Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I dunno if this will turn into a regular thing or not, but this post is one that I've been meaning to do for a long time. I think everyone has a few words that, for one reason or another, become the equivalent of fingernails down their lexiographic spine.

--The phrase "fair enough." First, it offends my sense of the word "fair." To me, fair is a binary state. Either something is fair or it is not--in which case, the word "unfair" can be brought out. "Fair enough" introduces a level of gradation to this issue that I am not comfortable with. If that sort of nuance needs to be brought in, why can't we just leave the "fair" part out of it? Second, I know that a lot of people, when they're using the phrase, just mean it to act as a synonym phrase for "that's fair." But I've also heard it used in a very passive-aggressive manner. Under that usage, the "fair enough" is shorthand for "I don't think that's fair at all; at the very least, I think it could be more fair. But I don't have the time or inclination for outright disagreeing with you, and I want to appear as if I'm rising above the argument, so I'll reply in such a manner that preserves the chance for my later disagreement and indicates my disapproval, but in a way that makes it impossible for you to challenge me on it without sounding small and petty yourself."

It's a pretty complicated shorthand.

--This one isn't so much a word that annoys me as it is a word that may grow to annoy me if its frequency persists. Have you ever noticed that when your attention is drawn to an unusual word or phrase, you suddenly start seeing it everywhere? And then you can't tell whether people have just started using it, or they always have and you're finally paying attention to it? Well, for me, the most recent incarnation of "that word" is wheelhouse. As in the phrase " is in my wheelhouse," to indicate that you're an expert on said . And I'll admit it: I have only the vaguest idea on what a wheelhouse actually is, besides the obvious connotation that it is a house full of wheels, and perhaps has something to do with carriages. A quick search of the Oxford English Dictionary tells me that it refers both to that, and to the enclosure surrounding the steering wheel of a steamship. (It doesn't actually include the "in my wheelhouse," because the OED is above that sort of gutter talk, thank you very much.) So essentially, it's one of those phrases whose original meaning has been largely antiquated, like "book on tape" or "buribunkist" (all right, that last one isn't technically antiquated, but it is sufficiently obscure).

--The word "similarly." Don't like it. Never liked it. Never will like it. If there comes a point in some academic article I'm writing where the word is appropriate, I will perform whatever acrobatics are necessary to avoid it. "In a similar manner," "In a similar fashion," even "likewise." In this case, my distaste for the word is purely because of the way it sounds. I don't like the combination of the "lar" and "ly" syllables. I don't know why, I just know I don't.

And that's it, for now at least. And if you think that I've gone into far too much detail over such minor things, that I'm making mountains out of molehills, that I've become the cyberspace equivalent of an old man telling kids to get off his verbal lawn, well then...
Fair enough.

Later Days.

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