Thursday, February 09, 2012
Why You Should Send Hate Mail to Dictionary Editors
As I develop my blogging skills and decide what subjects to tackle each week, I’m noticing that my blogs tend to be largely reactionary for the most part. Whether serious or tongue-in-cheek, so far I’ve blogged for the following reasons:
1. To vent.
2. To revel in irony.
3. To poke fun at some quirk of my own or of humanity in general.
4. Some combination of all of the above.
5. To share stories in writing, or solicit feedback to help me improve.
So far, those 5 pretty much sum up the contents of my blog to date. Now I’m going to add a glorious 6th motivation for blogging:
6. To keep from cringing in front of someone at their poor grammar.
Everyone needs an outlet. And today when I heard the phrase ‘A whole nother’ for the third time, I knew I needed that outlet ASAP. This is a phrase that I hear pretty often since moving to the beautiful state of Alabama (Note: That was not tongue-in-cheek. I genuinely love this state) and it seems to be pretty prolific throughout the Huntsville area, though I can’t say I recall ever hearing it before I moved here five years ago. Each time I’ve heard it I cringed inwardly and fought the response that was just begging to escape...
I want to roar: “THAT’S NOT A FREAKIN’ WORD!” ‘Nother,’ they say. Not ‘another.’ Not ‘a whole other’ as would be the correct phrase here. Or, I’d even give a person liberty with ‘A-whole-nother’ if they wanted to put it in writing. I kind of have to allow that considering the numerous liberties I take with hyphenated word creation when vocabulary fails me. And while I’m the first to admit that I’m a complete grammar snob, this is always one phrase that grates on me in particular.
So I decided to write a blog about it. And to be especially snarky and smartass, I thought I’d make a point of looking in the dictionary and symbolically pointing to the big blank place where ‘nother’ would be entered if it were an actual word and not some corruption of speech... And this is where Mssrs. Merriam and Webster failed me. In fact, I would even go so far as to embrace the meme and call it an Epic Fail.
‘Nother’ now has an entry. Granted, it’s listed as informal usage in speech, but simply having that slot in the holy book of all that is language legitimizes it while at the same time dropping the English language one rung farther down the ladder of bastardization. As a logophile, I feel utterly cheated. In fact, I’m frightened to live in a world where instead of publicly flogging those who use words that don’t exist, we add those words to the dictionary! But I suppose it’s probably easier in the long run to recognize poor grammar as language rather than hiring a squad of grammar police armed with dictionaries and parse trees to enforce lexiconian (yes, I just made up that word) law (and yes, it should be law).
I know my chances are pretty good of hearing this phrase at least once more today and I know that when I do I will still cringe internally and fight the urge to correct the perpetrator. But knowing that the lords of the dictionary have now deigned to embrace ‘nother’ into the realm of language, my typical internal roar will be little more than a futile mew: “THAT’S NOT A FREAKIN’ WORD!” I’ll think meekly, knowing that in this argument my legs have been cut out from under me because now someone can look up the offending word and say, “But it’s in the dictionary!”
Once upon a time, words had value, they had meaning, and even the ability to use them correctly was a thing of value and pride itself. But once the words that are used incorrectly make their way into the dictionary as language, well, that’s a whole ‘nother’ ball game.
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