A few words about word’s

& I’ve got to admit that even though I’ve been professionally wrestling with the written word for now more than a half a century, I still make stupid mistakes. (I’d give you a few examples here, if I could, but I repress the memory of an error as quickly as I create it, which is probably the cause of my ongoing problem.)

Still, I’m fully aware that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t toss rocks, or even plunk pebbles, and I’m usually given to forgiving most mangled metaphors, shaky sentence stuctures and spurious spellings. (After all, its to hard for a guy to study English without loosing you’re mind. ) Not always, though, am I for giving forgiveness. I have a continuing problem, for example, with signs advertising

BURRITO’S
ENCHILADA’S
TACO’S

and find myself contemplating laws sentencing all sign painters who refuse to take remedial Beginning English to a term of one week locked in the public stocks. (Or is that stock’s?)

And, if there isn’t enough to rage about: There is the all-too-frequent encounter with some corporation’s chirpy voicemail, which, prior to dropping us into eternal Elevator Music Hell (only to be rudely truncated after 45 minutes of waiting by a few ominous clicking sounds followed by a dial tone), has informed us that we should “listen carefully as our options have changed.”

I’m sorry, but in that context, the word “as” means “during.” So, what Miss Corporate Chirpy Voice is asking me to do is “listen carefully during our options have changed.” That makes as much sense as Miss Chirpy telling me that her employer is glad I called and somebody will soon answer my question, just before I’m dropped into the midst of a continuing loop of Lawrence Welk’s all-strings rendition of Heartbreak Hotel.

Just when was “because” — a perfectly good word — replaced by “as”? Is it just a matter of time-saving, invoked because “because” is too long for today’s go-go environment? Probably not. It’s more likely that use of the word “as” instead of “because” softens the message. “As” goes better with a friendly message than “because”. If Miss Chirpy said “listen carefully because we’ve changed our options,” it places the blame squarely on Miss Chirpy’s corporate bosses; sounds too much like “we caused this.” And we certainly wouldn’t want to cause anything, would we? Corporations, as we all know, aren’t the cause of anything, particularly anything troubling.

Troubling, as in those pharmaceutical warnings saying “check with your doctor before using this medication as severe complications may occur in some cases.” Why don’t they just say, “Ask your doctor because this pill we’re selling might do something bad to you”? Because “because” is too harsh a word — it says that there product (and, also, that their product)  may cause an unwanted negative effect.  They don’t want you to have to actually contemplate the full meaning of what they’re really saying, which is their pill could be the cause of your toes falling off, or whatever. So, we get no admission of cause, we get doublespeak with a double-letter word: as.

& The trouble with picking on people’s use of language is that it probably helps to discourage many people from saying what they think. A citizenry that doesn’t speak is much more threatening to the progress of mankind than having to eat taco’s as the restaurant was out of burrito’s or not being able to take a medication as it might have killed you.

For whatever reason, not enough people say what they think. Many preach the First Amendment but few practice it, and fewer publish. And of those relative few who do speak their minds only a tiny few actually try have some fun with the language “to actually yoke words together for the sound sex of it”, as Stephen Fry puts it. Fry is the reigning English lord of literati, and this clever animation of Fry’s words about words says it much better than I can say it, so why don’t you just listen to it?

& After your threw listening, go out and have a couple of taco’s as they can’t hurt you. And then,  just for the hell of it, why don’t you pick a topic, any topic, and sit down at your keyboard and write what you think, using any word’s you choose. It’s you’re rite, you know.

& Off to find writers who “let the tripping of the tips of their tongues against the tops of their teeth transport them to  giddy euphoric bliss,”  I’m outta here.

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