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This place matters

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Acceptable by virtue of ubiquity

One of the things I love about the English language is the way it grows and changes, sometimes in unexpected ways. The following is a list of words and expressions that have been used incorrectly so much that most people don't know they're technically incorrect.

Hopefully: Dude, I say this all the time and always in the wrong way. Hopefully is an adverb, meant to modify a verb, as in "We prayed hopefully." It's technically incorrect, then, to say "Hopefully we'll have enough gas in the tank to get us to church." In that, the word "hopefully" isn't modifying the verb "have"; the correct way to phrase this sentence is "I hope we'll have enough gas."

Alright and alot: Should be "all right" and "a lot," but I've had English teachers who didn't know that. Most spell-checkers don't even flag "alright" as a misspelling anymore.

Macchiatto: A macchiatto is an espresso with a dollop of milk or foam. However, Starbucks sells a drink called a macchiatto which is, in fact, a caramel latte. When I worked at Caribou coffee, folks were constantly complaining that we made our macchiattos incorrectly.

Speaking of espresso: The word is spelled and pronounced "espresso," from the Italian for "quick." There is technically no such thing as "expresso." I must rant a bit about the fact that I ordered an espresso, and the waitress "corrected" my pronunciation. I'm a live and let live kind of girl, but don't force your mispronunciations on me, yo.

Ninjas: Technically, the plural of "ninja" is "ninja." Also, since ninjas were typically assassins, spies, and such, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were not, in fact, ninjas.

Daylight Savings: It's actually Daylight Saving time.

TV's: The plural of TV is TVs, without an apostrophe. This is true of any other initialism as well.

Speaking of initialisms: "Acronym" has come to mean any abbreviations formed from the first letters of the words in the phrase, e.g., "AIDS" and "ATM" Actually, it's technically only an acronym if the letters combine to form a word e.g., "AIDS," "Scuba," "DOS." If it doesn't spell a word, e.g., "ATM," "CPR," "AA," it's an initialism.

Speaking of e.g.,: The initialisms e.g. and i.e. are not interchangeable. "E.g." comes from the Latin exempli gratia and means "for an example." "I.e." comes from the Latin id est and means "that is."
So e.g. would be used in a sentence like: He has many kinds of hats, e.g., baseball hats, porkpie hats, top hats.
I.e. would be used in a sentence like: He likes to wear stuff on his head, i.e., he likes hats.
Also, including "e.g." at the beginning of a sentence and etc at the end of a sentence is redundant. You've already said that the list consists of examples, denoting that these examples are several of many.



Is this entry as boring and stuffy as it looks?

4 comments:

ekicken said...

Brigid--I am beyond impressed with your writing--only I don't know what word means "beyond impressed." I know I will enjoy reading what you have to say.

saltyrose said...

You've hit all my grammar-nazi hot-buttons on this one.

disheah said...

Imported words, e.g. ninja, from other languages tend to always be bastardized. It's true for other languages as well.

I used to work with a guy who's big pet peeve was the use of acronyms and initialisms with redudant descriptors, like "ATM Machine", "SAT Test", or "PC Computer".

tribalprincess said...

I have to come be a culinary nerd all over your word nerd blog now. You brought it upon yourself :)
Technically Starbucks just forgot a word. What they serve is a macchiatto latte. It is the exact opposite of a macchiatto. Macchiatto means "marked" or "stained" in Italian (ok, so I'm word nerding a bit) and therefore implies that it is espresso being "marked" by a bit of milk or cream (standard recipe is 1 shot w./ a dash of milk). When you add "latte" to it however, it now means that it is steamed milk being "marked" by the espresso (which is made with a cup-ish of milk and a 1/2 shot of espresso).
The problem, of course, is that most Americans have adopted the Starbucks lingo as correct and since they don't know any Italian, they don't know what they're saying.

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