Sunday, October 28, 2012

Television home improvement shows are a wealth of inarticulacity.  That's crap-speak for poor grammar.  Today, the HGTV show "The Property Brothers" is my inspiration.  One brother was talking about a special feature in a house he had just renovated, commenting "That's Jonathan and I's favorite . . ." 
Oh, dear.  I's?  When did that replace "my"?  What is wrong with "my"?  I believe that there is a growing contingent who believe that using "I" instead of "me", regardless of the rest of the sentence, makes the speaker appear more articulate.  Even smarter.  Guess what?  IT DOESN'T!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The more syllables the better

I have been taking jabs at TV personalities, particularly television decorators on HGTV. I could move on to someone else (polititians and consultants provide fantastic fodder for grammar curmudgeons), but I am not even close to finished with the decorators. Now, please don't get me wrong -- I actually like make of these people. But that does not make it any easier to listen to their verbal gaffes.

One of my pet peeves (okay, so I have an entire menagerie of them!) is the practice of trying to sound smarter, more erudite, classier, . . . who knows what . . . by using bigger words when simpler ones will do just as well, or perhaps even better.

Take the word "utilize." In TV design land, it appears that we no longer use. We utilize. No longer do we use a technique, we utilize it. Ditto colors, patterns, etc. Honestly, do we really utilize "utilize" in everyday conversation?

In defense of utilize, however, at least they are using it correctly. What really burns my buttocks is when people (very often television decorators), trying to appear well-spoken, use the wrong word. Two particular examples come to mind. First, you will often hear the word "simplistic" used when the correct word is really "simple." (There's a little irony here, yes? Keeping it simple would be better in more ways than one.)

There is a great website that was created by Paul Brian, a member of the Department of English at Washington State University. It lists countless words and phrases that are commonly misused. Here's what he has to say about "simplistic":

“Simplistic” means “overly simple,” and is always used negatively. Don’t substitute it when you just mean to say “simple” or even “very simple.”

I couldn't have said it better myself.

An second example that is equally annoying is the use of "grandiose" when one really means grand or elegant. While one is not absolutely incorrect in using grandiose to mean spectacularly grand, the word really has come to refer to something that is affectedly grand or more complicated than necessary. (Hmmm, yet another irony in progress?) And in psychiatric circles, grandiose means having a delusional belief in one's one importance. Given the more common negative connotations of the word, therefore, do you really want a grandiose chandelier in your dining room? I think not.

And that's it for today.

Monday, February 9, 2009


One of the richest sources of language crimes is television personalities (ironically, people who are paid to speak). Newscasters, sports commentators (Don't get me started!), game show hosts, . . . their jargon, mispronunciations, and outright errors make me grit my teeth so badly that the enamel is worn off.

Today, let's look at some of the argot employed by a particular segment of TV folk -- the hosts of decorating shows on HGTV (Home & Garden TV to the uninitiated.) A phenomenon that has developed of late has me scratching my head and asking "Why?" I refer to the practice of adding prepositions to simple words that don't need them, such as the bewildering phrases "change up" or "change out."

When we embellish a frame, we don't simply change it, we change it out. And we aren't going to change your mantle, we're going to change it up. Why? I can only assume that the speaker believes that the more words or syllables he uses, the smarter he will appear. (Guys, guess what! It doesn't work!!) Or perhaps it is a means of being hip. Anyone can say "change," but only coolsters know to say "change up."

If this phenomenon were limited to a particular person, I would say that it is just an ideosyncrasy. That wouldn't bother me so much. Hey! All of us have our quirks. But it isn't one person, or just one or two. It seems to be across the board, almost like someone in the corporate offices of HGTV sent out a memo:

"TO: Hosts.

In assessing [insert name of show]'s competitive position vis a vis the station demographics, the powers that be have deemed that all hosts must raise their hipness quotient. As this is best accomplished via the use of jargon, our media consultants have recommended that hosts substitute the phrases "change up" or "change out" for the more pedestrian "change." A memo defining the word "pedestrian" will follow by separate cover.

HGTV provides such fertile grounds for the Grammar Curmudgeon's rantings that we shall be addressing other annoying bugaboos. But for now, peace out. Or peace up. Whatever.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Folks, sometimes when we try to sound smart, we show how stupid we really are. Case in point: The 40-ish guy on one of the house hunting TV shows. He and his wife were looking for a house in the $1.5 million range in Belize. When they made their choice, the man was extolling its virtues. Wanting, I suppose, to point out the best feature, he said "And as the coup d'etat, . . . "

Really? The coup d'etat, huh? I realize that Belize is in the Caribbean, but aren't the days of coup d'etats in banana republics gone? And if not, why are you spending $1.5 million in a country whose government was just overthrown by the military? More important, how did someone stupid enough to use "coup d'etat" instead of "coup de grace" ever earn enough money to buy a f---ing $1.5 million house?

Today's lesson -- There is no justice; the stupid have inherited the earth. Those of us who learned to speak and to write properly, safe in the knowledge that our erudition would earn us good jobs (and, of course, the rewaqrds that go with them), can wail and gnash our teeth while the dipshits laugh all the way to the bank. Sob!

Next time, I'll wax furious at the increasingly popular practice of turning nouns into verbs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Verb the Noun

Ow! My head hurts, and no amount of analgesic will make it better. The cause? One of the worse cases of cerbing nouns that I have seen.

Lowe's (home improvement centers) is heavily airing its new Christmas commercials. The tag line for the various spots is the phrase "Let's holiday this season." Oy!

This is just wrong. Because I couldn't find contact information on its website, I sent an email to its ad agency, BBDO Worldwide. (Wasn't Susan what's her name just thrilled to hear from me?) Do I have too much time on my hands? Perhaps. But, ladies and gentlemen, it is up to us, i.e., those who give a crap about what enters our brains via the spoken and written word, to let those who clearly do not give a crap know that they should, in fact, give a crap. So, i wrote to Susan, as follows:

"Let’s holiday this season? Or, perhaps, let’s not. And let’s not stupid the airwaves any more than we have already done so.
Please! Just because it’s advertising, it does not have to be inane. It does not need to involve pseudo hip-speak. It really does not need to make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
How about correct grammar, for a change?"

In case you were wondering, no, I haven't heard back from Susan. But I do feel a bit better knowing that I took a stand.

And you can, too.

  • Complain to your local news station about the cute little anchor's eggregious verbal gaffe!
  • Tell the phamaceutical company that their ad is causing you far more anxiety than their wonder drug could ever cure.
  • And, yes, be bold enough to tell the sphincter-brained chum who asks you "Who do you office with?" that you're giving him a 5-second head start and then you're going after his gonads with a keychein penknife. (Seriously, when I was still practicing law, I was asked this question on more than one occasion, by more than one person.)

Gee. Isn't it great to know that while our economy is collapsing, war is raging in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the magnificent silverback gorilla is damned near extinction, someone in Podunk, Ohio is spouting off about grammar? Sure as hell makes me feel great.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why grammar? Why now?

Why grammar? Why now?

  • The 2008 presidential election is one week away.
  • The U.S. economy is in the tank, and it appears that the economic infrastructures of the European Union and several other countries around the globe are following suit.
  • Osama Bin Laden is still at large. So is George Bush.
  • I could go on, but my antidepressants aren't strong enough to handle the potential repercussions.

So why am I taking this opportunity to carp about grammar? Primarily, because I've been carping about Americans' propensity to mutilate the English language for years to a very narrow circle of people, and I just realized that a blog would allow me to spread my carp farther and wider.

In addition, I am a home improvement show junkie. And, damn! There's something about the linguistic feces that TV hosts (who, incidentially, who get paid to speak) toss about so freely that makes me want to snip out their tongues with old pruning shears. Venting on a blog, however, is more socially acceptable and doesn't carry criminal penalties, yet it's almost as satisfying. So I've opted for the safer route.

Now, before going any farther, I should give you a disclaimer or two. First, my rantings will likely not be limited to poor grammar, but will also include bad vocabulary, the practice I call "verbing nouns," jargon, and other verbal faux pas.

Second, I suppose, given that grammar is a small portion of these verbal faux pas that make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, the name of this blog should be the first target of my ire. Rather than "grammar," the word I really want encompasses much more. In my defense, though, I didn't change the name of the blog because I am a techno-idiot and don't know how to do it.

Third, I am quite sure that readers (There will be readers, won't there? Please?!) will have many occasions to criticize the critic by pointing out my own lapse in syntax, misspelling, and even grammar. I am not verbally perfect. I've gotten over it; so should you.

So, stay tuned. Have fun. Write about your own verbal bugaboos.

Talk to you soon!