or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I Try To Be Understanding

...but it isn't working. Here are some recent hearings that are going to drive me into an early grave.

It's not that big of a deal. I can see where this came from; "big of" has a structural parallel to "much of". The trouble is that "much" has long taken the preposition "of", whereas "big" never has, and "big of" is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I grit my teeth whenever I hear it. "Of" is showing up with other adjectives indicating size or extremity, too: "How long of a trip will it be?" "It wasn't that high of a building." "She always gives him too hard of a time." And soon my poor teeth will be worn down to stubs.

Tad bit. This almost certainly arose to parallel "little bit" or even "wee bit", but of course "tad" is a noun meaning "bit", not an adjective. "Bit bit". It sounds stupid, and I would like everyone on Earth to stop using it immediately. Thank you.

Kih-LOM-uh-ter. I can't help it. I scream inside whenever I hear this. Popular usage and even a bit of history have made this a common pronunciation, but the alternative, and in my opinion correct, pronunciation, "KILL-uh-mee-ter", is superior for one simple reason: we have two classes of words ending in "meter" or "metre", and it would be a simple matter to pronounce them uniformly. Measuring devices all end in "-OM-uh-ter": barometer, thermometer, sphygmomanometer. Measures of distance all end in "-MEE-ter": centimetre, decimetre, kilometre. See how easy that is? (I know that my hated pronunciation of "kilometer" once had a matching and now blessedly obsolete pronunciation for "centimetre", "sen-TIM-uh-ter". I'd just as soon forget about that, thanks. Besides, the existing pronunciation scheme is beautiful and logical; I can't see why it isn't used more.)

Eck cetera. Jesus Murphy. This is what happens when people approximate things they've heard without ever having seen them in print, which is what happens when people don't read. "Et cetera" is not only correct, it's physically easier to pronounce.

I'm not single-mindedly stringent. I don't care whether people pronounce "dour" to rhyme with "tour" (the historical and arguably correct pronunciation) or "sour" (increasingly common). I don't even wince any more when people say "irregardless", because even though it's illogical, its meaning is clear--it means "regardless". But some things are beyond the pale, and those four usages above (and many more besides!) I will never, ever countenance. As far as I know, anyway; check back in twenty years.


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