English language

HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
Does anyone have favorite pet peeves about usage? I have a list of my own, including lay vs. lie, persuade vs. convince, can vs. may and the declining use of the subjunctive. (I am especially irritated by "I wish I would have known such-and-such back then", in which the speaker is insulting himself, saying he made a conscious decision in the past not to know something.) I also dislike the modern hasty tendency to shorten words, often omitting multiple syllables.

I am posting this in Heaven as I hope to avoid rancor. People are not all identically educated, and language is expected to and does change over time. My own use of English is undoubtedly imperfect. What sets your teeth on edge when you hear it?
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Comments

  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Split infinitives
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    HarryCH wrote: »
    I also dislike the modern hasty tendency to shorten words, often omitting multiple syllables.
    I don’t think that can be called a modern tendency—not when there are names like Cholmondeley, Cholmondeston, Gloucestershire, Leicester, Ravenstruther, Worchestershire or Wymondham, or when we’ve gotten words like maudlin or bedlam from Magdelene and Bethlehem. :wink:

    Or do you mean “dorm” instead of “dormitory,” “fridge” instead of “refrigerator,” or “phone” instead of “telephone”? (Not that I think that’s a particularly new thing either.)

    My kids have put up for years with me saying “I think you mean nauseated” when they’d say some “feels/felt nauseous.” I was wasting my time.

    It also always sounds really strange to me when someone calls the basin in the bathroom in which one washes one’s hand a “sink.” I was taught that things (like dishes, pots and pans) are washed in a sink, while hands are washed in a lavatory.

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    In British English this is a lavatory.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    "Lavatory", on the increasingly rare occasions it's used here, means the room itself, rather than the plumbing equipment installed there. When there, you wash your hands in the basin.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    "Lavatory", on the increasingly rare occasions it's used here, means the room itself, rather than the plumbing equipment installed there.
    Yes, it’s used that way here too, but the primary meaning in my neck of the woods is a basin for washing hands. FWIW, Merriam-Webster (which generally reflects American usage) gives three definitions for lavatory:
    1. a vessel (such as a basin) for washing; especially a fixed bowl or basin with running water and drainpipe for washing
    2. a room with conveniences for washing and usually with one or more toilets (ex.: the airplane's lavatory)
    3. toilet

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    "Authoritative" when the intended meaning is "authoritarian." IOW calling someone knowledgable, when you mean that they're dictatorial.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    "Lavatory", on the increasingly rare occasions it's used here, means the room itself, rather than the plumbing equipment installed there.
    Yes, it’s used that way here too, but the primary meaning in my neck of the woods is a basin for washing hands. FWIW, Merriam-Webster (which generally reflects American usage) gives three definitions for lavatory:
    1. a vessel (such as a basin) for washing; especially a fixed bowl or basin with running water and drainpipe for washing
    2. a room with conveniences for washing and usually with one or more toilets (ex.: the airplane's lavatory)
    3. toilet

    And of course, the word itself derives from washing, but for some reason here it's been detached from that. I can't tell you when that happened.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    Some people say that they are aggravated when they are irritated
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    That used be a common usage here, but seems to have died away.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Still very common in my corner of the American South.

  • HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
    In my original post, I omitted one item. I have noticed a decline in the use of the ablaut series such as ring/rang/rung or sing/sang/sung.

    I also dislike the decline of the familiar second person.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    HarryCH wrote: »
    I also dislike the decline of the familiar second person.
    Thou/thee/thine?

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    People expressing peeves about English. One of my least favorite things in the English languages.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Purgatory Host
    I know that English is not static, but I persist in saying "consecutive" rather than "back to back".

    And pedantically, if something is increasing in a linear fashion then it should not be called exponential.

    And I may change or develope, but I do not evolve.
  • cgichardcgichard Shipmate
    Of your list, the one that bothers me most is losing the 'may/might' distinction.
    For example, when a child was found wandering near a railway crossing: "She may have been killed." Well, was she kileed or not?
    While "She might have been killed" expresses the anxiety about her safety far more clearly.

    [N.B. When the sex of the child is known, I do not say 'they' as the specific situation conecerns only one child - but that has received extensive discussion already elsewhere on the Ship.]

    Lay/lie is another bugbear. Surprisingly many people, even those I consider educated, use these verbs correctly..
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    edited May 6
    Gee D wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Gee D wrote: »
    "Lavatory", on the increasingly rare occasions it's used here, means the room itself, rather than the plumbing equipment installed there.
    Yes, it’s used that way here too, but the primary meaning in my neck of the woods is a basin for washing hands. FWIW, Merriam-Webster (which generally reflects American usage) gives three definitions for lavatory:
    1. a vessel (such as a basin) for washing; especially a fixed bowl or basin with running water and drainpipe for washing
    2. a room with conveniences for washing and usually with one or more toilets (ex.: the airplane's lavatory)
    3. toilet

    And of course, the word itself derives from washing, but for some reason here it's been detached from that. I can't tell you when that happened.

    I can tell you a story - though it probably belongs in the railways thread. I remember hearing, years ago, that when conveniences (for want of a better word given how many times I'm going to have to write all the others potentially) were first fitted to railway carriages, they had two distinct rooms, one for the appliance and one for the sink, the doors to which were labelled toilet and lavatory.

    Eventually it was realised that space could be saved by only having one room, and given the need to wash hands without necessarily having used the toilet was ongoing (i.e., some people might just be looking for the sink, whereas everyone using the toilet would also need the sink), the single remaining room was still labelled lavatory. Over time, people forgot which one they were talking about, and lavatory became the appliance.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I read that as "incorrectly".
  • EirenistEirenist Shipmate
    I dislick the increasing use of 'snuck'. In British usage, the past participle of 'to sneak' is 'sneaked'. American usage may be different.
    And don't start me on legal terminology.
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    lay/lie sets my teeth on edge. Actually, I do recognise that it's an older form of English being reimported to the UK but I'm only 41 and in the last couple of years all sorts of people are 'going for a lay down' or 'going to lay down' and it just clangs like a wrong thing. Ditto 'can I get?' and the increasing use of 'takeout' for 'takeaway' - though I think vaguely that the former has been a thing in Scotland forever anyway?
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I enjoy "snuck" and welcome our new participle overlord. Then again I enjoy language and am not the sort to sit around and bitch about things that I don't like, like some old man shouting at clouds. It appears to have first appeared in print in 1813, but it wasn't until about the 1980s that it really took off. This is a link to the Google n-gram. The OED says it is "originally and chiefly US". It's a very very rare case of a regular participle being dropped for an irregular one; almost universally that goes the other way. In short it's a fascinating case!
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    I enjoy "snuck" and welcome our new participle overlord. Then again I enjoy language and am not the sort to sit around and bitch about things that I don't like, like some old man shouting at clouds. It appears to have first appeared in print in 1813, but it wasn't until about the 1980s that it really took off. This is a link to the Google n-gram. The OED says it is "originally and chiefly US". It's a very very rare case of a regular participle being dropped for an irregular one; almost universally that goes the other way. In short it's a fascinating case!

    I like snown/snew for snowed.
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    Forgot 'I text him' meaning 'I texted him' - just no.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Eirenist wrote: »
    I dislick the increasing use of 'snuck'. In British usage, the past participle of 'to sneak' is 'sneaked'. American usage may be different.
    And don't start me on legal terminology.


    Beg to differ ( as an Antipodean). The British infinitive “to sneak” was a synonym with the American “ to snitch” ( i.e. inform on, tattle on). Curiously the Australian synonym was “ to pimp( on)” which appears to have gone out of popular use ( I recall it from 60 years ago)

    The past tense of” sneak= snuck” was definitely in use here in Oz by the middle 60s. I do not ever recall “ sneak= tattler” or the verb in popular use here or anywhere outside of Britain.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited May 6
    Sojourner wrote: »
    Eirenist wrote: »
    I dislick the increasing use of 'snuck'. In British usage, the past participle of 'to sneak' is 'sneaked'. American usage may be different.
    And don't start me on legal terminology.


    Beg to differ ( as an Antipodean). The British infinitive “to sneak” was a synonym with the American “ to snitch” ( i.e. inform on, tattle on). Curiously the Australian synonym was “ to pimp( on)” which appears to have gone out of popular use ( I recall it from 60 years ago)

    The past tense of” sneak= snuck” was definitely in use here in Oz by the middle 60s. I do not ever recall “ sneak= tattler” or the verb in popular use here or anywhere outside of Britain.

    Primary meaning of "sneak" in the UK is to act stealthily. "He snuck ( :tongue: ) out of the nave during the sermon hoping no-one would notice"

    The past tense/participle "snuck" would sound a bit weirder where it means "snitch", at least to my ears. I'd expect "sneaked" there.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I've not heard "sneak" used to mean "snitch" -- maybe a pond thing.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    I like snown/snew for snowed.

    I have been known to use "squoze" for what I did to those oranges to make juice.
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    I've not heard "sneak" used to mean "snitch" -- maybe a pond thing.

    Very British
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Some I don't like, but like Victor Meldrew, I have plenty of others,
    • 'Outside of', 'off of' etc.
    • 'in excess of' as a pretentious way of saying 'more than'.
    • spelling irregular past tenses that end with a 't' as though they were regular, with an 'ed'. People don't say, 'dreamed', 'spelled', 'learned' etc. So why do some people spell them that way.
    • 'disinterested' when you mean 'uninterested',
    • 'preloved' as a euphemism for second hand,

      and above all, one I've gone on about on these boards many times,
    • the portentous 'we', used by a person who has no title to speak for the people they claim to represent or to be trying to persuade.

    I don't feel that strongly about 'snuck' or for that matter 'dove'. They're just forms found in a different dialect to mine.

  • PriscillaPriscilla Shipmate
    “Reflecting on” rather than “thinking about”.
    OK, it may be my social work training, but I was taught that “reflecting “ was a very different thing, imagining yourself in a particular situation.
  • SpikeSpike Admin Emeritus
    My head literally explodes at incorrect use of the word “literally”
  • HelixHelix Heaven Host
    Like! When used as puncutation or instead of pausing to think, or to replace the word "said"

    As in : He was like "what are you doing?"

    But it is so infectious and I catch myself throwing a random "like" into a sentence when it shouldn't be there.
  • HedgehogHedgehog Shipmate
    It is a problem of spelling rather than verbal usage, but it irritates me when people write "loose" when they mean "lose." What a bunch of loosers!
  • Gill HGill H Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    Some I don't like, but like Victor Meldrew, I have plenty of others,
    • spelling irregular past tenses that end with a 't' as though they were regular, with an 'ed'. People don't say, 'dreamed', 'spelled', 'learned' etc. So why do some people spell them that way.

    Regional variations perhaps? Pond difference?

    To quote from two songs...

    "I dreamed a dream in time gone by"

    "I learned that Washington never told a lie"

    And I'm racking my brains for a lyric from the wonderful little musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" but nothing's coming to me at the moment.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    I know that English is not static, but I persist in saying "consecutive" rather than "back to back".
    How does that work as a description of housing

  • My wife cannot stand "back in the day". I dislike "train station" though not "bus station"! And I'm a real menace when it comes to singular collective nouns.

    I heard two different people, some weeks ago, both saying that the situation had been "exasperated" by Covid - possibly true, but not what they meant!

    And one common mistake: "It would be impossible to under-estimate Bob's influence ...". Really?
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited May 6

    And one common mistake: "It would be impossible to under-estimate Bob's influence ...". Really?

    In this sentence, is the speaker trying to say that Bob is NOT influential? Because that works, in the same sense as "It would be impossible to overestimate Mayor Graftbag's sleaziness" works to say Mayor Graftbag is sleazy, ie. Graftbag is so sleazy, no estimate you give of his sleaziness will be an exaggeration.

    Or, is the person trying to say that Bob is very influential, and thinks his sentence means something like "We should not underestimate his influence?" Because, yeah, that contradicts the intended meaning.
  • I was thinking of a simple muddle between "over-" and "under-" by someone who thinks that the lately-deceased Bob had a huge influence.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Eirenist wrote: »
    I dislick . . . .
    Sorry, but I did laugh.

  • What sets my teeth on edge?

    There's a whole bunch of markers for people who are just mimicking sounds without thinking about what the words mean - "for all intensive purposes" and the like, but those don't really irritate - just mark a lack of thought.

    Things that do set my teeth on edge are more or less every use of words like "synergy" and "leverage".

    And when people say "many" when what they actually mean is "not very many at all, but some, but I'm going to try and make this sound like it affects more people than it does, because it's important to me".

    If your niche political party attracts 3% of the total vote, you do not have "many" supporters.
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    I hate "eye-watering".
  • DafydDafyd Hell Host
    edited May 6
    I dislike impact for affect (v) or effect (n). It's part of the militarization of corporate speak.

    The distinction between anticipating something and expecting something seems to be dead entirely which is a pity.

    People asking, for yourself, when, for you, would do.

    Oh, and despise for hate. Contempt is a distinct emotion from intense dislike.

    (In general if a phrase or word has more syllables than needed it is probably erasing a useful distinction. But superfluous accumulation of syllables importantifies one's communication without committing oneself to inconveniently definite meaning.)
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited May 6
    The general use of reflexives in place of regular pronouns seems to be just part of business-speak now. 25 years ago I remember flinching when my supervisor said "any problems, you come to your line manager, that is myself". I think this has two origins - one is the inherited sense of informality that English speakers get from monosyllables - which goes right back to the relative statuses of English and French after the Norman Invasion. The second factor is the very formal formula "<possessive pronoun> good self/ves" used in business and legal correspondence. I think people don't feel the simple pronouns have sufficient gravitas in formal settings because of the first factor I mentioned, but find e.g. "your good self" a bit overdoing it, so compromise on, in this case, "yourself".
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    The stuff on reflexives is certainly interesting, if you're into that kind of thing. More emphatic, certainly, but that's not really an explanation. I must have a look at examples. I'm thinking of a waiter saying, and for yourself, sir? Fake politeness?
  • The stuff on reflexives is certainly interesting, if you're into that kind of thing. More emphatic, certainly, but that's not really an explanation. I must have a look at examples. I'm thinking of a waiter saying, and for yourself, sir? Fake politeness?

    If we're imagining some kind of stuffy Edwardian gentleman saying "the lady will have the veal", then "and for yourself, sir?" could be an appropriate reply - because the gentleman in question is ordering one meal for the lady and one for himself.

    In a society where it's normal for women to address and be addressed by waiters directly, then taking orders from the other people at the table, and then asking "and for yourself, sir?" makes less sense.
  • RockyRogerRockyRoger Shipmate
    Missuse of 'enormity' and 'fulsome'. 'It's' when they mean 'its'. I could go on (and on) but am I bothered?
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Gill H wrote: »

    Regional variations perhaps? Pond difference?

    To quote from two songs...

    "I dreamed a dream in time gone by"

    "I learned that Washington never told a lie"

    And I'm racking my brains for a lyric from the wonderful little musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" but nothing's coming to me at the moment.
    I suppose that's possible. Do people, actually say 'dreamed' and 'learned' where you are @Gill H, rather than what I'd regard as the more normal 'dreamt' (pronounced 'drĕmt') and 'learnt' (pronounced 'lernt')?
    @Baptist Trainfan wrote:
    And one common mistake: "It would be impossible to under-estimate Bob's influence ...". Really?
    Thank you for that. I'm proposing to keep, cherish and in due course use that phrase in its proper sense when I find a suitably over-self-important person to be its reference.

  • HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
    I also dislike the misuse of "like". I would add the use of "that" as an all-purpose intensifier. (Now someone will tell me it's not that bad.)
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    Do people, actually say 'dreamed' and 'learned' where you are @Gill H, rather than what I'd regard as the more normal 'dreamt' (pronounced 'drĕmt') and 'learnt' (pronounced 'lernt')?
    I don’t know where @Gill H is, but where I am, dreamt and learnt would be very unusual, and learnt might even carry a connotation of lack of education.

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    For me dreamed and dreamt, leaned and leant, and learned and learnt are all familiar such that I couldn’t say which ones I use most.
  • cgichardcgichard Shipmate
    edited May 7
    I have learned the lesson means that the lesson has been learnt, by me at least ?
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