« Kitchen Gadgets | Main | The Great Summer Chicken Saga »

July 28, 2011

I'm really sorry to have to do this, but. . .

By Nancy Pickard

I hope you'll forgive me, but I'm going to call you some bad words now.  Oh, god.  I feel terrible about this, but you deserve it, you really have it coming.  Believe me, you'll be better for it when I'm finished.  So don't hate me, okay?  I'm only saying these things as your friend, for your own good.  Okay.  Deep breath.  Ready? Here goes. . .

"You. . .you. . . reliable person you!  You are talented and tremendous. . .and, and, and. . . influential!" 

Offended yet?  You would have been if you'd been the poet Coleridge back in 1832, when he proclaimed that the word "talented" was "barbarous."  ( SUCH a great word and not used nearly enough outside of the British Parliament, imo.  I'm going to email it to the President and suggest he find a place for it in his next address.  "It's barbarous!" the President thundered!  Okay, maybe this President wouldn't thunder, and since when did thunder become an intransitive verb anyway?)  But I digress.

No, really, I don't digress, or at least not much, because this is about words that morph from one part of speech to another--morphing words, morphed words, morphly morphative morphonomous words.  I made a few of those up, but which ones? And does anybody know what a "morph" is when it's at home?  I think maybe it's a small furry caterpillar with an insecurity complex. . .or why else would it keep changing like that? MilkweedTussockMothCaterpillar11oClock

The reason Coleridge loathed "talented"people  was not professional jealousy.  Or, at least, as far as I know, it wasn't, though you do have to wonder about a guy who thought opium was dandy but "talented" was uncivilized.  Do you remember the legendary "Person from Porlock" who allegedly interrupted Coleridge as he wrote  "Kubla Khan"? Maybe that Person from Porlock was talented, and that was what really pissed off the poet, ha.

 But no.  According to a recent article in the BBC News Magazine, Samuel Taylor Coleridge loathed the word because it was an abomination borrowed from us, the United Statesians.  (That was for you Canadians who get sick of hearing us claim "American" all for ourselves.)  We, you see, had morphed it from its proper "talent."  One might have talent, but no lettered gentleman would use the vulgar, "talented."  Similarly, one might exert influence, especially if one had attended Cambridge, but only the crass would describe a man as "influential."  Shudder. I haven't found out why "tremendous" was so offensive, but I think it might be because its meaning had turned upsidedown at some point, morphing from something that was dreadful enough to cause trembling, to something great and glorious.  The nerve of those language upstarts! 

As for the dread "reliable," BBC Magazine says:  "A letter-writer to the Times, in 1857, described 'reliable' as 'vile.'"

Ha!  Perhaps the letter-writer was a young woman who liked Bad Boys.


Butch and Sundance.  Unreliable as hell, and definitely not vile.  :)

But we'd never do this, right?  We'd never take umbrage (oooo, nice!) at mere morphages of words?

Maybe you wouldn't, but if I never hear "gift" used as a verb again in my lifetime I will consider it a gift. 

"Darling, let me gift you with this toaster oven."

"Sweetheart, let me brain you with this club."

Do you have pet peeves about words that used to stand as straight and tall as a knight, words as good and pure as a Lady, and which have been dragged through the putrid slime of morphification?  And if you don't, give us a poem, Mate, give us a poem, a poem with words, frabjous words!


 In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea--

"Oh, Bloody hell!

"Jeeves?! Was that the bloody doorbell?"




TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference I'm really sorry to have to do this, but. . .:


Here's another look at the Person From Porlock from the late poet Stevie Smith. Hee. I love this one.

Thoughts about the Person from Porlock

Coleridge received the Person from Porlock
And ever after called him a curse
Then why did he hurry to let him in?
He might have hid in the house.

It was not right of Coleridge in fact it was wrong
(But often we all do wrong)
As the truth is I think, he was already stuck
With Kubla Khan.

Nancy, that was perfectly awful.

Not a poetic bone in my body.

Pet peeve: the word "impact" used instead of "affect", which always makes more sense.

"A good READ." Hate that. "It's a good READ." Hate that. Hate that. Really hate that. The only good READ I know is Cornelia. Oh OK, and Charles (no relation) who was the first benefactor to Salem, Massachusetts when he established the fund that supports the READ Fund Picnic for Salem children, which I first attended at Salem Willows when I was 6(?) months old. And I still have the Salem News photo to prove it. Of course it's me. Why else would a person save a picture like that?

Oooh... off the track a bit. Sorry. Was built to rant.

Another word that bothers me a lot is PARTNERED as in, "We of News Corporation have PARTNERED with Scotland Yard to bring you the news the way we want you to see it, by stealth and force if necessary." <--- Phony Quotes - sorry.

Then there are DIALOGING and JOURNALING. Hate them too. Let's talk! Let's write! But I'll give you those two, if you swear you will never bring back the word "rap " to mean "talk."

The great verbate debate,
The verbation equation,
Balancing noun with verb?
Should you verb a noun?
Should a noun be verbed?
Making a thing, a thing a thing does,
Is more than the sum of the parts being bigger.
It's the bigger the parts of the sum to be told,
That is totally fucking absurd.

"Disrespect." Didn't that used to be a noun?

I also have an issue with the non-word, "proactive," and the business-use word, "pre-call." That's generally an internal call before a call with other parties. But it's a call itself, isn't it?

The word "empower" has been in usage since the 17th century. I'd be happy to go the rest of this one without hearing it anymore.

The power of empower
Tickles me no more.
I’d like to end its usage
And stomp it on the floor.

Sorry, neither a poet nor a limerick-maker do I be. (Gah! Just making it worse!)

"Very unique". Uh, if something is 'unique' to start with...?

"Shorter half, bigger half". Half of something is 50% of it. How can it be shorter or longer or smaller or bigger than the other half?

I'll toss out a real hand-grenade here about the word 'gay'. It's a perfectly good word that once meant 'happy, carefree, devil-may-care'. The meaning has changed, considerably, and in some instances has become quite an insult, especially among teens today. "That's so gay", or "You're so gay", or pick one.

Only recently has the 1940's series THE FALCON (an incredibly blatant ripoff of "The Saint", so much so Leslie Charteris sued and won) been dusted off, because the first in the series is titled THE GAY FALCON, and the character's name is 'Gaylord', but some called him 'Gay'. The movies were locked away for years due to the modern connotation of the word. Four or five movies in, Gaylord was killed by Evil Nazi Masterminds, and his brother with the safer name 'Tom" came in to carry on the family tradition.

William, I used to read my mother's Emilie Loring romance novels, and at least once a book, she used the phrase "gay courage." As in, the heroine (who was always polite, pretty, patriotic and brave) would tackle whatever obstacle with gay courage. I think she even titled a book Gay Courage.

It struck me as something of an oxymoron. It's great to have courage, but should you be so happy when you have to call upon it?

It's very dated now, but it's better than empowered, if you ask me.

I know this isn't exactly what you meant, but I'm being driven slowly crazy by this recent trend of adding "wise" to every other word. Like when the TV weathercritter says, "weatherwise, tomorrow will be..." or someone tells you, "timewise, it'll take you so long to drive across town, you may as well walk."

I don't know who started this habit, and when, but personallywise, I'd like to send a thousand Imps of Satan after them.

In Pittsburgh, where I live and love
Words are an approximation of
The classic pure pronunciations
In favor of the Steeler nation's.

Words like clean and jerk and you
Are red and yinz and jagoff too
If 'talented' will make you frown
Be glad you're not a Cleveland Brown.

Absolutely--a stock answer to everything in the affirmative is just a bit worn out these days.

a "nother" is another word for other
as in: a "whole nother level" apparently.
At least im assumming a "nother's" an other,
Ive yet to find it in the dictionary.

Instead of saying "your welcome" after you thank someone all you hear now is "no problem". I can't stand it. It is such a stupid reply.

Donna, yes! And when one apologizes for something, the resulting answer, all too often, is "Oh, you're fine."

Which makes me want to say, "Yes, indeed. I truly am fine." Although I guess it's better than "No problem."

Garnish instead of garnishee. "They've garnished his salary for child support." Sprinkled parsley and bacon bits on it?

I love "a whole nother" Heather. I always thought it was regional, though?

I remember when disrespect became a verb and it made me crazy because it seemed to start on Jerry Springer, and do we really want to pick up the language of that screaming heap of Romans?



Mr Typepad ate my poem! About the phrase "cranking it out," when referring to writing books. Did I save it? No. Yeesh.

I speak Spanish. Years of dancing in South America. I'm still thinking about a word for seductive.
Speaking of a response for thank you...one of the ladies at the airport says "A la orden." which translates to "At your order.". Sounds like servant talk to me.
But then so does "You're welcome." You are welcome to do what?

I can remember a time when children were raised,
Not parented.
And when we told it like it was, instead of
Engaging in discourse.
When politicians laid out their platforms instead of
Starting conversations with America. Which also meant
We were satisfied with used and felt no need to
Now we are so unsure of the facts that we say,
"I just feel..." Instead of,
I think.
Because we don't.

You see what I'm saying? Um, well, I couldn't possibly SEE what you're saying, because...um, I could hear, it, perhaps.

And in TV, people sometimes day--"We're efforting that." As in, we're making an effort to get that. EEsh.

And when did "pair it with" become ubiquitous? As in--you could pair those shoes with a nice skirt, you could pair that wine with a nice souffle, you could pair that--oh , whatever.

William, I heard an NPR reporter [local station] say 'very unique' this morning and CRINGED.

Now "wicked bad" means nicely good
And "cool" means that it's "hot."
And threads are not for sewing,
And spam's not for the pot.
I use a mouse to surf the net
In search of something . . . I forget. ..
I'm on a web no spider made
Looking for some Apple aid.
My cursor's stuck!

I wish we had "like" buttons.

I'm remember someone saying that crops are raised, children are reared . . . and kids are baby goats . . .
Language is such fun!

Fun topic, Nancy. I know a word that changes both its meaning and its pronunciation when you capitalize the first letter. Does anyone know a second word that does that?
(For those of you who know the first word, let's wait a bit to tell it, okay? Give the others a chance to figure it out.)

My biggest peeve is -gate. Spygate, Wienergate, etc. Apparently I am not the only one, because there is a long list in Wikipedia of them (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scandals_with_%22-gate%22_suffix). One day I will need to teach the Princesses that Watergate had nothing to do with a stolen drinking fountain. Another thing to blame Tricky Dick for, or maybe it was the Dems fault. They should have stayed at the Hilton.

There is also what I call the past-future tense. It is apart of sports reporting. "Pulos stuck out in the first but would hit a home run in the seventh." Sorry, the game was last night. I'm thinking the home run should be past tense.

Finally, it would be nice if the iconic news organization NPR could limit the use of iconic in iconic news stories to the iconic level of less than ten a day.

Google it, I did.

"we're efforting that"

Runs screaming from room!

Children are "reared"? Sounds like child abuse to me. I much prefer "raised."
I don't LIKE "friend" as a Facebook verb and find FB's "poke" unspeakable and faintly obscene.
I'm now going off in a Huff, which is an automobile built about 1918.

Donis, lol, and thank you.

I never meant that you guys had to write your own poems, but oh, the ones you are doing are so funny and clever! Thank you, and I trust that doing so was "no problem." Hah.

I have yet to be "poked", thank goodness. What a silly idea.

Love the poems! There's a powerful lot of talent in this group, and I mean that as a compliment!

Karen, there is tremendous skill here, and they are so talented--they're reliable that way--that they really deserve to be influential.

There are several that drive me crazy

efforting as in I am efforting to ... one news anchor in STL is always efforting

adding "ize" to everything

paradigm - when that became popular every in-service we had began with that stupid "paradigm" movie ... at one seminar our entire group got up and said we would not sit through it again - I guess it didn't incentivize us enough or maybe it did

I still cringe over exact same and whenever someone adds "truly" to any description. Truly unique, truly awful, truly great. If it's unique, awful or great, enough said. Truly is unnecessary.

I'm also fed up with "just sayin'", and any expressing snarky surprise with "Really?" or "Seriously?"

I have a huge problem with "incented." Or any version of that. You know, like when people say, "His compensation was designed to incent him." (Maybe that's just MY husband, the business guy.) But at any rate, every time I hear it, I want to send a little note to Summer's Eve suggesting that they abandon the talking vagina campaign and start using the word, "incent."

All of these. My yougner son is the slangiest guy in the universe, and texts everything. Wanted to borrow a cooler, and when I said it wasn't available, his response was "weak." I have to refresh my slang brain every six weeks or so and it drives me nuts!

Completely unrelated, but Coleridge is...uh...a hottie.

One that gets to me is "We're pregnant." He may have made it happen, but she's the one whose pregnant--the one throwing up the first few weeks (months!), waddling instead of walking, dealing with hemorrhoids and more. I think I'm becoming a crabby old woman!

My grandmother's pet peeve:

An expert in port
might say wine is her forte.
Unless you're a musician
"for-tay" is not the pronunciation.

My pet peeve (sorry, no verse):
"Celibate" originally meant unmarried, not chaste. It still means that in French. Priests promise not to marry (vow of celibacy); nuns are considered brides of Christ and take vows of chastity.

However, language constantly evolves, so I try not to get too hung up on it.

Per the Online Etymological Dictionary, "gifted" as a verb has been in use since the 1500's. I still prefer to say "gave".

There are several references to Coleridge and his visitor in Douglas Adams's book, DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY, one of my favorite books in the whole world.

"Price point." I remember the first time I heard it, and demanded to know how it differed from "price." The answer was unsatisfying. Now I've heard the phrase several times and would like it to die.

My personal pet peeve is with the now common use of the word INVITE as a noun instead of a verb. "I'll send out the INVITES for the party." No, you send out INVITATIONS, not INVITES! You INVITE a person to the party!

The poems are wonderful! Margaret, yours really made me laugh!

Thinking this over, I hate perfect English. I like shortcuts. I also like many overused phrases. I like that language develops. I think it's fun and interesting.

I have to say wicked bad. I'm from Massachusetts.. If I don't how will my friends know I don't mean something is good? If I don't add bad to the end of wicked? If Brunonia says, "Down bucket" to me I have to say, "Up for air." How else would we know who we are? It's easier than carrying a clam roll everywhere we go. Or a Joe Frogger. Whip!

I've been lucky enough never to have heard "efforting" -- now that's truly abominable term.

I'm getting heartily tired of a couple of terms that always seem to bubble up in fashion/home decor commentary: "pop of color" and "matchy-matchy". They may have once been vibrant desciptors, but now they've become nonsensical incantations.

I've been lucky enough never to have heard "efforting" -- now that's truly abominable term.

I'm getting heartily tired of a couple of terms that always seem to bubble up in fashion/home decor commentary: "pop of color" and "matchy-matchy". They may have once been vibrant desciptors, but now they've become nonsensical incantations.

You all are a hoot! I do love beautiful language, but gifting you with a piece of signage as an invite makes my teeth itch. Sometimes, simple is better.

Thank Lil. Now MY teeth itch.

I may have missed this one, but the use of the word Literally drives me batshit crazy.

"I mean -- I died. I literally died".

Uh, no. You didn't, although hope abides.

About poking. My cousins and I have regular Facebook poking wars. I usually win. We think it's funny. My niece Kathy pokes us to let us know she woke up this morning. It's very useful. :poke:

Lol, Kathy.

The poems are delightful.

"individuals" instead of "people" -- I hear this a lot when politicians or law enforcement people are talking on the news. ("We have the individual in custody.") What the heck is wrong with calling people people? Are they trying to sound dressy? Fancy? Smart?


At the risk of getting tossed out of this forum and unfriended by everyone I know on Facebook: I have no problem with someone's adjusting a language when something cannot otherwise be precisely expressed otherwise save via circumlocution. When Mr A "brains" Mr B, it's pretty clear what the action is.

Language changes, we've been verbalizing nouns -- and nouning verbs ;) -- halfway to forever. Besides, playing with words is *fun*. Ask fans of the Joss Whedon show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" who still have the habit of adding -age and -atitude to nouns -- and doing so instinctively knowing which to use, and what meaning it applies to the nouns in question. I'm finding this trick rather useful, myself, even if I left my teenhood decades ago.

What bothers me is absolute error due to ignorance. Using "lay" for "lie" ("I plan to lay on the bed all day" just prompts me to ask: "And what were you planning to lay on the bed? Eggs?") comes to mind; or "between you and I"; or using "hopefully" when you mean "I hope".

Bother, I need to learn how to proof-read. Adding -age and -itude, not -age and -atitude.

I remember well a few winters ago when my Beloved and I took a sometimes rather harrowing drive down across the Blue Ridge on our way from DC to North Carolina shortly after a major snowstorm. The road at one point was just a corrugated sheet of ice, and there were cars abandoned on the shoulders and the median strip. Or, rather, we assumed they were cars -- they at least were car-shaped humps of snow. "Wow," my Beloved at one point observed, "there was some major snowage up here!" "Yeah," I replied, nodding in the direction of a set of four tires poking out straight up through an otherwise ominously shapeless white mound in the ditch, "and talk about snowitude ..." We realized in the course of the conversation that we instinctively knew when to add -age and when -itude, and that we couldn't express the same thing quite as succinctly using other words.

More and more I am hearing the phrase "change up" when describing an activity including cooking, fashion etc.
I do not remember hearing this even a year ago. I guess terminology does change over the years.

Marie, this is coincidental, because my mom and I were just talking about all the ways we add " up" to words.

Mario, I agree -- the changes are fun and necessary. We're just venting before caving. ; ) Speaking of a new meaning for a word!

"Signage" I put it in quote to show my distain;
or the use of the word pleeded (the defendant pleeded guilty) when what they mean is pled (the defendant pled guilty).

I dont think the "nother" is regional, i hear it during sports and on espn almost every day.

Of course if we were having this conversation in England there would be a whole "nother" set of idioms. My Brit friend talks about being "nithered" when she's cold, and "knackered" when she's tired.

The great thing about language is that it's a living thing, always changing. I like that English does that, as opposed to the French, which used to limit French words to a set number, never, ever to change or deviate. That always struck me as kind of manipulative, in a mind-thought kind of way.

And where would we be without the word boobage? That says something much better than chest or breasts or boobs.

My father used to word "clever" to mean something flashy and lacking depth. I used to get annoyed when someone referred to something I had done as clever. So when it comes to me. Never use clever, lest I club you with a lever.

"Archive." It used to be a noun, and now it's a verb, and everybody's archiving all over the place, especially IT people.

love the poems, so funny. but i do love "just sayin....." you can say something snarky and then, "just sayin," makes it known its a joke and the person is not allowed to get mad. Like, "with all due respect.." and then you can say whatever you want. :)
These phrases have "literally" saved my life...just sayin...


OK, so I'm a day late (not a 'whole' day late, LOL, just a day), but I am so tempted to rant when someone types simple instructions on how to employ a tool to do something, such as: "Utilize the flipper to flip the egg." Why not just USE the durned flipper?

Just as bad, or worse: Return back. "She decided to return back to where she came from."

And, of course the unholy mixing of cycle and circle, as in, 'it has become a vicious c________.'

Literally... It makes me sick, literally. Ack!

The comments to this entry are closed.

The Breast Cancer Site