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Category Archives: grammar

Can’t Say All the Syll

I would like to spend today’s Non-Sequitur Thursday on a minor tirade in defense of three syllable words. I don’t know that there’s anything particularly non-sequiturish about it, but it is what happened to come out of my pen.

Full disclosure: I am actually writing this on Wednesday, in my on-going quest to lessen my busy week stress. I’m not sure it’s working.

So here’s my question: When did people get too lazy to say all three syllables of a word? Some time ago I got annoyed when sportscasters started calling Syracuse “The ‘Cuse.” I think this really started on t-shirts and bumper stickers. That’s where I saw it first. Then the sportscasters started in and I realized Syracuse as I know it is doomed.

And you notice how they put the cool “the” at the beginning. Hello! You shorten the word by two syllables but add a one syllable word. That’s a net savings of only one syllable. And one could argue that since it’s adding a whole other word, it’s not a savings at all.

Also, nobody spends time with their family any more. It’s “the fam.” That one’s all over Facebook. Statuses share how somebody had a great time with “the fam.” This one’s not even a net savings, because it’s typed. T-h-e-space is one more keystroke than i-l-y. So these folks are just being cool.

The example that got me to write about this foolishness comes from my beloved cable television. A cheesy series which shall here remain nameless invited its most loyal viewers to purchase “merch” from their online store. For heavens’ sake MERCH? Why don’t you just say “stuff”? “Things”? At least she didn’t say “the merch.” If she had, I could have suggested “items.”

I think part of the problem is we’ve all gotten too cool for school. Sarcasm is our default setting, and we just can’t be bothered. Well, there are things I can’t be bothered with, too, but yet I can usually manage to say an entire word.

Oh, one exception: I rather enjoy the expression “Not no mo’.” Of course, that’s not even saving a syllable, just an “r” sound, which is not really a very burdensome sound to make. I just think it sound cool. So, YES, I, too, succumb to the lure of seeming cool. Point and laugh if you must (and I know some of you must) (you know who you are).

Lame Grammar

This morning a guy reporting on sports said a team “could not rest on their previous laurels.” The expression is “rest on one’s laurels” and does not include the word “previous.” A laurel in this context is something you did well and were lauded for. All laurels, therefore, are previous. It is redundant to say so.

Welcome to Lame Post Friday. The only thing I can come up with today is certain things people say that bother me. I thought it might make a fun read, and it will certainly do me good to get some things off my chest.

One of my biggest peeves: Very unique. Nothing is very unique. It is unique or it is not unique. Unique does not mean the same thing as unusual. Something can be very unusual or even the most unusual. Unique means there is one. You can’t be the very only one. I know some people use the word “onliest,” but it is not really a word.

Unique even sounds better without the very. There is an ad for the Bank of Utica on television in which a man asserts, “Utica is unique.” I believe him. Actually, now that I think of it, the word “very” does not help in a lot of circumstances. Just find a better adjective.

Here’s another peeve: “different than.” The correct usage is “different from.” “Than” is for quantifiable comparisons: A is bigger than B. You can measure it. Different is qualitative, which is different from quantitative (see what I did just then?).

How about using “myself” when you mean “me.” “The committee consists of Harold, Caroline and myself.” People seem to think it sounds more formal, but it’s wrong.

I could go on to talk about there, their and they’re, or it’s vs its. However, those are only a problem in the written word. Today I’m being bothered by the spoken word. Perhaps on a future Lame Post Friday I shall tackle the written word. Actually, these days it’s usually typed, and that opens up a vista of initials, abbreviations etc. that make my head ACHE. Ah, something to look forward to. Happy Friday, everybody.