Tuesday, November 22, 2011


When fingernails scrape down a blackboard, are your ears offended? Does the sound make your jaw hurt? Your fists clench? Your eyes squint? I get that same reaction when I hear people misuse words - ordinary American English words.

My ears ache, my jaw hurts, muscles spasm and eyes squint when I hear someone say "ax" for ask, "seen" for saw or "don't" for doesn't. I want to know whether the offender is American born or went to school in the United States. You see, not only are my ears offended, so is my sense of American intelligence, public education, patriotism and personal pride.

I have heard adult conversations, on television for the most part, where one or more conversant uses the word 'like' more times than I care to count. "Like when I went to work last week it was like everyone was late like nobody's alarm worked so like all the clocks stopped." There are public media interviews in which the answer begins with "I mean..." Question: How did it feel to score the winning touchdown? Answer: "I mean it's the first time I had an open field, I mean there was nobody in front of me and I mean, it was great..." Question: How did you learn you are a new father while serving in Afghanistan? Answer: "I mean, my wife texted me and I mean I was like sleeping at the time and it was a boy so I mean she wanted me to you know..." The wife interjects, "Yeah, I mean he wanted to know about it right away, like, you know, before I put it on Facebook."

If those types of conversations aren't sad enough, tune in to news reports and political debates in which people who might normally be regarded as intelligent keep interjecting the word "look." (I've learned to live with my finger on the channel switcher because it makes me ill to 'look.') "About the national debt well look, poor judgement got us into this mess..." "And, look, health care is everyone's concern..."

There is one word that is more obnoxious and repeated more often than any other - the word is 'cool' - it is slang, meaning too much, not enough, anything and virtually nothing.

It is a blessing none of the people whose conversations I eavesdropped on were enrolled in the college courses I taught. There were no passing grades for students who 'seen' instead of saw or said 'cool' and 'like' in every sentence. I mean, listen, it's like, you know, only like uneducated people would use you know words like that 'cause, look, you know ignorance don't make you cool.

If this opinion is agreeable to you - or if it seems a bit heavy handed - I'll appreciate your comment. Tell me. I'd like to know. Meantime, please edit 'cool' out of your vocabulary - and I thank you...so much !

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