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The sounds of silliness

I'm a bit of a militant on spelling and grammar, and as such I get annoyed when someone misuses or misspells a word. But I've found something even more annoying -- someone who actually gets a word right, but completely screws up the meaning.

The word "def" came into existence in the 90's or so, as hip shorthand for "definitive," meaning "the best." There was "Mos Def," the "Def Comedy Jam," and all sorts of other things. But the word still lingers around.

Which is why one guy around Manchester here still uses it, but it looks like Spell Checker got the better of him. And I hope he didn't spend too much money for the decals on his vehicle proclaiming him "The Deaf DJ."

Update: I messed up and accidentally posted this piece last night briefly. I didn't discover my mistake until the first three comments were posted.

Comments (22)

Maybe he signs his raps?</p... (Below threshold)

Maybe he signs his raps?

Maybe he's, deaf.(... (Below threshold)

Maybe he's, deaf.

(I heard of a concert for deaf people. They can feel it if it's done right)

Jay, where exactly in the w... (Below threshold)

Jay, where exactly in the world are you? Because if it's 5am-ish where you are, you're not in the U.S.

Seems like perfectly cromul... (Below threshold)

Seems like perfectly cromulent usage to me.

The word most frequently mi... (Below threshold)

The word most frequently misused (like, 100% of the time) is "willy-nilly." It is used as a synonym for "helter skelter" or "haphazardly," as in "during the riots, people were running through the streets willy-nilly." What it actually means is "whether he wants to or not," as in "that man is going to end up paying his taxes willy-nilly." It is a shortening of old english "will he, nil he."

I learned that in sophomore english, 1973, and I have never, ever heard the word used correctly.

The problem is that diction... (Below threshold)

The problem is that dictionaries keep changing definitions to fit "current usage" however incorrect it may be. I really believe that "the Media" is engaged in deconstructing the language in such a manner that precision and logic are trumped by reflexive connotations that negate or substantially change the actual meaning of a word.

When I have bought dictionaries for my childrens' usage my touchstone has been the definition of "decimate."

I spent an hour or so last ... (Below threshold)

I spent an hour or so last night trying to discern the proper plurals of "do" and "don't,"

a) Do's and Don't's - just wierd, and

b) Dos and Don'ts - Isn't "Dos" a computer term?

c) Do's and Don'ts - Not uniform

Best I can tell, "b" above is correct, wierd, but correct.

My pet peeves include the phrase "whether or not," the overuse of unnecessary words like "basically," the mispronunciation of "epitome," and the typical usage screwups like you're/your, there/their/they're, its/it's, and too/to/two.

Over on Evangelical Outpost (a pretty good read, regardless of your religious leanings), a post began by recounting Winston Churchill's reaction to an editor rearranging a sentence in one of his speeches in order to avoid ending the sentence with a preposition. Churchill's response: "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put."

The sad fact is, proper spelling, usage, and grammar is a lost art. Perhaps it declined as public education became more of a social experiment. Perhaps it's a direct result of the digital age with "spell-check" and other associated crutches.

I guess what I'm saying is that now, more than ever, we should appreciate cunning linguists.

oops-- after a) above, the ... (Below threshold)

oops-- after a) above, the explanation should read "just wierd, and trying to make plural, not possessive."

(reminding self: preview is your friend)

Bo's recounting the Chirchi... (Below threshold)

Bo's recounting the Chirchill story is perfect --

FWIW Bo, it appears that the "ending sentence with preposition" rule has been laid aside.

I am amazed at the number o... (Below threshold)

I am amazed at the number of people who mess up very simple concepts (to me, anyway). How difficult is it to distinguish between your/you're, there/their/they're, its/it's, whose/who's, lose/loose, worse/worst (that last one drives me insane!), etc. I learned these things in grade school, for crying out loud!

Worse than those, though, are the comma splices, run-ons, and fragments. How difficult is it to determine where to put the comma or the period? Again, I learned these rules in grade school (I'm 19 and went to a public school, BTW).

Yes, I am a grammar Nazi. Yes, I am an English major (SecEd English). Yes, this stuff comes naturally to me (I hear the rhythm and flow it in my head, I kid you not). However, I think that a reasonably educated person should be able to figure out these basic rules of grammar and spelling.

(And yes, I am in love with parentheses.)

SilverBubble,I bel... (Below threshold)


I believe it's a direct product of the shift in emphasis away from classical literature in schools. After learning the "rules" of grammar and punctuation, the exposure to the proper application of those rules reinforces them, such that it does eventually "feel" or "sound" natural.

I also remember a student asking my U. S. History teacher if an essay test for which we were preparing (ok, wavemaker, old habits die hard), would be graded with regard to grammar, spelling, and punctuation. He responded that yes, those things counted--they always count.

If more teachers took that attitude, this thread would never have come about.



I have n,e.v.e.r read or heard ANYone use the word in any permutation correctly. Even Johnny Artful Lawyer misused it, actually misspoke when popularizing the word, "disingenuous" during the televised O.J.Simpson trial.

People use the word, "disingenuous," for nearly any moment or interaction about which they disagree with -- it doesn't mean "incorrect," it doesn't mean "wrong," it does not mean "a fool's statement," it just means "insincere." Someone being insincere, speaking without sincerity in their insights -- as in, someone not being candid.

People misuse the word nearly to a one hundred percentile to, instead, supplant "you're not being specific" among other things.

It's a statement about a person's credibility in statement and motive in speech, not about the information itself.

'Course, I misspelled the f... (Below threshold)

'Course, I misspelled the first...sorry, I have the use of only one hand today, typing is poor as a result.


And, about other irritating... (Below threshold)

And, about other irritatingly over-used, meaningless expressions...

among my others are "basically," and "apparently" and worse of all, "clearly."

People use these words today in the same context that they say, "uhhh," and "ummm" and such. Meaningless. Just wasting words and speech. Irritating.

Oh, and, "in my opinion," a... (Below threshold)

Oh, and, "in my opinion," and, "can I tell you something" and all-time worst of all, "do you know what I'm saying?"

I never know what anyone is saying who 'says' that, for starters, and, the rest is redundant. It's your opinion if you opine it, it's understood that it's your opinion unless you reference other sources and quote text.

-S-In addition to ... (Below threshold)


In addition to overused words, there are the famous nonwords.

One is "disenfranchisement." I think of it as the linguistic equivalent of a run-on sentence (having been expanded from "disfranchised").

Another one of my favorite (read: most hated) non-words is "irregardless." People use it as a synonym for "regardless," but it's structured as an antonym (as responsible is to irresponsible).

I don't think I could let any thread about linguistics and grammar pass without relating an anecdote about the famous preacher, Dwight L. Moody. It was said that the evangelist so horribly butchered the "King's English" with his diction that he pronounced "Jerusalem" in two syllables.

I can't complain too much a... (Below threshold)

I can't complain too much about bad gramar, I'm horrible when it comes to processing my thoughts to typing and writing. I usually just blame Clinton, seems to work for everything else.

Def was in use before 90's rap. Remember the cheese metal band from the 80's Def Leopard? Maybe it's time to bust out the wikipedia..

The sad fact is, proper ... (Below threshold)

The sad fact is, proper spelling, usage, and grammar is a lost art.

Or could it be that proper spelling, usage, and grammar have always been in short supply and that spelling, usage, and grammar are ever changing? This is the fallacy of recency: I have noticed an error so that error must be more common now.

Try reading old and middle English. The grammarians of those days wouldn't even understand our speach or writings these days. Hell, try reading anything from the time that the constitution was written or the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in their original form. You will find many words misspelled by current standards and some of the grammar strange. So, to be truly correct, let us go back to using the original Webster's Dictionary. Or better yet, let's go back to speaking (Old) German since that is the origin of this corrupt form of pronounciation and grammer that we call English.

Language Log is a blog written by a group of linguists who have written much commentary on this subject.

Where's Inigo Montoya when ... (Below threshold)

Where's Inigo Montoya when you need him?

"...even understand our spe... (Below threshold)

"...even understand our speach or writings these days...."


I just love it (as one of the least careful editors of my own work) when someone recognizes that there are many different brands of peaches. The "s" peach is my favorite!

Sorry. I couldn't resist. Bill Clinton did make me do it!

There are some meltany hand... (Below threshold)

There are some meltany handcapped persons who can write the names better then many of our politicians i mean some writting looks more like chicken scratchings

DL:Your write, I d... (Below threshold)


Your write, I did mispel speche. How sily of me! My point is now mute.






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