More Nonsensical English

There is a sorry tendency of English speakers to say “verbally” when they mean “orally”. It’s standard nomenclature in law school — among people who should know better — to refer to anything pronounced aloud as “verbal”. But anything written in a human language is by definition verbal. Oral, OTOH, means voiced aloud. So people should say “oral” instead of “verbal”.

Similarly, people often write “insure” when they mean “ensure”. These words have quite different meanings. To insure something or someone is to secure an insurance policy or otherwise guarantee the integrity of him or it. Ensure means to support a certain outcome, an entirely different meaning. I often see supposedly educated people say insure when they actually mean ensure.

I also see people say “the XXX” as if to emphasize “the most” or “the only”. English has ample expressions that make it unnecessry to mangle the language by emphasizing the word “THE“.

As long as I’m on the topic of bad expressions: How and when did the contraction “I’d been” and “I’d begun” take the place of “I was”? In narrative prose, it’s better to write out “I had” instead of writing “I’d”. Modern prose seems to suffer from a plague of “I’d”s. Most of the time writers mean to say “I had” but this only introduces the dreaded “had’s” into the text. Almost always it’s better to simply write “I was”. I especially see prose written by engineers littered with “I’d”s. It’s poor writing. Don’t ever write “I’d”. Beware of novels written by engineers. They can’t write. Lawyers too. I had to relearn how to write after I left law school. Engineers should follow my example and learn how to write effective English, discarding what they think they know about language.

And please stop saying “unpacking” as in “Let’s unpack the meaning of this.” Packing and unpacking is for travel cases, not meanings. It’s unfortunately trendy but I don’t give a darn for what’s trendy.

Also, no one should ever say “debunking myths”. Nothing has ever been “debunked” except the notion that the Sun revolves the Earth. Everything else is up for grabs and has not been truly “debunked” and has nothing to do with myths. It’s presumptuous and seeks to push the idea that only the speaker knows anything and the listener nothing. Like unpacking, debunking or debunked is a trite phrase that informs only that the speaker is arrogant and a know-it-all.

This goes hand-in-hand with “conspiracy theory”, which is another phrase that has no meaning except to attempt to communicate that the speaker knows more than God and the listener knows nothing. Everything is a conspiracy, and nothing. When two people decide to buy some illegal marijuana, that’s a conspiracy. So conspiracies are multiple and rampant and found everywhere. The existence of UFOs were dismissed as conspiracy theories for decades until the U.S. military released recordings by U.S. aircraft of actual UFOs. The word conspiracy implies something illegal, yet those who attempt to dismiss political opponents as conspiracy theorists, most of the time there is nothing illegal about the alleged conspiracy, so it by definition cannot be a conspiracy at all.

And no “full stop” or “period”. Putting a period means full stop. There is no need to say “full stop”. It’s redundant and foolish.

Then there is “muh” anything. This is intended to mock the holders of an opinion, but it’s merely bad English.

And “hack” is a technical term that applies to computer hackers doing something illiegal. It has nothing to do with merely improving something. One cannot hack house-cleaning.

No more using “well,…” That too is a trite hackneyed phrase that attempts to lend a non-intellectual ambience to prose. It’s worse than useless, it’s stupid. Just as with “Hmmmm” as if this too imparts some significant meaning to one’s writing. It’s just poor English. Avoid both of these.

Other incredibly stupid phrases: “It’s just who we are!” Oh, please. That’s as stupid and bad and “It is what it is” and “our democracy”. Anyone who uses such phrases is not merely low IQ but presumes that the listener is even more stupid than the person saying such phrases. The U.S. is not a democracy, has never been a democracy, and according to the Constitution is not supposed to be a democracy. And who else can we be except “who we are”? It’s total nonsense and the language of overweening demagogues who hope not to be required to be rational or explain their positions on anything.

Not to mention “supremacy” or “supremacist”. These too are as idiotic as “our democracy”. Supremacy implies denying rights by government authority. No one is doing that, or contemplates doing that, except our current government and its politicians, who are the only people alive who use such terms. All these phrases should be dumped and never used again.

Then there is saying “stormed” when one merely means “protested”. Storming something came from the First World War when German soldiers set up “storm units”. These were equipped with flame throwers, submachine guns, and grenades. If a group of people don’t have flame throwers, submachine guns, and grenades, then they cannot “storm” anything. They are merely engaging in a protest, peaceful or not so peaceful. This word is yet another word whose meaning has been distorted by power-mad irremovable demagogues seeking to ensure their perpetual remaining in power by exciting the populace to believe that some horrendous crisis has occurred, when nothing of the sort has happened.

Finally — tho there truly is no end to the nonsense that is today written or expostulated — there is the phrase “That’s sad”. This phrase is intended to impose individuality on the listener, implying that the listener’s problem is merely that of an individual when perhaps the listener’s issue is also a social issue, or perhaps entirely a social issue. It’s a way of distancing oneself and isolating the listener. And at the same time implying “It’s not my problem or anyone else’s — only yours. Try harder next time.” This phrase denies the reality of social issues and only spreads the American disease of hyper-individuality. There are many possible appropriate responses when someone describes his/her problem. Replying “I feel your pain”, however, is not one of them. Junk this phrase too.

I could keep going, but enough for now.