Words, grammar are important and matter

I am, and always will be, a grammarian at heart. I love our language. So, it pains me when people abuse it – people who should know better, at least. I have an editor inside my head, and I can’t turn it off. Just be glad you don’t suffer the same affliction.

I am not trying to be mean, so if I step on your toes, forgive me. But, here are some of the common misuses of English that drive me crazy.

More and more I am hearing people tagging adjectives onto action verbs. Clauses such as “shop local” and “drive happy” are occurring more and more. I recently heard someone on the radio implore us to “shop small.” I assume that means we should stay clear of the big chain stores, but I get images of a tiny merchant in a miniature store. The same radio station has announced it will provide information to help us “vote local.” Where else would we cast our ballots if not in our own area?

One Wichita bank bids us a “welcome to friendly.” Even elementary students should recognize that this is not correct.

The pandemic has led to some new odd phrases, one of which is “Please stay six-feet apart.” I wonder how one person can stay six-feet apart from himself or herself. Yes, I get it. There is not enough room on those stickers to write, “Please remain at least six feet away from the person nearest you.”

Some of us also cringe at the new call to “be sure to social distance.” This plea was not even on our linguistic radar a year ago. Now, the term “social distance,” which should be used as a compound noun, has become a verb phrase.

A close cousin to this is the recorded response I often receive on the telephone: “Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received.” This could be cleared up by a simple change: “All calls are answered in the order in which they are received.”

What other words and phrases irritate me? I’m glad you asked.

“Kiddos” when used to refer to any but a person’s own children is cringe-worthy for me. Any group or individual with the word “strong” attached to it. The first use of this combination, “Boston Strong,” was used in that city after the marathon bombing a number of years ago. It has served its purpose. Let’s find something new to show our unity for a cause.

The same goes for scandals having the word “gate” attached to them. Watergate, which you will recall was named for a Washington D.C. hotel, happened five decades ago, for Heaven’s sake. Put it to rest.

Another is the attachment of the word “proud,” as in “Be Kansas Proud.” Again, it’s become cliché.

The continued harassment by COVID-19 has increased the erroneous call to see if someone “has a temperature.” By definition, everyone has a temperature. It just tends to be higher in those who have a fever. That’s much more specific and helpful.

I have become a disc golf enthusiast in the past year. Please do not refer to my beloved game as “Frisbee golf.” Though there are many brands of golf-specific discs, I have yet to see anyone use a genuine Frisbee on any course.

And finally, there’s the one that makes me chuckle every time I see or hear it. “There will be a meeting of sixth-grade parents tomorrow night” as opposed to “a meeting of parents of sixth graders.” My hope is that the former is an extremely small gathering.

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