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Pet Peeves: Language

March 14, 2009

No, this is not a post about swearing or cursing and it pervasiveness in our modern society. Although that could be a worthy subject on its own, I will leave it to someone else another time. This post is about people who think they are using “sophisticated” words or words that have more nuanced meaning but use them incorrectly.

Now I have probably been brought up with a skewed view of how to speak. My family is diverse in its understanding of classical languages, sentence structure and proper use of vocabulary. We actually used to have dinner conversation regarding parts of speech and the proper tense of words. I think that because I am aware that most people were not blessed with that kind of regular analysis of written and spoken word, I am able to let things slide the majority of the time. Every once in a while (maybe more to my wife to her great annoyance) I will throw out a correction on their use of a word if the meaning is truly different than what I think the person was trying to say. Usually, that person will respond with a gracious “Oh yeah, that is what I meant.” or something along those lines. However what really irks me is when that person rejects the suggestion when they are obviously without a shadow of a doubt wrong, or if that was indeed the word they meant, they are misusing it.

The situation was this. I was talking about websites with someone (who also happens to be a public speaker) and they were saying that their website was good for a while but it had gotten worse as time went on and their redesigns now were going backwards in quality specifically he referenced “It used to be like 1997 and now it is more like 1992.” The word he kept on using was digressed and I let it go the first time but then after the second time I said “Do you mean regressed?” and he said “No I mean digressed.” I let it go because I really do not know him that well yet and I did not want to have a discussion about it without some way to show him without a shadow of a doubt that he was wrong but it has bothered me since Thursday. For those of you who think that they mean the same thing and did not click on the link, regress specifically references the decrease or going backwards of quality of a specific thing, while digress is specifically used when talking about writing or speaking that has gone of topic. Digressions happen all the time in my high school small group and regression is what is happening to our command of the English language.

So does this all make me a jerk that it bothered me? I don’t think so I am just trying to help someone speak their own language corrctly. It is how I am wired. I strive for excellence and accuracy as much as possible whenever possible and I guess it bothers me when someone else does not. If you cannot say what you mean to say then why are you talking? Maybe that is why I don’t say much unless I am sure of what I want to say. But I digress.

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