Tuesday, October 6, 2009


According to the "Webster's Third New International Dictionary. G&C Merriam Co., 1971.", the English language has in excess of 450,000 words (including various word forms, etc.)  Now that's a lot of words, right?  You should be able to say exactly what you mean with that many choices. 

I understand that words are added and disappear from common usage all the time.  That is what makes it a living language as opposed to, say, Sanskrit, which is pretty much a dead language.  As technology and lifestyles change, our language also changes to reflect the times.  I certainly agree that that is a good thing.  Sanskrit would not be much of a communication tool in this day of airplanes, computers, space travel, blogs, and other things unimagined by the society which used Sanskrit! 

There are, however, some things about language changes that drive me absolutely Crazy!   There are words and phrases that are altered from their original meaning with no discernable need or apparent improvement.  For instance....

1.)  The growing usage of "heart", as in "I heart my dog."  Well, I'm sorry folks, but heart is a NOUN, not a VERB.  You might as well say, "I lamp my dog."  I doesn't mean anything.  It makes no sense.  Using a drawn heart shape began as more of an illustration or graphic, not a bona fide new word.  It was a cute and clever way to express the feeling of love with a picture when the subject wasn't all that serious.  Now, however, it is happening more and more that people will use h-e-a-r-t, in place of l-o-v-e for everything, as if it were a real and correct usage.  It is not.  Using heart as a stand-in for love diminshes the emotion and reduces the sincerity of what is being said.  Love is a great word and is a significant part of what makes humans, human, e.g., love makes the world go round, love is sweeping the country, love is a many splendored thing, will you still love me tomorrow?  I love you!  Gee, how romantic is a proposal where what you hear is an undying promise of "heart"?  No thanks!  Replacing all those loves with heart just does not feel, sound, or mean the same thing at all.  We're all looking for love.  Everyone already has a heart! 

2.)  Another of these annoying and incorrect usages is "ripped-off", as in "My friend ripped off some jeans from the Gap."  Well, no she didn't.  She stole the jeans, as in shoplifting, theft, robbery, grand larceny, unlawful taking of something that did not belong to her!  Ripping off just doesn't carry the same seriousness, again diminishing the import of the act.  Stealing is wrong, illegal, immoral, and unfair, cruel, and dishonest.  "Ripping off" seems like a not so bad thing, practically a prank.  In reality, that little "prank" can land you right in jail.  Calling it what it really is the first step in reinforcing morality and just might keep some of these rip-off artists, out of the pokey!

3.)  I have one biological "sister".  She has "sorority sisters" from her college days. I have several women friends that almost feel like "sisters".  I have known a great many members of Catholic religious orders, all called Sister.  I have great affinity for women in general and believe in the concept of "sisterhood" of all women.  We share, support, care about, work with, and understand each other by virtue of our similarities.  I am honored to be a part of the sisterhood.

What I do not have is a "sistah".

"Sistah" is, in fact, nothing more than a cultural or ethnic mis-pronunciation of "sister" coming from the African-American community.  Its the same thing as "Pahk the cah in the Hahvahd yahd"  heard frequently in Massachusetts and its environs.  I don't have a "cah" either.  I have a car.  Just because a bunch of people say Hahvahd instead of Harvard, doesn't change what it means and it doesn't mean the rest of us have to say Hahvahd.  Frankly, I think doing that would be an enormous insult to the people of Massachusets, as if we were making fun of them for their accent. 

I probably come off as a Curmudgeonly, Rabid, And Zealous Yutz!  Could be, I guess, but I spent a lot of time in my life working on words and writing, and if that makes me "C.R.A.Z.Y.", well so be it.   Slipping below the standards of acceptable use of the English language just makes me completely "crazy".  I say what I mean and I mean what I say.  Its not so hard.  Believe me, its easier and more useful than learning Sanskrit!

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