1.09.2006

A Wariety of Complaints

Everyone is entitled to a pet peeve or three. I had to leave mine in quarantine when we went to Europe this summer, but they're back now. First, a minor irritation: why do people say 'that' when they mean 'who'? As in: "I have a friend that really likes French fries." instead of "I have a friend who..." It's disrespectful.

Another one that comes up on the news after a car crash: "the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed." What they mean is that the car was going fast, or traveling at high speed, if you prefer. The "rate" of speed is meaningless unless you mean the rate of change of speed, which is acceleration. Now it's undoubtedly true that the car accelerated quickly and negatively when it hit the tree/other car/cliff. I don't think that's what they mean, though.

I'm on a roll now. "Momentarily" is another word that makes me cringe. Apparently the writers of the dictionary have given up and provided a secondary definition for the word: "in a moment." What it really means (according to me) is "for a moment." So when the flight attendant announces that we'll be landing momentarily, I wonder if I'll have time to get off.

Okay, why is it that all variety comes in one size: wide. There are no narrow varieties or even normal-sized varieties apparently. Maybe this a symptom of the hyperbolization of our comm bandwidth. "There is a wide variety of teeth in my mouth." GAH! The only holdout that I know of is snack packs and those little cereal boxes. Some day soon, though, they'll be coming in 'wide variety packs'. We may as well just combine the words to save breath and say 'wariety'.

But that's all small potatoes compared to the great Satan of peeves: basis. It's like Invasion of the Accountant Body Snatchers or something. Oh, don't tell me you haven't noticed that every period of time must be counted on a 'basis.' For example:

"I was snacking on an hourly basis."
"I jog on a daily basis."
"I brush my teeth on a yearly basis."

Please tell me what is to be communicated by this beyond:

"I was snacking hourly."
"I jog daily."
"I brush my teeth annually."

Now if you want to calculate your escrow or compound some interest, by all means do it on a monthly basis. But if you just want to perform some periodic action that doesn't require accountancy, please save some oxygen and leave that poor misused word out of the sentence.

The absolute worst is the phrase "on a regular basis," which I've heard three times in the last two days. This circumlocution combines a specific noun "basis" with a vague adjective "regular," which really just means periodic. This mismash of language should be banned from polite conversation, and perhaps reserved for gangsters or something.

1 Comments:

At 11:15 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

Ah. The "that." I have to catch myself using it to often. As in a recent e-mail I wrote. When I reviewed it I found that I said that I asked that people heard that whether I told them that Have I told you all that Thai has been playing that guitar that we bought him for that recent holiday that we call Christmas that just past?

 

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