From the Editor

Drescher: Readers unburden themselves with their pet-peeve words

jdrescher@newsobserver.comSeptember 27, 2013 

Whooeee! My column last week about the words we use in our stories got your juices flowing. I told you about my disdain for trendy words or jargon such as “famously,” “legendary” and “omnibus.”

Apparently, there was a lot of pent-up frustration out there. Some of you responded with your own pet peeves. Here is a sampling:

• “You folks are no more guilty than others, but ‘icon’ and ‘iconic’ have gotten mighty stale.”

• “Please add to your list and admonish your reporters for the use of ‘hopefully,’ ‘literally’ and ‘virtually’ so frequently and so inappropriately. These are all adverbs and adverbs only. They ought not to be used as anything else.”

• “While you are at it can you work on a couple of my pet peeve journalistic words? Number one is ‘some’ – as ‘some 10,000 people showed up at the event.’ When have you ever been at a social gathering and someone says, ‘I worked some 60 hours this week.’ It’s either more, less, about, or around. And while you’re at it can you explain how ‘impact’ became a verb. Every time I hear a journalist say someone was ‘impacted,’ I envision an object slamming into them. I guess if you are in the way of a meteor you can be ‘impacted.’”

• “Have you ever noticed that the word ‘who’ seems to be disappearing from our language? People who should know better often say, ‘The person that did this’ instead of ‘The person who...’”

• “The use of ‘for free.’ Why not just say ‘free’?”

• “One of my own personal pet peeves is the overuse of ‘horrific.’ I personally trace it back to the terrorist incidents of September 11, 2001. Journalists around the country latched onto ‘horrific’ as their descriptive adjective for those events. And ever since then, it seems that any bad thing that happens can’t be awful, horrible, terrible, gut-wrenching, bad or any other negative descriptor. Just has to be ‘horrific.’”

• “Let’s not forget ‘sustainable’ as in overused (resources) or ‘disconnect’ as a noun.”

• “In my own little way I am fighting the phrase ‘an historic.’ People think it makes them sound scholarly. But the word media people are the most in love with is ‘tarmac.’ Whenever anything happens at an airport, it happens on the tarmac. There is no airport tarmac. Tarmac is a trade name for tarmacadam. Now, I am sure you are running for a dictionary and you will find that there is such a thing as an airport tarmac but it varies from dictionary to dictionary. ... A lot of them hedge their bets by saying it’s areas where airplanes park, take off or land. ... Keep in mind most airports are paved with concrete.”

• “I always struggle with ‘price point.’ Why can’t we just go back to ‘price’? It means the same darn thing.”

• “Let me point out that your statement that ‘pedacyclist’ has not appeared in the N&O is inaccurate. It has. Three times. This morning in your column.”

• “I enjoyed your article in Saturday’s paper and agree with your opinion. However, I was surprised to see that you used the following construction: ‘I’m not sure how fan bases are different than fans.’ While ‘different than’ is commonly used, it is not generally considered to be standard English. I would have assumed that in an article about proper use of the language, you would have used ‘different from.’”

• I explained my use of “hisself” in a recent column that mentioned Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry. A reader with the email name of Judge Linda wrote: “I got the ‘hisself’ reference, John. You nailed it. But ‘different than’? Really?”

I plead guilty and throw myself upon the mercy of the court.

Drescher: 919-829-4515 or; Twitter: @john_drescher

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