Other Matters: Language, Ya Know? (From The Archives)

We in the Rifftides Department Of Language Reform realize that it has been only a year since this item ran. But it failed to change peoples’ lousy usage habits, so here it is again. This time, please pay attention.

The Rifftides Department Of Language Reform (DOLR) has been neglecting its duties. Its members claim that their failure to stop the misuse of “absolutely” and “no problem” discouraged them. At a staff meeting on the subject, the DOLRers moaned that they despair of succeeding where Fowler, Strunk, White, Bernstein, Ciardi and other titans of proper English usage have failed. They pointed out that people still say, “ya know” every few seconds; still say and write, “they” when they should use, “he” or “she;” millions still bloat their sentences with “on a daily basis” and “on a national basis,” wasting words when they could streamline with, “daily” and “nationally.”
“Never give up,” I told them. “It’s God’s—or Webster’s—work.”
“Maybe we’re being too fussy, too pedantic,” they said. “Maybe the language is just taking its evolutionary course, and what sounds wrong today will be right tomorrow.”
“Shut up and watch this,” I explained.

To learn more about the poet Taylor Mali, go here. Thanks to Bobby Shew for calling this delightful wig bubble to our attention.

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  1. mike harris says

    Amen to that—the “Ya know” thing, in particular, like a pathetic badge of tribal membership, is nauseatingly prevalent.