Using Language Judiciously

book-supreme-conflictI’m really enjoying Supreme Conflict by Jan Crawford Greenburg. I loved this quote from a memo Justice Blackmun wrote to Justice O’Connor when she first joined the Court:

“You should be warned…that I wage a campaign, thus far successful, against the use of the word ‘parameter.” (I will not join an opinion in which that word appears.)…I am also waging a campaign, thus far totally unsuccessful, against the current popular misuse of the word ‘viable.’ My decade with the medical profession makes me sensitive to this.”

Isn’t that marvelous? He wouldn’t join an opinion containing the word “parameter!” I wish I had some effective means to wage campaigns against misuse of words.

Just so you know, if I were powerful, I would forbid people from misusing “myself” when they mean “I.” It drives me absolutely crazy. People think they sound educated when they say something like “John, Jane and myself” instead of “John, Jane and I” but really they just sound like idiots.

Secondly, I would eradicate the alarming trend toward leaving out forms of the verb “to be.” For example, I would not allow anyone to say, “This needs cleaned” or “This needs fixed.” Rather, everyone would have to speak and write correctly to say, “This needs to be cleaned” or “This needs to be fixed.” (I’ve started seeing this one in print media, which REALLY gets me, as those in the writing business should certainly know better.)

What are your language pet peeves?

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