TIME MARCHES ON…but I’m not necessarily in step.

by | Jan 19, 2020 | Lisa Black, The Writer's Life, On writing | 9 comments

by Lisa Black

I really try to change with the times, to keep up with current events and today’s world even as I find myself describing olden things to my younger coworkers, like how phones used to have cords and visible bra straps were not fashionable and there were only three main television channels. (That bears repeating. Three.) I understand that times change and society evolves and for the most part that is a good thing. I, for one, am really happy to repeal the moratorium on visible bra straps.
But I have my limits. There are certain things I will not accept, period, won’t, uh-uh…and a great many have to do with language.
So let me stand up and declare, for better or for worse and knowing it may earn me the censure of an unforgiving crowd, my stance on the following:
The past tense of shineis not shined. It’s shone. Apparently this is an intransitive/ transitive verb thing, so in fact they are both correct. Shinedis used only with direct objects, so it’s ‘the moon shone’ but ‘I shined the shoes.’ Knowing that, when in the future confronted with a direct object… I think I’ll just reword the sentence.
There is nothing wrong with starting a sentence with and.
It’s pled, not pleaded, and has nothing to do with intransitive whatevers.
This has not changed recently, but for cryin’ out loud it’s “I couldn’t care less” not “I could care less.” Because if you could care less, then your caring quotient has not yet reached absolute zero, which is what you’re trying to convey. With the latter phrase what you’re really saying is “I still care a little tiny bit.”
Alright is not a real word.
Further, meanwhile, is a perfectly good word, though my copyeditors don’t seem to care for it. Turns out the meaning is diverging from farther, which is used as an indication of distance while further is increasingly used to imply addition, as in ‘she needs no further introduction.’ They used to be roughly equivalent. Just as phones used to come with cords.
This will come to no surprise to practically anyone, but my intransigence extends to topics beyond word usage. Pluto is a planet, dammit—it’s only 100 less km in diameter than Mercury, for cryin’ out loud! For the lack of a few miles, we toss it to the curb? I think not! And sorry, NYers and Vermonters, but Lake Champlain is not a Great Lake.
So as we head into the next decade, I will continue to stubbornly and arbitrarily choose which changes to accept and which to reject. How about you? Any word usages you refuse to use?

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  1. Gayle Lynds

    I totally agree, Lisa! One of my big ones is proved v proven. That one dates all the way back to my days in journalism school. I could go on and on. Your essay made me feel relevant again! 🙂

  2. Lisa Black

    I had to think about that for a second, but—‘proved’ is a verb ad ‘proven’ is an adjective? Is that it?

  3. Chris Goff

    Hilarious. You made me laugh out loud, or should I be saying "aloud." My most recent pet peeve is the use of "can" vs. "may." Of course you can, if you're able. But may you is how you ask for permission. Of course, I hark back to the day of the small box black-and-white TV, three channels (if you have rabbit ears), etc. The problem is, the longer I live the more confused I get!

  4. Karna Bodman

    What a great list of reminders of the proper use of various words and yes, I think of myself as rather "old fashioned" too when it comes to language. My "current" pet peeve is the use of the word fun. Fun is a noun, NOT an adjective. I hope to hear an especially young person say, "We're going out to have fun"….and I kind of cringe when I hear many people say, "We're going to have a fun time." Just my take.

  5. Valerie

    I LOVED this and have some of my own gripes when it comes to usage. One is the use of "less" instead of "fewer." Fewer is used for plural things, while less is used for singular, as in "fewer books, houses, dollars but less money, salt, wine. But the all time worst (even spotted in newspaper columns) is using "he/she" when it should be "him/her" as in "I took she and Jane to lunch." Ouch! That is a real blow to the ear!!

  6. Robin Burcell

    So… does that make furthermore sort of a redundant word combination? I had to laugh on reading your post. It's true. We can be stubborn, but one day the language in our books will sound as antiquated as Charles Dickens!

  7. Karna Bodman

    I thought of another one that isn't even listed in my dictionary — "Irregardless" — (at least the spell check here red-lined that one). The right word is "regardless" but how many times have you heard the former in a sentence?

  8. Lisa Black

    I’ve been aware of that one for a while, but I have to say—somehow ‘irregardless’ just sounds more satisfying!

  9. Norma Huss

    My favorite is the elimination of the words him and her pushing they to a singular pronoun!