Used properly, the English language is one of nuance and precision. Used as many of the great unwashed do….it’s a wonder that even the pizza order is correct.
I have quoted Mark Twain’s admonition that “There’s a mighty difference between lightning, and a lightning bug.”
I recently stumbled across a blog post about euphemisms;
Euphemisms are generally used to change something icky into something more palatable. As George Carlin said, “Sometime in my life—no one asked me about this—toilet paper became bathroom tissue. The dump became the landfill. And partly cloudy became partly sunny.”
I heard Carlin’s debut album, shortly after it came out. It was funny. His later work – not so much. It’s difficult to be funny for 40 years. He began to make fun of the English language. I didn’t find it terribly funny, because it was neither complete nor correct.
None of the above are euphemisms. Early toilet paper was paper….like pages from a Sears catalog. It beat using a corn cob. Soon, it was transformed into soft, absorbent tissue, used all through the bathroom, for applying skin cream, removing makeup, blotting lipstick, (a single square is faster and cheaper than an entire Kleenex) blowing your nose, or as emergency feminine hygiene material. It is no longer paper, used only on the toilet.
We used to just dump and abandon garbage – hence, DUMP. Nowadays, waste is shredded, some is incinerated, compost starter and soil is added and mixed, and the lot is bulldozed and landscaped into a re-usable landfill.
Media weather language is precise. There are seven words to describe skies – from overcast, to cloudy, to partly sunny, to scattered (clouds), to partly cloudy, to sunny, to clear. Partly sunny is 10% open sky. Partly cloudy is 10% cloud. They are not even vaguely the same. One did not turn into the other, no matter what George falsely claims.
George lost me as a customer when he claimed that there were 3 words – flammable, inflammable, and non-flammable. “Why 3?? Either it flams, or it doesn’t flam.” Just a minute George, flammable means that something will burn. Inflammable means that it will immediately, vigorously burst into flame. A block of wood is flammable. An open pail of gasoline is inflammable, so, there are 4 words, flammable – non-flammable, inflammable – non-inflammable. If you’re going to bitch about something, even for comedy, it really helps your credibility if you know what you’re talking about.
I was in a medical center the other day, where an information station was set up under an umbrella. Emblazoned on the umbrella were the words SERVICE AMBASSADOR. I find nothing distasteful about the word INFORMATION, but I am entertained by the thought of a group meeting to find a supposedly better (and definitely more pompous) description of the services offered under that umbrella. SERVICE AMBASSADOR: Do you suppose the, ahem, ambassadors who staff that desk need congressional confirmation?
Like ‘toilet paper’, above, ‘Information desks’ have developed to provide far more services than mere information. Every English-speaking country in the world has Ambassadors. I can only hope that it was a vain attempt at humor, and not narrow-minded American provincialism that she felt any of them require U S Congressional confirmation.
Loblaw’s food chain came forward, and admitted to price-fixing on bread. A letter to a newspaper complained that their fraud conviction was ironic. 1 – By voluntarily admitting wrong-doing, they received immunity from prosecution – so, no conviction. 2 – The bread was exactly as advertised, just too expensive. What they did, was price-fixing, not fraud. 3 – What is ironic, is that the guy who complained, hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about.
Come on people, Stop, Think, Understand! English is a beautiful, accurate, expressive language. Please learn to use it correctly. That’s what I ask for. What I’ll probably get….is that guy’s Hawaiian pizza. 😯