Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A petite rant on usage

I worked for a financial newspaper that shall remain nameless (Voldemortgage News? Hrm...) and it had the worst culture of institutionalized bullying I have ever had to endure. Which made me a ruthless editor because editing became survival.

The scars of this experience are my intolerance for misused words. I'd be annoyed by them anyway, I assure you, but not to this PTSD degree. And while I could dismiss my vehement reactions on unresolved anger at a chief sub who was a righteous prick and needed a kick in the balls, it still doesn't change the fact that words are misused all the damn time by people and publications that should know better, and as a result they are dumbing down our entire society and heralding the End of Times.

Here are a few examples:

Over. Dear every newspaper editor or broadcast journalist ever, please stop saying "over" when you mean "about". "Over" implies space and direction. Full disclosure: I used "over" in a headline when I was working on the Daily Telegraph business desk but that was because "about" wouldn't fit and the next word was "oil" so it rolled nicely. But you know what? Print is dying, the internet has unlimited space and the Daily Mail is going to use all of it for a five-deck SEO-generating headline so there's no excuse for saying "over" when you mean "about".

And just in case you don't mean "about", you probably mean "more than". Because if it's an amount of something, it's "more than". And while we're talking about amounts...

Significant. You mean "substantial". Because it's an amount, right? You're talking about an amount. You're talking about how much more you're paying in insurance every month or how many more students are not going to go to university if there are no jobs. Amounts are "substantial". If you say "significant" you're implying something is special. And you know what? It isn't.

Fantastical. You know who the worst sinner of this is? SFX magazine. Every goddamn "reboot" of a "franchise" is "fantastical", according to its "showrunner". NO. If it's a fantasy you're describing, then the adjective is "fantastic". Yes I am aware that it is a superlative. It's funny how some words can function in different word classes, isn't it? Like "fuck" and "smurf". Stop taking a perfectly cromulent adjective and trying to turn it into another adjective. I don't care if Shakespeare used it. You're not Shakespeare. You're not even Stephen Moffat. Unless you are. But if you are, please don't say "fantastical" because you're Stephen Goddamn Moffat and you are BETTER THAN THAT.

Vast majority. It's either a majority or it isn't. Fuck off with this "vast" nonsense.

Whilst/amongst. In grad school my grammar professor argued (in my words, not his) that anyone who said "whilst" or "amongst" was a pretentious dickhead and in practice I've found this to be largely true.

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