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Grammatical sloth

“I, like, had this amazing time this weekend”.
“like, he didn’t know how to do a simple thing…”.
” this is, like, the only way to do it. Lol”.
” she’s totally going to call you!”.
” I just studied for 2 hours lol”.
” he’s going to call you in total fashion”.
“idk becoz it’s like that!”.
“Is she/he like, for real?”.

‘like’, ‘lmao’, ‘idk’, ‘totally’, ‘yolo’, ‘lol’, ‘lmfao’ and an increase in salty language and/or public profanity assume we’re all in this together since they’ve become casual.
time was when ‘damn’, ‘hell’ or ‘shit’ couldn’t be found in the dictionary except for its literal meaning. even today when I write the word ‘rape’ the spell check changes it to ‘tape’ every time. it simply refuses to type ‘rape’. and forget about the word ‘negro.’ when I was writing about 12 years a slave or the role of history in some races, spell check refused to type ‘negro’. spellcheck also refuses to type words like slut, giving me smut instead, and I must constantly double and triple check before publishing anything.

our culture is very forward thinking compared to most, and not only in langauge. we have taken first place in cinema from the french, italians, and russians who turned out great masters of directing and great cinema. we’ve included same sex in our equality values. we’ve embraced differences like no other country would: we don’t ban or make laws preventing others from donning hijabs, saris, yarmulkes, crosses etc or freedom of speech, and on top of all of that we have affirmative action should any of the aforementioned right be threatened or violated.

still, spellcheck doesn’t recognize rape, slut, negro because they’ve become offensive epithets and also politically incorrect, voiding them of their original racist sting. spellcheck is quite politically correct!

we rule in celebrating our openness to language and culture because a keystone of education in the US is to foster awareness of, and respect for, diversity of opinions and attire and beliefs.
but as forward thinking as we are in so much, we are backward thinking when it comes to language, especially grammar and spelling.

“like” seems to be a sloppy substitute for a precise word or a word, period! this language is employed by a certain age group who text at the speed of perhaps light, and whose mode of conversation has become textual [ and I don’t mean from a text, but texting]. but when confronted with a paper to write these same folks don’t know how to spell and compose sentences. my students didn’t know that “i.e.” means ‘that is’ so they read it as the actual letters “i.e.” and not ‘that is’ when I asked them to read aloud.
spell check is there to help, but does your computer always know the difference between ‘new’ and ‘knew’ or ‘their’ and ‘there’ if the writer doesn’t?

the latest word now is ‘literally’. i no longer use that word. millenials have wiped that word clean out of my dictionary! and just as I hesitate to use ‘like’ even as a simile, in its correct form, I now hesitate on ‘literally’. I have begun to wince if ‘like’ or ‘literally’ enter my head. I stop them short of falling off my tongue and becoming language!

what happens when words like ‘lol’ or ‘like’ or ‘totally’ or ‘literally’ take on different meanings and enter the urban, Oxford or Webster dictionaries? will programs be written to enlarge meanings of words previously taken to have a precise meaning? and will machines know what we wish to write?

enlarging one’s vocabulary is always good. a friend recently taught me 2 new words: zinger and trifecta. i quite like them. but abbreviating vocabulary in the way it’s done today by millennials and wanna-be millenials poses another problem: it decreases one’s vocabulary skills in writing. these days students write the same way they talk. they – and even teachers – don’t know that ‘a lot’ is two words or that ‘your’ is different from ‘you’re’.

where are the meaty words such as [not like] “dissendium” or “apparate” or “disapparate” or “obliviate” or ‘inglorious’, which all sound so very powerful and real?



  1. Robert says:

    Chandra, several of your meaty words don’t exist in either the OED or Merriam Webster. Apparate is the anglicized version of apparatus. Do we need an anglicized version? Apparently not, since the last citation in the OED is almost 400 years old. A couple of words seem to have been resurrected (or was it their virgin birth?) by the Harry Potter books. I like obliviate, but I don’t think you can obliviate “like” in everyday speech. It, like “you know.” fills space. It is a verbal tic that I’d like to get rid of but how?

    BTW, “Where are the meaty words like “dissendium” or “apparate” or “disapparate” or “obliviate” or ‘inglorious’, which all sound so very powerful and real?” is perfectly correct grammar. The function of “like” is adjectival, while “as” is adverbial. Why do you want to use two words, “such as,” when one will do?

    And finally, my version of Microsoft Word accepts the spelling for all the words that you have been causing you trouble.

    p.s. I am with you on the cursing problem. Too many people curse too frequently. Cursing to the maximum effect is an art. Robin Williams illustrated the art of cursing to great effect in Good Morning America.


    • The acceptance of language that runs counter to good grammar is like the genie in the bottle. If you open it wrong, hard to out back genie in bottle. Such language has taken over correct grammar and as a result I’ve found myself correcting the English of bit only my students but child’s teachers in TAG classes. Re the words which are perfectly correct grammar why aren’t they used except in potter world’? Re words being 400 yrs old ooh! It sends frissons down my spine. Perhaps I’m a wordophile? Meaty Words which are old are like old libraries – a treat and kind of like griots, who pass on traditions to the young and without whom the young would be out of touch with their traditions or history or …old dictions of grammar.

  2. rhettlowe says:

    I sympathize with you on this one. The word is so overused by my generation that I’d be surprised if one Millennial in four could give an accurate definition. I too have expunged it from my vocabulary. Unfortunately, it’s not only the young. Watch an hour of cable news [warning: it can be hazardous to your health, consult a physician to assess potential risks before switching to CNN/FOX/MSNBC] and see how many grammatical errors you can count…from journalists (ya know, people who were mostly English majors!!). The two that irritate me the most are: data and media. These words are, of course, plural, but how many times do we hear sentences that begin with “the media IS…” and “THIS data IS…” rather than “the media are/these data are…” And this comes from supposedly educated professional journalists! Small wonder, then, that the abuse of the language is so widespread. Between social media and the mauling of English grammar by those in our media/political establishment, where is the average American to turn for instruction in our fine language?

    Paging William F Buckley Jr! Your country needs you…

    • You raise good points about the paucity of a english grammar here. Point taken: I don’t think it is merely a coincidence that students enter college not knowing grammar. Also the fact that foreign students perform better is proof of that. But I don’t have a tv so don’t know these shows of which you speak and if I did see, perhaps I’d have much more fodder to blog about. Let me live in the old tradition of speaking/writing English the way i learnt (sic) it! It is a beautiful
      Journey to speak properly and there I fully agree with the french who consider speaking an Art; as poetry is art or symbolism or romanticism is art.

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