Grammar Annoyances

Not much of interest going on this week except for the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of the mandate section of the Obama administration’s health care bill that passed two years ago. I’ll likely have more to say about that in June, after the Court renders its decision. I will say that I think this will easily be the most momentous decision in most of our lifetimes, with the possible exception of the Roe vs. Wade decision back in 1972.

With nothing else pounding against my skull to get out, I thought I’d talk about grammar and speech annoyances that have crept into American language in the past few generations. We all have our pet peeves, those words or phrases or misuse of words that causes us to grind our teeth and wonder what poor unfortunate school that person had to endure in order to learn how to mangle the English language.

In no particular order, here are mine:

I take that back, the first one is one of my all-time pet peeves.

Responding to someone who says ‘Thank you,” with “Thank you.” Like when someone is interviewed on TV or radio by the anchor person. THe anchor says, ‘Thank you” to say they appreciate the person speaking with them. When the guest says, ‘Thank you” in response it’s as if they are trying to thank the host more. Hence, the scenario:

Thank you.

No no, thank you.

Oh no, thank YOU.

Thank you, really, but THANK YOU.

No, I insist. THANK YOU!

If that escalated to its proper conclusion, the two people would end up either duking it out in a mixed martial arts octagon, or duelling with pistols at dawn. When did it become fashionable to try to outdo someone in the amount of thankfulness you have? Sheesh!

Where I grew up, we learned that the only two proper responses when someone said “Thank you,” were “You’re welcome” or “My pleasure.”  Period.

In Great Britain, it is apparently proper to say, “Not at all.” But that’s the only allowable exception in my book. If the guest wants to say ‘Thank you” to the host for having them on their show, those thanks are perfectly acceptable, only AFTER the ‘You’re welcome” or “My pleasure” has been given.

Enough of that. On to other annoyances.

Nucular” instead of “nuclear,”… *cringe*

Like as in “and I’m like …, and she’s like …, It was like, so totally cool. *more cringing*

Awesome. It’s derived from the word “awe.” A common definition of awe is: an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like: in awe of God; in awe of great political figures.

With that in mind, is it really awesome when a five-year-old finally learns to tie his shoes? Is it awesome when a ten-year-old earns a gold star on her essay. Is it awesome when some boob makes a fool of himself on national TV by skateboarding down a railing and falling on his private parts at the end of the rail?

Totally (and it’s corollary, Absolutely). So overused it seems to have taken over for the much shorter, simpler word “Yes.” They mean something affirmative, but “totally” refers to an amount of something, whereas “yes” simply affirms that a statement is true, correct, or that someone intends to do or say something. At best, “totally” is redundant when used in most situations. As in “She is totally hot!” Hey, if she’s hot, she’s hot. No need to qualify a statement like that.

To me, when someone says “Absolutely,” all I hear is “really yes” or “extra-strong, super important yes”. Whatever happened to plain, simple, “yes, no, and maybe?”

Starting replies with “Well, …” That phenomenon seems to be getting worse lately, and is particularly egregious when used by otherwise intelligent, articulate people who regularly appear on radio or TV interviews. What’s wrong with pausing a second or two to collect one’s thoughts before answering a question or responding to a comment?

Great.  More a victim of word inflation which has rendered it meaningless. If everything and everyone is great, then great becomes average or mundane, and the truly great becomes trivialized because the perception is to essentially ignore great since 99% of the time it doesn’t actually mean great.

Everyone’s favorite whipping boy–“you know” See “Well” above.

I’m sure I can think of more examples, but I get depressed when I think too much about how badly words are misused in modern culture. I realize languages are living, breathing, evolving systems, and some new words are downright useful and meaningful, but there’s no reason we can’t elevate our language to a higher pedestal of more correct use and meaning.

What are some of your language pet peeves? I’d love to hear them. Maybe we can compile a list and send it to the Thought Police.

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