You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

6 Nov

When I asked  my best pal what I should write about this weekend, she responded in her usual helpful and specific way, and said, “I don’t know.”  So I said, “Please help me.”  And she said, “Grammar.”  And I said, “Like what kind of grammar?”  And she said, “I don’t know.  All grammar.”  And I said again, “Please help me.”  And she said, “I don’t know.  How about how people are idiots and always say things like, ‘I broughten that in yesterday’ or ‘I boughten groceries last week.’  Those aren’t words!”

Then she cursed a lot, because she does not like when people make up fake past tenses for words.  Also because I had just hit a deer with my car.

People do like to make past tenses up sometimes, and it’s painful.  I suppose, just to be safe, I should say right now that “broughten” is not the past tense for “brought.”  “Brought” is.  Similarly, “boughten” is not the past tense for “bought.”  “Bought” is.  So I told my friend that I agreed with her–“broughten” and “boughten” are awful, non-real words, and if I ever heard someone using them, I would subject them to the most painful punishment imaginable: having to watch an entire episode of the NBC sitcom Whitney.

Unfortunately, as I also told my friend, I was going to have a hard time stretching that one complaint–however valid–into an entire post.  The post would be so short, Kim Kardashian would call it a successful marriage.

I eventually decided to dedicate this post to a few words and phrases that otherwise intelligent people (and plenty of un-intelligent people) use incorrectly.  This post will be the first in a long series tentatively titled When You Use These Words and Phrases Incorrectly, A Bunny Gets Strangled by a Rainbow: Part I.

1. Irregardless.

Irregardless is not a word.  Regardless is a word.  Irrespective is a word.  Irregardless is not a word.  Whenever you are tempted to say irregardless, just say regardless.  Think of the extra i and r at the beginning as saying, “I r stupid if I use this word.”

2. For all intensive purposes.

Do not say “for all intensive purposes.”  That is not what people are saying, even though it kind of sounds like it.  What you mean to say is for all intents and purposes.  That is the actual phrase–it means “virtually” or “for all practical purposes.”  For all intensive purposes is meaningless.  Like Kim Kardashian’s wedding vows!

3. I could care less.

The phrase you’re searching for is I couldn’t care less.  If you say I couldn’t care less, you’re saying that you care about whatever it is so little, it is literally impossible for you to care any less.  If you say–as many incorrectly do–I could care less, then it means that you’re capable of caring less.  And that means that you care a little.

4. Literally.

Literally means ACTUALLY or WITHOUT EXAGGERATION.  It signifies that you are not being metaphorical or symbolic.

Unfortunately, literally has come to be little more than a verbal exclamation point to follow something you obviously just fabricated.  You did not just literally eat a million hamburgers.  That old lady was not literally a billion years old.  And I never want to hear you say, “I literally died” unless you are a ghost.  And even then, duh, I can see that–you’re a ghost.  Leave me alone, ghost.

5. Nauseous vs. nauseated.

If you say, “I feel nauseous,” you’re actually saying that you are a force that makes other people feel ill.  When you’re feeling sick about something (like the incorrect use of literally), what you should actually say is, “I feel nauseated.”

That’s a lot to digest (and if you digest things too quickly, you could become nauseated. Ha-HA!), so we’ll stop there.  I wouldn’t want to drag this thing on for 72 days or something.  I mean, come on, what is this?  A marriage?

No, I can do better than that for a concluding Kardashian joke.  Here, how about this: Kim Kardashian was not married for a very long time, especially considering how much money and publicity went into that marriage!

There we go.

– – –

Editor’s Note: 

Most dictionaries have, by now, changed to accept the general populace’s use of nauseous as an adjective meaning “feeling sick.”  So you can use it freely knowing that most dictionaries–however happily or begrudgingly–support you.  American Heritage Dictionary concedes, “Since there is a lot of evidence to show that nauseous is widely used to mean ‘feeling sick,’ it appears that people use nauseous mainly in the sense in which it is considered incorrect.”  Other dictionaries have jumped on the train more wholeheartedly and basically slap me in the face.  Merriam-Webster’s says, “Any handbook that tells you that nauseous cannot mean ‘nauseated’ is out of touch with the contemporary language. In current usage it seldom means anything else.”

Oh yeah, Merriam-Webster’s?! I’m out of touch with contemporary language? Well, try this list on for size: texting, kool, pwned, and, um, Tosh.0!

I rest my case.


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5 Responses to “You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.”

  1. rachel November 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    HA! I love this post. One could say that Kim Kardashian’s marriage lacked intensive purpose.They were literally married for 72 days. Which is nauseous.

  2. Anselm of Canterbury November 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    You may appreciate this: http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/

    Also, I disagree about “I could care less.” When I say “I could care less”, I am saying that I actually could care less, but that would be too much work and effort. I care about it so little that I don’t want to put any effort into it to care about it less.

  3. Gonzo November 7, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    Speaking as someone who has campaigned for decades to make “bake” an irregular verb, I must use this opportunity to quickly point out once again that “I have boken a cake” suggests a much better cake than the so-called correct version; it implies artisanal dedication and care and not just the pushing of buttons and slamming shut of the oven door.

    • rianeisgrammarsaurusrex November 7, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      I understand. I almost have a seizure every time I have to use the past perfect of “swam.” Swum is correct, sure, but I just can’t take myself seriously saying it.

  4. Anjali Alm-Basu November 8, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/seven-bar-jokes-involving-grammar-and-punctuation

    You might find these amusing, if you haven’t seen them.

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