Dumb Things Not to Say

Or "Clues for the Clueless"

Obnoxious? You bet.

The English language, I am told, has more ways to express an idea than any other language. Here are a few ways you'd be better off avoiding:

  • "Deplane" and "Debark" - These non-words are often heard on commercial airlines. I was once told by a stewardess that they were more accurate than the correct term: Disembark. No, they just make you sound ridiculous. In a pinch, you could break down and say "get off."

  • "Due to" - instead of 'because'. This is another case of trying to sound smarter through complicated speech, like saying "the suspect was apprehended" rather than "the thief was caught". "Due to" has nothing to do with cause and effect. A thing is due to something else if it is owed, as in "The mortgage is due to the bank.". When you hear a broadcaster say "Due to conditions beyond our control..." it's because of grammar beyond his control.

  • "Gender" - Living things do not have gender in the English language. Words have gender. The headlong flight from the word "sex" is nothing more than terror that the politically-correct thought police might sue you for saying a dirty word. It should be stamped out like all attempts at thought control. I am part of the male sex, but I have no gender and am proud of it!

  • "I could care less" - Unless you are trying to say that you care very much, it's "I couldn't care less."

  • "Impact" as a verb. It is a noun. Things do not impact other things, nor are they impacted by other things. They have impact.

  • "Irregardless" - There is no such word. It would be a double negative. The correct word is "regardless".

  • "Locate" to mean "move to". Locate is a synonym for 'find'. You can 'relocate' a business to another city, but if you 'locate' it, you've found it, not moved it.

  • "Nauseous" to mean "sick". "Nauseous" means causing nausea, not feeling it. If you "feel nauseous", you are making other people sick. The correct term is "nauseated."

  • "Shall" - This one's for all you Defense Department types. Shall implies a legal imperative. Unless you intend to put the contracts, proposals and other inanimate objects in jail, you mean to say "must."

  • "Supposably" - It's "Supposedly"

  • "Viewpoint" - There is no such word. It is "point of view," and has nothing to do with "view" or "opinion".

This useful link leads to The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White.

An older, and now frequently amusing reference is The King's English by Fowler. I particularly enjoy the "vulgar americanisms". This book is only for the true philologist.

Please note that the presence of a word in a dictionary does not mean that it is good English. Many of the above words appear in dictionaries. Dictionaries reflect what people say, not what they ought to say. This is because dictionary companies make money by selling lots of dictionaries. They care more about popularity than correct usage. Languages change, of course, but are better when they change through necessity rather than laziness.

It is also true that the best writers ignore the rules of grammar. If you are one of the best writers, you can safely do this. Most of us, however, are well served by learning the laws of plain English and sticking to them in daily usage.

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