Curmudgeon: a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man. I just looked it up. As usual, I had it sort of wrong. I thought it was someone specifically crusty about the use of language, because that’s what my dad was, and God knows he was a curmudgeon. But you can be curmudgeonly about almost anything: the crust is the point.
Dad could also be a curmudgeon about politics, of course. But all that eloquent grumbling of his went straight toward the TV set, so we didn’t have to feel personally under attack. We weren’t personally under attack. Dad got pretty heated up when the Vietnam War was ramping up, or when Nixon had anything to say about anything. Lordy. He’d roll off a perfectly structured and lyrical lecture right on the spot with no edits needed, as if his words had slid in a slab straight off Mt. Sinai. I miss the old grump but I’m grateful he isn’t alive today or he would have burst into flame.
All us kids were pretty good in the language department because both our parents spoke well, and when we erred, we were corrected. Drilled, in the case of the correct usage of “comprise,” but that’s because that one is particularly easy to mess up. My father was never so rude as to correct anyone’s language in public but we’d hear about it in the car afterwards. He simply had to unload. “It’s FORmidable, not forMIDable,” he’d thunder. “It’s fawken, not fal-con.” “This is what you get,” he’d grouse, “when people only read, and are unfamiliar with the spoken language.” I’m not sure the fact that people read should be a strike against them, but whatever.
Anyway, I’m not nearly as riled up about other people’s misuse of the language as he was, but some of his crotchets remain with me, unbidden, like those little splinters in your underpants you can feel but can’t find or tweeze out. Something you should be able to ignore but can’t quite. I’m no curmudgeon, though. Which is to say, I judge silently. In fact I have never been an irritable person. True, for a long time there I noticed other people became very irritating for a few days out of the month, but that was hardly my fault.
Well, some are born curmudgeonly, and some have curmudgeonliness thrust upon them. So I still wince inwardly whenever someone says something that would have bothered Dad, even though I might otherwise have ignored it. Blanche, an erudite woman of my acquaintance, was infuriated by the word “crispy,” which baffled me. “Crispy. It’s, you know, like when something is especially crunchy and delicious,” I offered.
“The word is ‘crisp,’” she snapped off, crisply. Oh. By gum. She’s right. Now I can’t hear the word “crispy” without taking on some of Blanche’s pique. Damn. Another splinter in my underpants.
It’s taken me a while to get my own personal portfolio of peeves. I’m old-fashioned. I still have conversations about things, not around them. I still wait for people, not on them. (Not after the Friendly’s Ice Cream fiasco of 1972.) I still give people things, I don’t gift them things. The other day the Washington Post had a headline “Gifting a Gamer? Consider these tips,” by which they presumably were saying “Are you planning to give something to a gamer?” and not “Are you planning to give a gamer to someone else?” Although, who can tell anymore? We’re living in a time when basketball players are said to defend their opponents. Okay.
All of these are lost causes. They’re just the burlap underpants of life, and with the laundering of time, they might smooth out eventually. I figured I was finally maturing and not sweating the small stuff. Until this stupid casino opened up to the north. Big fancy place, I guess, and they wanted it to sound exotic and sexy, so they made up a name: Ā-lan-ā, they call it. Come play at Ālanā.
They spell it Ilani. Oh no you the hell don’t. You don’t get to do that. You can’t name your casino Ilani and pronounce it Ālanā.
Now where the hell are my tweezers?
I have never heard Fawken instead of Falcon, so that’s how I pronounce it and so does everyone I know. Where does Fawken come from? Old English?
I didn’t know Crispy was wrong either. I do read more than I talk, so can I be forgiven?
Absolutely. Not my peeves. I’m sure it was supposed to be fawken, because my father would’ve known Old English, having been alive then. Oh, and also, it’s “forrid,” not “forehead.” He’s been dead for over forty years–we can breathe easy now.
Like River I say Falcon – is Fawken an Americanism? Crispy? Not a word I often hear. Or one I use.
Really? Everyone says crispy now (referring to food). It probably started with an advertisement somewhere.
How about “ON accident” instead of “BY accident”? Makes me crazy…
Ah, another of the preposition ones! I haven’t heard that one much.
I have never heard it pronounced “fawken.” I checked my online dictionary, and it had two pronunciations, but they both include sounding the “L”. One is “folken”, the other is “falken.”
I tend to read more than I converse in person, so sometimes I have to look up the pronunciation of a word. The most recent one I looked up was “goshawk” (pronounced “goss hawk.” Also, if you ask Google how something is pronounced, you can click on a person actually pronouncing the word, which I find helpful.
I’m just quoting Dad. I make no claims. Folken? Huh. I have caught that Google person pronouncing things wrong once or twice but I use it too.
Oh – my mother also despised “crispy,” and passed that distaste down to me. She also helped show me a great example of language evolution (devolution?): She was brought up to say that someone “was graduated from college.” I grew up with “graduated from,” without the “was,” and now one commonly hears simply, “graduated college.” That grates on my ears as my usage did on my mother’s. (And she didn’t like the word “mom,” either.”
Heck, I’m primitive enough I still maintain the distinction between “lie” and “lay” — and know how to use them both.
And don’t get me started on, “Dave went with Mary and I.” AAAAAARGH!
Oh, and don’t get me started on “squash” and “quash.” There have been many times in our local newspaper when they substituted the former when the latter was appropriate. Apparently they cannot afford proofreaders.
My sister hates “graduated college.” I no longer have any idea what’s right, and I’ve looked it up.
and then there is “unpack”…… as let me unpack that for you,,,,, or as until recently ” “explain that”
You usually hear “unpack” from the journalists and talking heads. I don’t know if it ever comes up with normal people.
Um… I only have heard it in the context of unpacking luggage. I take it that it has some other meaning now?
Yes. It’s almost always used in the phrase “unpacking a story.”
It has been decades but I’m still reeling from the singer “Sade” convincing everyone that it is pronounced “Shar-Day”. And “graduating college” just plain makes me grind my teeth…
Then there was the day I learned to pronunce “Duquesne”….
Sade probably pronounces it right but spells it wrong.
I have often found myself saying something to the effect of “This is what you get when people only converse, and are unfamiliar with the written language.” When I still had a FaceBook account I would often title one of my posts “CURMUDGEON’S CORNER”. One of my wife’s oldest friends has a thing about “hopefully.” I am repeatedly driven nuts (“Short drive!” my wife would say) about talking heads using “beg the question” to mean something it does not, and by those same paid loquacious crania using “reticent” when they mean “reluctant.” Yesterday I heard someone on TV mix, or perhaps scramble metaphors by saying “begged off the question.” My youngest, who is at least as intelligent and literate as I am, and probably rather more so, has often taken the other side of a “prescriptive vs. descriptive” argument with me. He was on the debating team at Cal, so my chances in such a confrontation are slim, but that does ensure (insure? assure? — help me out here, people!) that misuse of “beg the question” will bug him too. My aunt hated loose usage of “incredible,” which did not bother me much until my wife said it for the (approximately) two-thousandth time. I am guessing that “on accident” comes from African American Vernacular English, since my kids started using it while going to a daycare run by a black woman nearly 40 years ago, but they may have learned it from other kids there. That brings us to the necessarily superior linguistic skills of black folks, as to get along in all the circles they might travel in, they need to be fluent in at least three dialects and be able to code switch at the drop of a hat: Standard English, Black Standard English, and AAVE.
Feel free to reconvene the Curmudgeon’s Corner here, my friend. Well, I probably just used reconvene wrong.
Looks right to me.
When, according to TV news, did people “go missing”? I thought they were just “missing”. Like “John Doe went missing from his office,,,” i think it should read “John Doe is missing. He was last seen in his office.”
Oh well, I’m sure he was eating crispy crackers and watching a FALcon!.
Huh! I always kind of liked “go missing.” Kind of a fun idiom. And “near miss.”
I think “go missing” is British.
And I love it when something is “found missing.”
I don’t understand. If it’s “found,” how can it be “missing?”
You might enjoy a local writer of ours here in Delaware. Bob Yearick has written a book and has a monthly column in a local magazine entitled “The War on Words.” https://outandaboutnow.com/2021/11/29/the-war-on-words-december-2021/ I have often submitted stuff for his column, my last one being a particular pet peeve of mine: squash and quash.
I just read his column for the first time — I love it! Thank you.
The dog once “turned up missing.”
I REALLY love “turned up missing.”
Mom hated ‘impacted’ to mean ‘had an inpact’, and if you said drapes referring to drapery she would wet herself laughing. ‘Drapes are under a cow!’
I wither with embarrassment over my language use faux pas because of all the corrections I sustained. Mom was a stickler. I can’t say it helped me much.
But I am carrying the ‘bursting into flame’ for you father.
And you didn’t say flang.
Not this time. I did not know that about drapes! [looking it up]
I didn’t know that about cows either. That could get confusing should you decide to order “cow curtains” (q.v.) online. I have been unable to find any use of the word “drapes” online in relation to cows. I did find, in the Yorkshire Historical Dictionary, “drape: Found usually in farming contexts, this was a word for a cow or sheep taken out of the herd or flock to be fatted for slaughter.” (Don’t look up “beef curtains.”) Anyway, I guess I’m going to need it explained. Leslie?
Mom could have been wrong. But I know she always corrected me if I used the word drapes to refer to curtain material. I never researched it. I was too ‘cowed’ by her reprimand.
A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: “Has a cow Buddha-nature or not?”
Okay, guys? Guys? Now that I think of it, Dad was probably making a distinction between Fal-con and Fall-con and to me Fall-con sounded like Fawken. We will never know, because the cruelest thing I can imagine is to bring that fine man back into this sorry world.
Jumping in to agree with your take on the pronunciation of Ilani!! Annoys me Every. Single. Time. I hear it mentioned. At first I wracked my brain trying to think of any language that pronounced an I with an A sound. No luck. Then considered it was perhaps an Indigenous American word throttled in translation. No feedback on that one either. Now I’m just running with the theory that they don’t want people like us there. I can live with that.
Exactly What. You. Said.
Thank God I found you again! I’ve been following your posts for years, then inexplicably you disappeared from my email for two weeks. What happened? Had I somehow angered the cyber gods? What a relief to find you had a new platform! And, I can actually post a comment!
As you did! Good for you! Us!
Lost you for two weeks as well. Missed you. Had to go looking for you and thank heavens you are still here.
I found these:
‘In summer 2016, the Cowlitz Tribe announced the name of the project—ilani—meaning “to sing” in their native language. Subsequently, after 160 years, the federal government confirmed the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s right to their reservation, allowing them to move forward with construction.’
‘The word Ilani (pronounced ay-lon-ay) means “sing” in the Cowlitz language. The tribe hopes that guests “will find their ‘inner ilani'” when they visit, Cowlitz spiritual leader Tanna Engdahl said when the name was announced last year.’
Do not make me not hate this. Do not.
I thought you already hated it! My mistake.
You guys aren’t doing this complaint justice. Nobody even mentioned, “awesome,” for things hardly so.
I think I do some version of this once every other year or so. Over time we’ve collected PLENTY of crotchets!
My absolute pet peeve, other than not using your blinker. I guess ‘awe inspiring’ is too exhausting to say.
Young people, particularly waiters, will often say “Awesome!” after I give them my order. I often feel like making a sarcastic reply, such as “No. It isn’t. I’ve had it before. It is merely good.” However, I doubt that they would get it. And also, you don’t want to piss off anyone who has access to your food and bodily fluids.
They don’t say that anymore. They say “perfect.” Now everybody be nice. They’re just idioms.
YES!!! That has been the splinter in my shorts for years!
Hello, Murr. I’ve been lurking for years and thoroughly enjoy your posts. I’m spurred to come out of my hidey-hole to tell you that “faw’lcon” is the Received British-English pronunciation, according to my 1982 edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. It also gives “fo’lcon” (short o) as an alternative. However, I usually hear it said as fa’lcon (short a) where I live. Maybe your Dad was using the British-English pronunciation and under-emphasised the l-sound so that you didn’t hear it. It’s harder to say it from “faw” because of the shape formed by your mouth.
I believe you are precisely right. I heard “fawken” but he was saying “fall-con.” Thanks for the lesson! I pronounce it wrong, like everyone else!
Like other bookish sorts (I imagine) I sometimes wonder how long is the list of words I have said only in my head, never out loud. And what do they sound like in other people’s heads?
I had a well-educated colleague who pronounced “expertise” “expertee”. I did not correct him, and after 5 years or so he finally self-corrected on that one.
For some reason this reminds me that Dave likes to refer to each of the vertical boards in a fence as a “fent.”
That makes absolute and perfect sense. One board would be a fent, and an alignment of them would be “a set of fents”, or “fence” for short.
The use of “beg the question” to replace “raise the question” always results in an audible “no it doesn’t” from me (even when reading your blog, Murr). Talk about conversing ‘around’ a subject!
“Decimate” is another word being used to mean “destroy”, when in fact it means to reduce by only 10%. I could go on (as I’m sure all your readers and commenters could!) I recently made a quilt from several of my old T-shirts, and in the empty space of my ‘Grammarian’ square I quilted all the words, phrases, and misused expressions that get me riled every time I hear or read them. That’s a tightly-quilted square, that one!
My biggest pet peeve is those in the public eye using the word “kids” as a substitute for “children.” In parochial school the nuns were adamant that “Kids were baby goats!”
Ah! You were terrorized by nuns!
Who the hell WASN’T, who went to Catholic school?! Those bitches were scary back in those days! And because I am a Questioner, and they couldn’t answer my questions to my satisfaction, undoubtedly contributory to my atheism.
Well, it’s not grammar, but when did the standard (at least to me) expression “in the world,” as in, “the biggest ball of yarn in the world,” become, UNIVERSALLY in print and in narrations, “on the planet”?
And to add to Carol’s remark about “kids” replacing “children,” there’s also the replacement of “people” with “folks” – at least by politicians and other public speakers.
Oh! What REALLY burns my bra is that “citizens” (a word you never hear anymore) are now referred to as “consumers.” You know what else consumes? Cancer. ….So maybe it’s apt after all…..
If not “folkx.”
My peeve is the use of “anxious” when the meaning is “eager.” Kim in PA
Then there’s the British colloquialism “brilliant” or, for short, “brill,” not meaning merely “very good.”
Strike “not.” How does one edit one’s comment here?
There’s a little “edit” thingy there right next to “reply” but I haven’t tested it out yet. You first.
Murr! I just heard my number one pet peeve on the radio. It’s not a grammatical error or a pronunciation error. It is the way young women these days — this woman was talking about the lack of fire fighters in California — do an upward inflection at the end of statement sentences. It’s not a QUESTION, ladies! It makes you sound diffident? And somewhat stupid? Like you’re not sure of what you’re talking about? Yeah, like that! And don’t even get me started on the vocal fry! You are NOT Brittany Spears. Thank goodness there is only one of them.
Somebody (can’t recall who it was) did a piece (which may have been on the radio) several years ago defending “uptalk” as a feminist virtue. Really. According to her, everyone objecting to it was engaging in a display of misogyny! This is one of those flags marking an increase in the rapidity of the decline of civilization. Perhaps Weird Al summed it up best with his Devo parody title “Dare to be Stupid!”
Oh, FFS! Feminist virtue? Well, I’m a misogynist, I guess, because I think it makes them sound more like someone who can easily be cowed (see what I did there? I worked in “cow”.) rather than a “feminist.”
I have to look up that parody on YouTube. I used to listen to Devo, and I love Weird Al’s stuff.
My reaction is similar. I’d say it sounds as if the speaker is doubting that she has permission to express an idea, or even to have one.
I don’t like the questioning intonation (which is at least 30 years old by now) and I hate vocal fry even more, but it’s natural as pie to echo your peers, even inadvertently, and the internet makes it a wildfire situation. Might as well roll with it. Except the vocal fry. The heck with that.