From the Editor

Drescher: Signage? Went missing? More reader pet peeves about words you hate

jdrescher@newsobserver.comJanuary 3, 2014 

In a column a few weeks ago about former News & Observer writer Charles Craven, I wrote a word that didn’t seem right. I told myself to go back later and check its meaning – which I forgot to do. “Craven was not adverse to having a drink or three with his sources,” appeared in some editions.

“Adverse” means “moving or working in an opposite or contrary direction.” It wasn’t a terrible word to use, as “adverse” also can mean “opposed.” But a better word (and the word I was thinking of) would have been “averse,” which means “not willing or inclined.” For our print editions, an editor changed “adverse” to “averse,” but the change wasn’t made to the digital version.

To my surprise, none of our digital readers called me out on “adverse.” Based on two columns I wrote in the fall about your pet-peeve words and expressions, many of you are passionate about the English language.

Good. We’re in this together. My New Year’s resolution is to not give you Word Police any evidence to charge me this year for a spelling, grammar, punctuation or word-choice violation in this periodic column.

After my columns about your language pet peeves, you continued to flood me with more of them. I promised some of you I would publish a sampling. Here they are, with high hopes that 2014 will be a good year for the guardians of the language.

•  “What really infuriates me is when a child or grandchild says, ‘Me and my friend,’ instead of, ‘My friend and I.’ No matter how many times I correct them, they don’t get it.”

•  “ ‘Signage’? I don’t know when this appeared, but I’m yet to find a place it improves upon ‘signs.’ 

•  “I would like to submit ‘gone/went missing’ to the Hall of Fame. As far as I know, there is no verb ‘to go missing.’ What’s wrong with ‘disappearing’?”

•  “Once upon a time, only a few decades ago, ‘good,’ ‘great,’ ‘first-rate,’ ‘outstanding’ and ‘excellent’ were accolades that folks liked to hear as praise for their efforts. But over time, they’ve been replaced by what can only be described as unrealistically exaggerated praise or description of events, things and stuff, like: ‘amazing,’ ‘incredible,’ ‘awesome,’ ‘impossible,’ ‘epic,’ etc.”

•  “My pet peeve is the use of ‘less’ and ‘fewer.’ I hear this not only in general conversation but from TV newscasters to the point that I start to think I am incorrect.” (From Drescher: The Associated Press Stylebook says, “In general, use ‘fewer’ for individual items, ‘less’ for bulk or quantity.”)

•  “The two words, not at all exciting or arresting: ‘more’ and ‘most.’ Writers and speakers no longer inflect adjectives but instead blurt out these two modifiers. ... I doubt one speaker in 10 could glide easily into silkiest, safer, subtler, sublimest or sillier. And I’m tired of reading dispatches from Iraq about the ‘most deadly week in months’ or stories about nuclear reactors now made ‘more safe’ or a local public-financed stadium turning out to be ‘more costly.’ 

•  “I have also noted the phrase, ‘At the end of the day’ paired with a final result such as, ‘At the end of the day, Pittsburgh is a better team than Cincinnati.’ I would love to hear an athlete say, ‘You know, at the end of the day … it gets dark.’”

•  “My biggest pet peeve is ‘the reason is because. …’ I also hate ‘convince’ when ‘persuade’ is meant, but I think we are stuck with that one.”

•  “The other thing that bugs me is when people add a completely unnecessary word at the end of a phrase, such as, ‘Where are you going to?’ instead of ‘Where are you going?’ OK, now I feel better getting this off my chest.”

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

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