Mr. Eure | Brewster High School
May 14, 2013Posted by on
In the previous post, I asked you to reply in the comments with your favorite words and phrases. This post will be a bit more negative, because we are considering the language that we hate—examples of logomisia, if you will. Like linguaphilia, logomisia is created from two roots: logos, Greek for “word,” and misia, Greek for “hatred” or “disgust for.” After reading Orwell, Nunberg, and Wallace, you should have a sense of the way language mutates, shifts, and sometimes declines; now it’s your turn to chime in, although the chime might be more of a clarion (or perhaps the bell that this guy is ringing). After the jump, a few ways to situate yourself before replying.
You might begin with the January 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, for which Christopher Hitchens took arms against the placeholder “like”; the comments are interesting, as they are more refined than the usual YouTube detritus. (That last link, by the way, has something to do with our purpose here: Agger classifies and divides YouTube commentary, with hilarious and disturbing results.) As you might expect, however, not all diatribes are as measured as those in Vanity Fair. Most anger is expressed in the kinds of profanity I could not casually link my students to, even if we are studying language. I will invite you to seek out those dark corners of the Internet on your own time, with all due precautions. In the rest of this post, I’ll offer you more innocuous waters to travel as you search for the language you love to hate.
Start with this post at Books Blog, a subsection of The Guardian, a British newspaper. The way Philip Wells tears into pulchritude is inspiring invective, indeed (my favorite phrase is “stuffed to the brim with a brutally latinate cudgel of barbaric consonants”), but you’ll gain a lot from the whole article—and even some of the comments that follow.
If poetry isn’t where you wish to fight this battle, you might turn to the Internet, the electronic whipping boy for most contemporary grammatical laments. This post on arstechnica.com attacks some of the neologisms from 2007; this NPR story from 2006 tracks the spread of IM slang into everyday English; and this 2007 article in The Wall Street Journal explores the LOLcats meme, including its idiosyncratic butchering of the English language.
Politics offers another source of irritation for linguistics. The junior Bush might have a reputation for misspeaking (and with very, very good reason), but he is certainly not alone. During the presidential campaigns in 2008, The Washington Post ran this story on John McCain’s “rhetorical tic”; not to play favorites, I might also point you toward this Huffington Post dissection of Obama’s rhetorical crutches.
Now it’s your turn. What words or phrases can’t you stand? As I did before, I’ll offer a list of the links embedded in the preceding paragraphs. Don’t forget to revisit our main authors—Orwell, Nunberg, and Wallace—as well as the previous post’s other texts, many of which offer measured ambivalence about the state of contemporary English.
- Christopher Hitchens, “The Other L-Word” (2010)
- Michael Agger, “Laughing Baby vs. the YouTube Commenters” (2008)
- Michelle Pauli, “Which Words Make You Wince?” (2009)
- Nate Anderson, “The Ten Most Hated Words on the Internet” (2007)
- Neda Ulaby, “OMG: IM Slang Is Invading Everyday English” (2006)
- Aaron Rutkoff, “With ‘LOLcats’ Internet Fad, Anyone Can Get In on the Joke” (2007)
- Libby Copeland, “A Multitude of ‘My Friends'” (2008)
- Ben Feller, “Obama’s Favorite Phrases” (2009)
Let the language-bashing begin!