I don’t care who you are. You can be the average “Joe” or “Josephine” like most of us. You could be a member of the clergy. You could be so happy go lucky and positive that you make Pollyanna look like a curmudgeon. But regardless of who you are, there is always something that “bugs” you, that gets your goat, makes you grumble and growl, or just annoys the living hell out of you. And chances are if you’re honest with yourself, it’s more than one thing that gets you.
I’ve decided to unload a few of the things that really set my teeth on edge starting with the bastardization of the English language, both written and spoken. Wrong! Who writes any more? It’s all emails and instant messaging and texts, which have added up to the unlearning of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I’m shocked by the emails I see where the correspondent can barely string a sentence together, yet they’re up on all the “shorthand.” LMAO, OMG, LOL, and the very casual and so very adorable, WTF. I think I may have mentioned this in a previous column, but honest to God, for the longest time I thought LOL was Land O’Lakes. Worst of all, no one seems to care about misspellings and poor grammar because half of them don’t recognize it, and to the other half it’s just, WTF.
We move now to the spoken word. Somehow every few years there’s a new “fad” in speaking. It used to be the word “basically.” The answer to every question began with “Basically.” Drove me up a tree. I’m not the only one who cannot tolerate that. Check out Judge Judy on television. Most of the people who go before her have no idea how to even speak, much less the English language, so when they put three basicallys into one sentence, the diminutive justice stops them cold. But “basically” has now basically faded away, replaced by “So.” Ask a question today, specifically of a younger person, and the retort begins with “So.” Listen to radio interviews, watch the nightly news. It’s epidemic.
Next we have intonation. In the past few years young women in particular have developed a sort of growling speech that comes from deep in the glottis. Speech pathologists and those in the know have termed it “vocal fry,” and that’s precisely what it sounds like...fried vocal cords. It’s origin seems to have sprouted from the Valley Girls and those beloved paragons of wisdom and style, the Kardashians. Wherever the hell it came from, it’s annoying and makes the person sound both unintelligent and unintelligible, yet it’s a hot linguistic fad.
But the vocal style that I just cannot abide is this new way of phrasing a declarative sentence with rising pitch intonation that makes every sentence sound like a question. The experts call it “upspeak.” I call it crap. How can you take anyone seriously when they are phrasing nearly everything they say like it’s somehow tentative or questionable?
Yet I hear perfectly intelligent people...teachers, politicians, news people, slip into this horrible habit. It makes everything so tentative and unsure. Were I in a hiring situation, I absolutely would not hire people for my company who spoke this way. Same way I wouldn’t hire people with studs in their noses, rings in lips, and tattoos up every visible body part. Don’t like it? Then call the ACLU...I’ll even give you the number.
How ’bout the folks who want to impress you with a big vocabulary, but somehow mess up the meaning and/or pronunciation of the word? I knew an optician who had a very successful practice in the heart of a busy downtown. There was limited parking available, but he had an arrangement with the lot across the street, allowing him to take care of his clients’ parking.. Therefore he always greeted each new patron with a sunny, “Remember, we’ll vagiliate your parking!” Lastly, in Providence there’s a radio talk show host who talks about candidates “politcating.”
I guess as a writer I care too much about words so I take great umbrage at those who mess with it in origin or delivery. As for a prime example of answering questions with a “so” and using “upspeak,” you have to look no further than our current Rhode Island governor.
I repeat, I wouldn’t hire anyone who speaks this way. Think wisely next Wednesday.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.