A reply to The Amused Curmudgeon about arrant language errors

A reply to The Amused Curmudgeon about arrant language errors

If you heard some unexplained cheering on the evening of May 10, that was my voice. I was reading the post by my fellow ChicagoNow blogger, The Amused Curmudgeon, headlined ‘Airing My Gripes About Arrantly-Erring On-Air Language.”

I was delighted to see “overturned meanings,” “the unlikeable like” and other pet peeves among my fellow writer’s catches. Since I could not manage to comment directly on the post — a problem worth its own post someday — a reply here seems to be in order.

Do people not realize that learning the language isn’t just for passing tests? It’s for communicating. Once I’ve learned something, I enjoy talking to someone else who has learned it. I’m confident that The Amused Curmudgeon and I would have a lovely conversation and enjoy one another’s vocabulary.

But with some words, I find myself thinking of the French tourists I used to meet when I worked at museums — the ones who would be so relieved to hear a sentence they could understand.

One of my favorite furies, to use William Safire’s variation on “pet peeve,” is hearing sloppy pronunciation in a radio chat, then having the sloppy person say “Oh, you know!” No, I don’t. Being specific, in this case, is being pacific — using exact diction pacifies (calms) your audience.

Midwestern accents are not the easiest to understand, even for natives. Another word that leaves me peeved is what you might call the U.S. word for a looking-glass, a mirror. An insignificant one, a mere mirror, would be hard for many Illinoisans to talk about — most of us do not take care to put the correct two syllables into “mirror.”

Being careful with your speech can have the sense of taking care of the language. Like the Curmudgeon himself, I enjoy thinking of my teachers — and two of my stronger ones were my parents. My father, who taught physics, would still be amazed over our family’s dinners by students who asked “Does spelling count on the test (or in the lab notebook, as the day went)?”

“It will count if you want me to understand what you’re writing!” Dad would say — in class, and again at the dinner table.

Meanwhile, my mother taught home economics when I was younger, changing to child development when I was in high school. Her influence on my speech was more in the “Be ladylike” vein — speak clearly, explain things well, be kind.

When it comes to the latter two items, I must gently disagree with The Amused Curmudgeon’s use of adjectives at the beginning of sentences. His “sadly” and “mournfully” look to me more like stage directions — he’s setting the tone for the next comment. But usage has evolved (no, devolved) to the point that “I sadly observe” or “I mournfully report” does not fit the voice of many writers.

I am glad, for his sake, that the curmudgeon was not riding on the bus I rode last week, on which a fellow rider used “the unlikeable like” every three or four words: “She was, like, saying what she thought was, like, important or something.” Since I didn’t hear a reply, I take it she was on a phone. My own voice stayed silent, but I was very tempted to tell her that I did not like hers one bit. Luckily for us both, my mother’s training held.

So The Amused Curmudgeon’s writing voice is a clear one, and I commend it to your attention if you’re looking to expand your reading on ChicagoNow.

To the curmudgeon himself, I can only add my thanks.

Filed under:
Expressions, Writing


Welcome to ChicagoNow.

our bloggers,

post comments, or

pitch your blog idea.

Meet The Blogger

Margaret H. Laing

I moved to Chicago from the south suburbs in 1986. I have diverse interests, but I love writing about what I’m interested in. Whether it’s a personal interest or part of my career, the correct words to get the idea across are important to me. I love words and languages — French and Scottish words enrich my American English. My career has included years as a journalist and years working in museums, and the two phases were united by telling stories. I’m serious about words and stories. So here I am, ready to tell stories about words and their languages.

Subscribe by Email

Completely spam free, opt out any time.

Monthly Archives

May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014

Read these ChicagoNow blogs

Cubs Den

Chicago Cubs news and comprehensive blog, featuring old school baseball writing combined with the latest statistical trends

Pets in need of homes

Pets available for adoption in the Chicago area


It’s like the couch potato version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

About ChicagoNow



Recent posts RSS

Privacy policy (Updated)

Comment policy

Terms of service

Chicago Tribune Archives

Do not sell my personal info

©2022 CTMG – A Chicago Tribune website –
Crafted by the News Apps team

Read More

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.