Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Recovering Grammar Nazi

Language is a marvellous thing. It's not just a useful way to let other people know that there is a bus heading their way, or bargain for a cabbage at the market. It is flexible. It can be incredibly exact and clinical,  dreamy and poetic, or just the basic prose of everyday life. In what other format can you express so much, with only 26 letters and a few punctuation marks?

Language matters to me, a lot. And because language matters to me, I'm sensitive to misuse. In a way this is ideal, because I'm an editor. When I read things aloud, the errors practically jump at me from the page. Don't misunderstand, I'm not claiming perfection: into every editor's life, some typos must fall. I'm just trying to convey how attuned to language I am.

And sometimes I wish I wasn't, because listening to the news, or reading the newspaper can be painful.
My current pet peeve is the now common usage of the word "troop" as a synonym for "soldier".  A "troop" is a group of soldiers. It's like saying six pack is another word for beer. Think about it. Having 2-3 beers is a fun night out, having 2-3 six packs is a drinking problem.

So when I hear reporters (who should know better) say we're sending 50,000 troops to Afghanistan, I want to throw things at the television. This is counterproductive and just raises the blood pressure. I'm going to try and be more like Stephen Fry, who I think has the right idea.


  1. Thank you, THANK YOU. So glad I'm not the only one that the misuse of the word "troop" drives nuts. I also can't stand it when people use "you're a trooper" rather than the correct "you're a trouper."


    Another annoyance: The misuse of the word "decimate."

    I could go on...

    1. I'm so with you. And when did the h in "history" become silent? I've heard more newscasters talk about "an 'istoric occasion". It's like they've all become selectively cockney.

      Deep breath. Let it go.