Three of the words we use that say nothing. In general conversation, “like” is like the most used word in contemporary talk. And it makes no sense. Like means similar. So if you say “I ‘like’ walked to work,” it’s incorrect. Either you walked or you didn’t. You didn’t ‘like’ walk. Does that mean you skipped or ran? Inconclusive. So you’re not really saying what you mean. The same with kinda. It’s inconclusive. I don’t know what you mean when you say “I kinda drove to work.” Did you drive? Or did you not drive?
We are screwing up our language. We don’t say what we mean. We say what we don’t mean. It’s as irritating as can be.
A radio or TV reporter does not use this kind of language except when they’re not reading. If it’s written, they read it correctly. But let them ad lib and out comes the “like,” and “kinda.”
So now we have two languages. The written one they’re reading to us and the unwritten one they’re spouting casually. The two should be the same. We should write like we speak, informally. We should speak like we write. “Like” has become a meaningless verbal hiccup in our speech.
It could be said that younger people are more immune to good expression. But listen carefully. Even grandmas use “like” and “kinda” all over the place. And throw in “goes.” She “said.” She didn’t “go”. Go means to move yourself from one place to another, not speak. “So he goes ‘I thought your birthday was tomorrow,’ and I’m – like – Well, dah!” It is a childish phrase that has leaked into educated adults. I would hope the English teacher would correct the student who says: “So, then, Juliet goes ‘A rose by any other name….”
And “you know” is a bad habit too. You tell me something and throw in a few “you knows.” If that’s the case (that I know), why are you telling me? I already know. One person recently said to me, “You know” after every third word in a sentence. I knew none of it.
A few other words are overused too. Let me suggest “awesome,” “basically,” and “totally.” When someone says their burger was awesome, I cringe. It’s a burger and tastes just like every other burger. It is not awesome. It might be if it were twice as large as normal or had a new, exciting sauce on it. But a normal burger? Not awesome. Awesome is an extreme word. It has to do with ‘awe’ which means you are held in awe of something or someone. Surely this does not happen with a burger very often.
Close on the heels of extra words is “basically.” Saying “it is basically a car.” Well, is it an SUV, a truck, a cycle? Or is it a car? Basically is not necessary. The same with “totally.”
And one more: Love. The sources I checked don’t uphold this, but my father always said you cannot love anything that cannot love you back. Now he was a coach, not a grammarian or English teacher but he was pretty adamant about it. He corrected us when we said we loved school, or loved going to the grocery store, or loved the new bike. You can only love a person who is capable of returning the love. Thanks Dad.
Radio and TV people also say “back in.” Back in 1968. We know its back. We know this is 2017 and that 1968 is back in time. It goes without saying. Many also say (in casual conversation…they’d never write it this way) “back in the day.” When was that?
Some other extraneous phrases: “going forward.” It just so happens we can’t go backward with anything. So it’s needless to say “going forward.” It ruins word economy and understanding.
“Whatever.” That leaves me hanging. “She made the recipe and added ‘whatever.’” Good lord, what was the result? Adding “whatever” leaves the door open for loads of bad things in that mixture.
“Once again.” It should be used only when necessary. It’s hardly ever necessary. Terribly overused.
“You guys.” “Hi, you guys.” And the group you’re addressing is half women. The women may be used to it but it seems wrong to address a gal as a guy. Using the plural “you” does the same job without offending anyone who might not think they’re a ‘guy.’ It just sounds crude.
At some point, people might stop saying “press conference”. I’ve told many a news source I won’t attend their event if only the “press” is invited. It should be a “news conference.” The event doesn’t make any press but it may make news. Inviting the “press” is frankly insulting. But I’m sure this one won’t change for a long time. A press is a machine. So stop it!
One more really bad one: “This is the most unique piece of furniture.” Bad. Unique means one of a kind. Only one of a kind. Since there’s only one of these unique things, none can be more unique and surely not most unique. There are no levels of unique. It either is unique or it isn’t.
And, finally, if you hire a new weather-person or a new announcer who deals with the weather, take them outside the station door. Ask them to look up and tell you how many skies they see. Assuming they have more than half a brain, they’ll say “one.” So partly cloudy skies don’t exist. Nor do sunny skies. It’s all one sky.
Teachers and professors, most of them, taught us word economy and the correct way to write and speak. And some claim it is our responsibility to provide an example to listeners-viewers and maybe that’ll clean-up the mess. It seems we have a responsibility to do that.