The past is a map
we are flying over.
We can see the countryside,
the towns where we lived,
the houses, the roads, the
unfolding contours of
surface. We can see everything
with perfect perspective and
But we can’t land.
Ruminations on literature, art, politics, music, photography, design (architecture and landscape), wine and spirits &c.
Much of the verbiage we hear emanates from the Media. Radio, television, the movies, the Press, the internet, public address. The Media in turn reflects the linguistic habits of the general population. You would think that Media outlets, such as television and radio, would be self-conscious about what they project, and that might once have been true. As standard-bearers of a level of speech (and grammar) performance, you might think Media would take some responsibility for its mandates. But you'd be wrong. Once upon a time, purveyors of news and information in America would have understood that talking down to its audience was cheap pandering, that audiences might see that as a form of condescension. But in today's media world, the news and information media have dropped all pretense of standards, and are happy to share the slack-jawed complacence of commonplace exchange, the passivity of the vulgate.
At any given time, people are likely to employ short-handles of language, which propagate like viruses in everyday talk. Here is a sampling of such phrases, words and slang, which have become habitual in the Media.
Have to say -- This is a phrase which is inserted whenever the speaker wants to signal a sense of reluctance in insisting that their sentiment is somehow necessary, or feels a mandate in expressing it, as if the speaker had no choice, or was slightly embarrassed to have to say it. It's an expedient caution or flag of presumption that I find offensive, and tiresome.
Just sayin'--This phrase is also an apologetic shield to protect the speaker from being perceived as too declarative, or wants to be forgiven for expressing their position. Its slanginess I find objectionable, and should never be used.
That said -- A short-hand for "having said that." I don't know when this slick little handle entered the vulgate, but it's become nearly universal in its use. People use it as a transition phrase, to lend a sense of authority or justification to what they're going to say next. They think it sounds sensible and authoritative, but it just sounds naive and pretentious.
Feel like -- This phrase appeared a few years back, and it's become universal. People of every persuasion and degree of sophistication use it freely, most often in place of "I feel" or "I think" or "I sense." It seems to constitute a form of evasion or fake modesty, that the speaker is unwilling to take full responsibility for an assertion or reaction, and instead distance themselves from that responsibility by claiming to have a feeling that is "like" a feeling one could have, or may have, or is simply too vague or uncertain to say directly. Whenever you feel yourself about to use this phrase, ask yourself whether just saying "I think" or "I feel" wouldn't be more direct and explicit than introducing the simile "like" to the statement. Do you really not quite feel or think what you are saying? Or is this merely a bad habit you've picked up and are using for convenience?
That's a great question -- Not just celebrities or experts, but everyone in the Media is now using this stupid phrase. The point of asking and answering questions in public is not to enable the responder to judge the efficacy or relevance of the question, but to ANSWER the question! Saying "that's a great question" tells us nothing. It may be a way of complimenting the questioner for their relevance, or of admitting that the responder can't answer it (it's too hard, or too "big" a question). The simplest solution is not to use this response at all, since it accomplishes nothing. Just answer the question, and drop the dumb rejoinder.
Gonna' -- The use of "going to" may be marginally acceptable in accurate speech, as in a promissory or predictive sense, but it's much over-used, and in this elided slang form "gonna" it's offensively "familiar" and should be avoided. If something will happen or is likely to happen, then say that it will happen, not that it's gonna' happen!
Gonna' wanna' -- You can always tell when a speaker is a casual dunderhead when they use "gonna-wanna." Going to want to is awkward, and even if the speaker wants to sound casual, or politely condescending, it tends to undercut the message it's designed to impart. Gonna is bad enough; gonna wanna is three times worse.
Actually -- I suppose in our computer age, "actual" may be a foil for "virtual"--as in virtual reality as opposed to reality itself. But people now have become habituated to its insertion in nearly every instance in which emphasis is intended. If you want to emphasize a fact, or a phenomenon, ask yourself if what you mean to say is "actual" or merely definite or definitive. The "actualization" of something is not its importance, or emphasis, but its being as a physical or specific fact. If you say "I'm actually going to do that" you're not adding anything whatever to the doing, except showing your inappropriate use of the word actually. In addition, many people mispronounce the word, saying "ack-sha-ly" ignoring the "t" and "u" sounds entirely. Ignorance incarnate.
Any time soon -- This is an entirely inaccurate and useless phrase in the language. Any time, or soon may be used separately, with some accurate comprehension, but "any time soon" means essentially nothing. Any time soon might mean in an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, or a century. In fact, it may mean all of these durations, or none of them. It's a stupid phrase, and anyone who uses it should be flogged.
It is what it is -- Cute little meaningless tautology, whose inventiveness is diverting the first time you hear it, but irritating whenever it reappears. People think it's so charming, so obvious, so clever. It isn't. It's just dumb.
Which I said that -- This is a pronoun now commonly misunderstood. Used in a sentence to refer to a previously mentioned thing or things, it forms the subject of a subsidiary clause, of which it is the subject. Therefore, following which with "that" is ungrammatical, since which is the subject, i.e., it's redundant. Even people who have been to college seem to misunderstand this. It's breathtaking.
Going forward -- This is another transition phrase that people use to indicate the future. It's usually unnecessary, and adds nothing to the sense of the statement. You could add "going forward" to almost any sentence about any subject, and people would probably accept it. Why not use "in future" or "in the future" or "in the coming days" instead?
Massive -- Grammarians and anthologists may argue about this word, but its clear sense is density, not size. It does not mean large, or very large. Everyone says everything is massive these days. A massive mistake, a massive earthquake, a massive stroke, a massive consequence. So stop! They're all wrong!
Contra-VER-shle -- The word is pronounced con-tro-VER-see-al. Not the other way. Learn it. Say it right. It's as bad as nog-ger-A-shun. That's een-aug-gure-A-shun. Thank you, Yamiche.
Ahnt-ta-pa-NOOR -- Entrepreneur is a delightful word of French derivation, one which deserves to be pronounced correctly. EN-tra-pin-ERR. Please drop that 'OOOOOOR" at the end. Sounds dumb. Is dumb.
Healing -- Healing has become another of those buzz-words so fond to psychologists, social activists, and religious vigilantes. Anything wrong in the world causes hurt, or injury. Therefore everyone must be "healed"--i.e., mended, bandaged, cared-for, rested, assisted, made whole again. Whenever I hear the word healing I know the conversation has gone south, into a precinct where nothing of value or intelligence can occur. Everybody must get stoned. Everybody must get healed. Heal thyself!
In regards to -- There's simply no excuse for the bad grammar. Regards--the plural form of regard--is commonly employed as a sign-off to letters or messages, as in "kind regards" or "best regards" but it is thoroughly ungrammatical to say "in regards to" or "with regards to". The correct construction is "in regard to" employing the singular of regard (not the plural!).
Sorta and Kinda -- These adverbial interjections are sloppy and vague to begin with, but when used by otherwise intelligent speakers, indicate an unwillingness to qualify a statement properly, attempting to seem familiar or casual in an assertion. If a thing is rather true or partially true, it's probably best not to frame it as a simple statement, and instead provide a qualifier with more grace. These are related to feel like, in that they are used to distance the speaker from responsibility for their assertion.
You know what -- Usually employed, like "guess what" to indicate emphasis, but rarely effective. "And you know what?" is overused these days, and it adds literally nothing to the sense to which it points. It's meant to announce some degree of revelation, but it's usually unnecessary, or just plain inappropriate.
Way-dumb -- The use of "way" in place of "very" or "pretty" is an indication of ignorance. It's become a cute slangy way of indicating a superlative, but it simply signals naiveté. Anyone over the age of 13 who uses it, should be spanked.
That's on me -- Another instance of juvenile slang. To say that anything is "on" someone is akin to saying that someone in a game of tag is "it." It's poor slang, at best, and ignorant at worst.
The ball that Ruth hit
Went straight up and over
The centerfield wall
And kept going
Throwing off its cover
And trailing string
It kept going
Into a time warp
And landed in the backyard
Of a kid in Ohio
Who found it, just
A mass of tattered
Thread and cork and rubber
In the grass so
The kid scavenged it
Put it in his cigar box
Of strange unidentified
Alongside the indian arrowhead
The steel penny
And the other artifacts
Of a vanished