Reaching Out


Good morning Everyone!l

I love the English language.  I love its richness and sonorousness.

I love the nuances present in different words with similar meanings such as the words “create” and “engender.”  I create a painting; I don’t engender it.  On the other hand, a hospital staff’s decision to make customer service a top priority can engender a sense of hope and pride in the surrounding medical community rather than create that sense.  “Engender” implies more of an outgrowing and flowering  than does the word “creation,” at least to my untutored etymological ear.

I also love the sheer number of words in our language.  After all, how many other languages have a name for that spot on your back that is unreachable when it itches?  For those of you wondering, the word is “acnestis.”  (Yes, I am nerd enough to subscribe to the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day..)

English’s flexibility is also an advantage.   If our language didn’t change, we wouldn’t have been able to invent words for new inventions and actions such as television, planes, internet, googling, cable, e-mailing and scanning.

There are times, however, when American English’s penchant for changeability gives rise to meanings that are more annoying than helpful.  “Actually” is a good example of such a word, as I’ve mentioned before.

The latest annoying phrase I’ve encountered is “reaching out.”  This phrase has been adopted en masse by sales people under the age of 40 in the electronics business.  They primarily use the phrase in e-mails.  Lots of people “reach out” to me in e-mails asking me to buy computer equipment, electronic research and other such services.  Every time I read the phrase, my stomach squirms as I envision a horde of people extending their hands begging me to rescue them from a ship wreck or prison, which doesn’t increase the writer’s chance of getting a response.

Of course, I could just be evolving into a language curmudgeon as I age.  Help me out here by letting my know if you have any pet peeves regarding the English language to assure me that I’m not alone.  I’d love to hear about them!

Have a great day!

Nancy

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5 responses to “Reaching Out

  1. I had to look up several words you used in your blog which reminded me how little of the english language I use on a daily basis. I would love to introduce a new word a day somewhow…

    • The Oxford English Dictionary is the largest, most complete, most thorough dictionary in the world. It’s online site is http://www.oed.com. On the left side of the page, there is a place where the word of the day is listed. Immediately below that is a small line which contains a link that lets you subscribe to the OED word of the day e-mail free. I have enjoyed reading about the words they send out. Some are useful, some are archaic, but they’re all interesting – the OED not only gives all of the meanings an English word has over time, it also gives you a full history of where the word came from, and examples of where the word was used. The examples let you know what year they were written. It’s a fund e-mail to get!

  2. I was a teenager in the 90s. Which meant, as a girl, I sounded a lot like a valley girl in my flannel shirts and torn jeans. And the word, “like,” was peppered in every.single.spoken.sentence.

    I have found that these overused and misused words and phrases are best addressed by the immortal Inigo Montoya of The Princess Bride (in response, for those who have never seen the film to Vezzini’s repeated proclamations of “Inconceivable!”),

    “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    • I was a teenager in the early 80’s, but the only valley girl reference I can remember using at any time was a hybrid – Valley combined with redneck – “Gag me with a flatbed Ford!” One of these days I will have to break down and watch or read the Princess Bride; I’ve heard a lot of things about it.

      • In the 90s the movie Clueless came out which was an updated version of Jane Austen’s Emma starring Alicia Silverstone. Silverstone’s character, Cher, had the slightly updated Valley Girl speech pattern which included phrases like, “as if?!” and the frequent unnecessary use of the word, “like.” Here is an original sentence to illustrate, “I was, like, going to the beach, and, like, I saw my high school principal on the way there. And he was all like, ‘Do I know you?’ And I was all like, ‘What-ev-errrrr”

        Yes, a lot of girls my age talked like this at the time. Clueless was actually making fun of those speech patterns by having Cher and her friends overruse them.

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