Monday, November 10, 2008


Researchers from Oxford University recently compiled a list of the top 10 most annoying phrases in the English language (as an aside, it always cracks me up that there are people getting paid to do things like seems like something they should be doing in their nerdy spare time). Included were some that I very much agree with: "24/7", "I personally", "shouldn't of". They also mention, although it doesn't make the list, the common misuse of "literally" (when either "figuratively" or simple emphasis is meant) and "ironically" (when "coincidentally" is meant). To me, these ought to be #1 and #2. *shudder*

But there were also some head scratchers. I mean, come on Oxford researchers, whats wrong with the word "absolutely"? What did it ever do to you? Its just a word, and is neither overused (I think) nor used incorrectly. They also list "fairly unique" among the most annoying, I assume because they argue that "unique" is inherently superlative and cannot be modified. Well, I don't know what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about this, because the idea of paying to subscribe to an online dictionary makes me laugh, but good ol American lists "not typical; unusual" as the fifth definition. "Fairly unique" is a perfectly acceptable usage as far as I'm concerned.

But the most inexcusable omition? "An historic," the single worst linguistic crime ever commited by the British. Hey Oxford- just because there are still some areas in Britain droppping Hs like Eliza Doolittle doesn't mean you shouldn't acknowledge the incorrect usage. Though, if this year's election cycle is any judge, its been pretty thoroughly exported to English-speaking poseurs everywhere (no, not posers- this requires a more evocative word). The amount of "an historic moment"s and "an historic candidate"s flying around in 08 made my brain liquify. Linguistically speaking, the blame really ought to be laid on French shoulders, since its their unsounded H that originally infected English, but come now- that was centuries ago. Other words have received their H-sound and accompanying indefinite article "a", and according to Google full 68% of webpages are using "a historic." So poseurs and cockney-types, its time to let "an historic" go.

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