This is not an atheist-themed post. It’s not even remotely connected to the on-going and remarkably silly tug of war between science and superstition, rationalism and irrationalism, reasonableness and mindlessness. It’s a rant. It’s a weekend rant about language, American use of language to be specific, and before I get started I’ll happily admit that I’m a Language Nazi. I was born – thankfully – into a family of language Nazi’s headed by a goose-stepping, brown-shirted, grammatically correct matriarch who’d find more cause to blow her top over bad punctuation than in me ever arriving home a little drunk aged 16. As the unpaid editor of my school assignments you’d think by the ghastly expressions that occasionally marched across my mother’s face that I’d mounted the dining room table and dropped a giant three-day-in-the-works turd on the Sunday roast instead of perhaps confusing indefinite pronouns. Swearing was never really a problem in our house, not if used correctly, but fuck up with a verb tense and she would quite literally carpet bomb your ass with proper and improper examples of simple present, present perfect, past perfect, and present perfect continuous. Screw up with an inflection and you’d think waterboarding was gentle.
It was a good environment to grow up in. I learnt to never take language for granted and this alertness fostered in me a genuine love for expression. It also fermented in me a deep antipathy for those who misused language, and an all-out disdain for those who misused it for no other reason than simple laziness. With this in mind it should not come as a surprise to learn that a few years ago I started making a record of atrocious language use by Americans. Now before you think I’m chastising an entire country let me specify that the bulk of this record was acquired through one source: Fox (cough) News. Before being banned in Brazil I’d watch this freak show out of simple morbid curiosity just to see how badly they could 1. Distort and/or invent facts, and 2. Butcher the English language… and one day I just started jotting it all down. Six months later I gave up, but by then I’d filled two notebook pages with shitty English, and yesterday I found those pages again. So here’s the highlights reel of those six months, and believe me, I’ve not doctored one:
America, NOTHING can be “very irreversible,” “very vital,” or “very solitary.” You cannot have “lots of conviction,” “a catharsis,” or a “terrible tragedy.” By its nature a coup is illegal; you don’t need to preface it with an “illegal coup.” One cannot “hoist the masks,” “swat a fly with a BB gun,” or be “optimistically hopeful.” Dangerousness might be a word but nothing, and I mean nothing is “social dangerousness.” A person cannot “miss-remember,” nothing is “very critical,” and “every year annually” is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. “Smart astronauts.” Is there any other kind? “Dangerous floods.” Is there any other kind? Asia is a geographic region of the planet; you cannot say “the Asia.” There is no such thing as “levels of morality,” and just what the fuck is “based on a true story which really happened?” Desertation is not word. Adding “dry” to it, as in “dry desertation” doesn’t make it one either. “On behalf of myself” is something only an omnipotent god could say. “Biggest event in history, ever!” is a double redundancy. “Very fatal.” Is there a mild kind? “Killed him dead immediately.” Thanks for the clarification, Shakespeare! “Very mentally ill” is not a medical term. Nothing can be “very temporary,” no one on earth can be “very preoccupied,” and just what the hell is “very three-dimensional?” And please, please, please, NONE of these other adjectives require an adverb… ever.
“Very, very startling,”
“Very, very massive,”
America, for the love of the Queen’s English, stop it.