Monday, June 21, 2010
Those Pesky Words
Language is fluid, and words will slip into use for a while (sometimes w-a-y too long) and then be gone again. They seem to make their first appearances on TV news and in journalism. So here, in no particular order, are those that I hope will leave us soon.
1. Gone missing. This was originally a British expression, to the best of my knowledge. It works well for them—the British can use this and get away with it. Here, not so much. It sounds like some kind of odd activity or destination, and can apply to inanimate objects such as car keys and barbecue tongs, or to gravely serious subjects like children and elderly adults. Some hypothetical examples:
“Where are you off to, honey?”
“I’m going fishing, shopping, to get my hair highlighted. I’m just going missing.”
“Oh, she’s gone missing.”
“Did she say when she’ll be back?”
Better still: “Kobe Bryant, you just won your fifth NBA Championship! What are you going to do now?”
“I’m going missing!”
How about, Bambi is missing?
2. Gone extinct. This is one of gone missing’s ugly step sisters and has some equally ugly tenses, as in go, going and went.
“Today a report released by the EPA says the double billed walla walla, native to the coldest areas of the upper Midwest, will go extinct in the next ten years due to habitat encroachment by the single billed walla. This is the second species threatened by the walla. In 2003, the frilled loppydoozy went extinct due to the walla’s invasive behavior.”
Become/became extinct is probably more correct.
3. Albeit. Isn’t this word just too, too precious? It sounds like someone’s middle name. Ferdy Albeit Grayson. In fact, it is a real word and the usage is correct, but archaic. Albeit comes to us straight down the centuries from Middle English and has been lurking in the shadows since the 1300s. It’s a contracted form of the phrase “although it be.” Can’t we just say although?
4. Arguably/Inarguably. Major sigh. These two are from 1890 and 1925, respectively. There should be a list for the world’s worst adverbs because I’d add both of these.
That’s all for now. The next time we touch on the subject of our tortured language (at some distant date) we’ll take a look at a few of the most ghastly online communications. About ten years ago, author Nancy E. Turner wrote a wonderful historical about life in the Arizona Territories entitled, These is my Words. She might not have realized at the time that some people writing on the internet would make her protagonist’s awkward prose, indifferent spelling, and random capitalization look contemporary.