacon. You "home in" on it. (Half of them would frown and say "A what?")

      Delete
  15. That's alot! If you axe me. This here is a person who has worked in a medical facility and who has removed impactions, so I will never look at the word "impact" the same again. Thanks for ruining that word! Oh, I also write in present tense sometimes. But really, I don't do it just to annoy you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kaye, that IS alot. And I promise I won't axe you. I think I remember talking with you once about never using "mic" for microphone--I hate that (my mind always reads that as "Mick? What does that mean?"). I say just use mike and be done with it.

      As for impact, I actually have that medical image in my head anytime I read or hear about somebody being impacted, and I have enough writing problems already without having to picture that. I just use it as a noun and go happily on my way.

      Thanks as always for your thoughts. Have a great Christmas.

      Delete
    2. Correction: I wrote in this post that "rocks in my socks" was something Dr. Seuss might say. Well, he might, I guess, but a few minutes ago my wife reminded me that the book "There Are Rocks in My Socks, Said the Ox to the Fox" (which I bet I read a hundred times, to our kids) was written by Patricia Thomas, not Dr. Seuss. Oh well. I guess there are also rocks in my head (said the ox instead).

      Delete
    3. Okay, that's funny! It's a good thing your wife is there to keep you honest.

      Delete
    4. Believe me, Kaye, when she speaks I listen.

      Delete
  16. Elizabeth Dearborn02 December, 2023 19:14

    I agree with many, if not all, of the pet peeves listed, but I don't think anyone has mentioned using "issue" as a synonym for "problem".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes on "issue" for "problem." Or "situation," too. Such a wussy euphemism.
      Imagine: "Houston, we have an issue/situation." Gah!

      Delete
    2. To both Elizabeth and Steve: I agree. (Imagine Strother Martin's voice, saying "What we have here is . . . a failure to leave the thesaurus alone." When something's a problem, it's a problem, not an issue OR a situation.

      Good point.

      Delete
  17. I love both your post and the comments section. LOL for both. But I do have to disagree with one point—your preference for dayta over datta. After four years of Latin, I'm stuck with the latter pronunciation. If schools went back to teaching grammar, we'd have better thinkers in all areas of life but I doubt it'll happen. Thanks for a great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Susan! Good to have you here, as always.

      Yep, we disagree on dayta/datta. (Apologies to Cicero, Horace, Erronius, et al.)

      Delete
  18. Enjoyed the post, John, thanks. I was especially interested in: "I waved to my neighbor and started mowing my grass." Not long ago, I would have read that to mean the person waved, then started mowing. But I've now heard a number of authors argue that by saying "and," you're saying the person did the two things simultaneously. Now I find myself using ", then" with a frequency that's probably too high. And this is why I'm a grumpy man-in-training. --Dan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dan, you're probably right. I felt that using the "and" would mean the guy was doing one of those things *after* the other--at least that's what I pictured--but I can see that could also imply those two things are happening at the same time, like the expression "Entering the kitchen, he closed the window." (Is he moving really fast, or does he have very long arms?--because those two things shouldn't happen simultaneously.) I think a rewind and a rephrasing of my example are in order.

      But I do feel that the "then" needs a comma before it.

      Good catch, there--thank you!

      Delete
  19. Not so much a peeve, but a personal preference: When using "graduate" as a verb many people say "graduated high school" or "graduated college." I have always written and said "graduated from high school" or "graduated from college." It sounds wrong to me- either spoken or written- without the preposition. If an editor changes it, I'll go with it, but I'll wince.
    Where I live, the two-year-old across the street smiles, waves, and yells "Miss No-een" (he can't say the "r" yet) when he sees me. I could have asked that he call me Mrs. CedeƱo, but that's a mouthful for a kid his size, and I wouldn't want to inhibit all that joy coming my way. As you said, politically correct or not, it would never be Ms./Mrs. plus first name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Noreen! I also prefer "graduated from," and I confess I don't know which is the general preference. I suspect both are acceptable. I too have used the "from" version in my stories and so far I've not had a editor disagree with it, but you know how that goes--editors have peeves and preferences, just as writers do.

      Your two-year-old neighbor calling you Miss Noreen sounds perfectly normal, to me. When our kids were small, their friends always called my wife Miss Carolyn, and I even heard someone call her that recently. And when *I* was growing up, the ladies in my small hometown were, to us, Miss Rosemary, Miss Helen, Miss Dorothy, etc. etc.--but one really older lady was, for some reason, Mrs. Brumfield (not Miss Evelyn). The "Miss" title, with a first name, was always used for the ladies we knew best, whether they were married or not, and the Mrs. was used only with a last name. Same thing would apply now, except that the Mrs. would probably be, in at least some cases, Ms. (Again, the Miss and a first name is a sign of casual familiarity, as if the use of a title and a last name would seem too "formal.")

      I guess that's no crazier than other quirks of language . . .

      Delete
  20. Meant to go to bed half an hour ago, but I had to read every comment. All right, yes, and then there's any more, which both editors and AI now change to "anymore," to my fury. Same with any time. It has long baffled me that they can't find actors, newscasters, and weather announcers who can pronounce nuclear and February. Isn't pronunciation their job? And I truly detest robot pitches that start, "Did you know...?" especially when repeated over and over in the course of endless waiting time on hold. Whether I know or not, I do not, no, I do not want to be told!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Liz--glad you stayed up. I didn't mention "anymore/any more," but that's another one that gets misused all the time. And wasn't it George W. who was always saying nu-cu-lar? Lately it's a little amusing to hear the different ways newscasters pronounce the word "Qatar." I've often heard, from military folks, that it's pronounced "cutter." Who knows.

      When you find a news channel that pronounces everything correctly, let me know.

      Delete
    2. No foolin'! I thought it was "catarrh." Now there's a word I bet no one under forty can define.

      Delete
    3. No foolin'. But I've heard it pronounced both ways. In fact I heard it pronounced both ways last night, once on CNN and once on NBC. Maybe it's like dayta and datta.

      Delete

Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>