Language is a funny thing

I’ve been working with words throughout my adult life. Whether it was as a newspaper reporter, a radio host and news anchor, a high school English teacher, or as a writer, I’ve found that these little building blocks we turn into phrases and sentences–some version of an actual human thought–can be tricky.

Ironic signage for the win!

Ironic signage for the win!

I’m not above mistakes myself, but here are here are a couple of gems that I find particularly grating:

  • I could care less (meaning “I couldn’t care less”)
  • for all intensive purposes (meaning “for all intents and purposes”)
  • mind-bottling (meaning “mind boggling”)
  • irregardless (meaning “regardless”)
  • a mute point (meaning “moot point”)

My personal favorite (read: least favorite), though, is when you call someone and their outgoing voice mail message says something to the effect of “Hi, thanks for calling. I’m not here, but if you leave your name and number, I’ll call you back at my earliest convenience.”

Your earliest convenience? Pardon me? Did I fart loudly during your wedding ceremony?

I’m sure what they mean to say is “I’ll get back to you as soon as possible” but have somehow skull screwed the well-intentioned “call me back at your earliest convenience”, meaning (of course), “call me back as soon as its convenient for you.”

Telling me you’ll call back at your earliest convenience is the equivalent of saying, “I’ll call you back when I damn well feel like it, you asshat.”

I am not above misspeaking (and mis-writing) myself, so I suppose I should have some more patience, but this “earliest convenience” thing isn’t just wrong–it’s rude. Almost as rude as pointing out people’s malapropisms on a writer’s blog. I should be whoreswept.

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7 Responses to “Language is a funny thing”

  1. richardlarsen@comcast.net Says:

    Meaning, of course, “horse whipped”.  That shit bugs me too.  Language has meaning.  Learn it if you wish to communicate.

    Dad

  2. I read something recently that suggested that “irregardless” is so commonly used that it has become accepted. (It’s not a word I use myself – I prefer “regardless”…)

  3. As a professional editor, I couldn’t agree with you more! Good piece, and a terrific closing line.

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