Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - November 8, 2019

Where often is heard … an irritating word

As a writer, words always have been important to me. So it bothers me when I see or hear people who seem to do little more than string together clichés, over-use certain words or use them incorrectly. But I must face the fact that some words irritate me for no good reason other than they seem too pretentious or just don't sound quite right.

Examples from the academic world include "paradigm" and "cohort." What's wrong with using "model" instead of paradigm, and why not use "peer," as in a peer group, instead of cohort?

Network news shows can drive me up the wall. I understand it's easier to do a program when it follows a formula, but not every topic is "breaking news," "a tragedy," "an outrage," or "chaotic." And not everyone who does a good deed is a "hero" or "an inspiration." Our grandkids should certainly be powerful, because there are so many people who are "empowering" them.

Sports coverage? Don’t get me started! "There’s no 'I' in team," "college hoops," "driving force," "all fired up" and "hungry to get it back."

In lifestyle magazines, "hacks" seems to be the current hot word. One recent issue listed the following "real-life mom hacks" – advice for saving time and energy. Those "hacks" included booking flights during mealtimes, color-coding siblings' toy boxes, designating a "donation station" and making mini dusters so children can help with chores. OK, so those are all good tips. But "hacks?"

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary had several definitions of "hack" used as a verb: to cut or sever with repeated unskillful blows, to annoy or vex (got that right!), and to gain illegal access to a computer network. The definitions for "hack" as a noun included: a tool for rough cutting or chopping; a nick or notch; a short, dry cough; restrictions to quarters as punishment for naval officers; and an act of gaining or attempting to gain illegal access to a computer. The last definition was: "a clever tip or technique for doing or improving something."

Aha! So I guess it CAN be used that way. As I said, my feelings about these are irrational. Merriam-Webster blessing it does not prevent me from wanting to “hack up” something - and, yes, I know that is ambiguous!

And that's another thing. The use of the word "up" after certain words bugs me. "Serve up," "offer up" and "head up" are examples. No, no, no! Up adds nothing to the conversation, so no one needs to use "up" after those words. A person can serve dinner, can offer someone a piece of advice and can head a committee. These "ups" makes me want to throw up!

Husband Art is incensed when someone mentions "naked pictures." "All pictures must be naked or you cannot see them," he argues. "What they meant to say was the pictures were of people naked."

He gets equally excited when a TV announcer says, "We want to warn you that the following video shows graphic images." Again, Art comments: "ALL images are graphic!"

I did some checking on what words infuriate other people. I found "The 15 most annoying words you're using" on indy100.com. Among them, with accompanying comments:

Epic. "So epic that nothing is epic anymore."

Preggers. "I hate this word, and any other cutesy word for pregnant. You're presumably old enough, at least physically, to carry and birth a child. Be the adult I'm assuming you are and just say 'pregnant.'"

Our friend Dave says "irregardless" drives him crazy. I don't like it either, but our old friend Merriam-Webster lists it as a legitimate word. I also don't like it when a columnist chooses to have a huge part of a column be a quote from someone else. It seems as if the writer abandoned his or her responsibility. But MW's post was so well-written and tongue-in-cheek entertaining that I snipped the following from its piece titled, “Is irregardless a real word?”

It has come to our attention lately that there is a small and polite group of people who are not overly fond of the word irregardless. This group, who we might refer to as the disirregardlessers, makes their displeasure with this word known by calmly and rationally explaining their position ... oh, who are we kidding ... the disirregardlessers make themselves known by writing angry letters to us for defining it, and by taking to social media to let us know that "IRREGARDLESS IS NOT A REAL WORD" and "you sound stupid when you say that."

The reason we … define irregardless is very simple: it meets our criteria for inclusion. This word has been used by a large number of people (millions) for a long time (over two hundred years) with a specific and identifiable meaning ("regardless"). The fact that it is unnecessary, as there is already a word in English with the same meaning (regardless) is not terribly important; it is not a dictionary’s job to assess whether a word is necessary before defining it. The fact that the word is generally viewed as nonstandard, or as illustrative of poor education, is likewise not important; dictionaries define the breadth of the language, and not simply the elegant parts at the top.

… If we were to remove irregardless from our dictionary it would not cause the word to magically disappear from the language; we do not have that kind of power. Our inclusion of the word is not an indication of the English language falling to pieces, the educational system failing, the work of the cursed Millennials, or anything else aside from the fact that a lot of people use this word to mean "regardless," and so we define it that way ...

… Lexicographers are concerned with the business of defining language; they are not terribly interested in trolling readers by entering fake words which will upset them (and if we were going to make up fake words we would come up with something a little more exciting than a synonym for "regardless") …

OK, OK! I guess I need to get off my soapbox ... irregardless of how I feel.

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Other columns from 2019 may be found at: 2019 Index.
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