Extraneous words, north and south.

In the South, the extraneous “at”.

I love regional variations in language. Being from Virginia, I’m most familiar with the alternate uses and abuses of language in the south. I use quite a few of them.

There is one, however, that I simply can’t wrap my mind around. (“Around where I can’t wrap my mind,” for the Grammar Police.)

When someone wants to know where you are located, they don’t ask, “Where are you?” They ask:

Where are you at?

 

“Where are you at?

At?  Huh? “Where are you?” isn’t sufficient?


In the north, the extraneous use of two “ones.”

I thought the addition of extraneous words to common phrases was a southern phenomenon until I visited a friend in Mississauga, Ontario.

Marian was very well-spoken, and unlike me, pronounced the consonants at the end of words. Never in my life did I expect her to utter anything less than standard English. I was shocked into silence when, while shopping, she asked:

These ones or those ones?

 

“Which do you like better? These ones or those ones?”

My jaw dropped. I made a fish face. Ones?  Two of them?  Surely this wasn’t the person that I knew saying that.

I have since heard people from upstate New York use the same expression.  I would understand, “These or those?” or “These [insert plural noun of your choice] or those [plural noun]?” But both? Huh-uh.


Why do people add words to a sentence when they aren’t necessary??

Alien Identification Methodology
Word overgrowth defense or alien identification methodology?

I have two theories.

This one: In the south there are too many unused “ats” (and in the north, too many “ones”) wandering around. They have to be used up lest we be overcome by them.

That one: Regional misuses help the natives identify the interlopers.


I have to admit that though I claim a southern heritage, I do not, nor have I ever, asked anyone where they are at.

But one day I saw a sign in Target that displayed two styles or sandals. No one was more surprised that I when I spied the sandals on the rack and blurted,

“Look! They have these ones and those ones!”

Egad.

Don’t waste perfect good words. Use the opposites of words without opposites.

I noticed them before I knew what they were called – “unpaired words”, or words without opposites. In most cases, these words do have opposites; it’s just that those opposites aren’t considered “real” words.

Since language is used, mangled, and made up on a regular basis, I’m taking the stance that since these words do have opposites, I’m going to use them whether other people think they are words or not.

The opposite of disgruntled MUST be gruntled.I’ve been disgruntled – fed up, angry, and resentful. When I get over it, I’m gruntled.

I can be profoundly inert – lethargic and inactive. When I get all rested and become active, I’m ert.

When I wake up in the morning, I look pretty unkempt. After I take a shower, fix my hair, and put on clean clothes, I’d say I was kempt.

I know people who are feckless – good for nothing, irresponsible. If they change their ways, develop initiative, and become responsible, then I would describe them as feckful.

If a person is rude, crude, and socially unacceptable – uncouth – then a person who is polite and behaves in a socially acceptable way is couth.

Take a stand.

Join me in preventing the neglect of these perfectly good words!

No trifling with trifle.

English trifle dessert
English trifle.

Let’s consider the word trifle.

As a noun it can be either “an English dessert made of layers of custard, fruit, and sponge cake” [1] or “a thing of little value or importance.” [2]

As a verb, trifle means, “treat (someone or something) without seriousness or respect.” [2]

Now I don’t know about you, but dessert is pretty darn important to me, so I will leave you with this admonishment:

Trifle is not to be trifled with.

Green olives may be trifled with.
You may, however, feel free to trifle with cream cheese and green olive sandwiches. But maybe that’s just me. [3]


[1] Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trifle.

[2] Google: https://www.google.com/search.

[3] I really hate green olives.

When the opposite of a word…isn’t.

illustrations are good.Why do the words flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?

The dictionary at reference.com indicates that both words mean:

“easily set on fire; combustible.”

The prefix in- means not. The word roots section on membean.com says so. The page even has a cute little interactive tree with examples.

Call me crazy, but is seems to me that having two words that ought to have opposite meanings but don’t is just asking for trouble.

“Dude! That truck has a sign that says it’s inflammable!
Hold my beer and watch this!”

hold my beer and watch this!
Not a good thing, unless you’re trying for a Darwin Award.

Why do some words sound like what they mean and others don’t?

The cow says moo.An onomatopoeia is a word “which imitates the natural sounds of a thing. It creates a sound effect that mimics the thing described….” [1]

Bees buzz, cows moo, horses whinny, etc.

However, there are some words that sound so much not like what they mean that you can get yourself in trouble using them.

For instance, the word pulchritudinous sounds more like the symptom of an infectious disease than a compliment. If you say:

pulchritudinous.
 
“My, what a pulchritudinous woman you are!”

to your date, chances are you’re going to get slapped – even though you shouldn’t. Pulchritudinous actually means:

“having great physical beauty.” [2]

Huh? Who, how, and why, we ask ourselves, would someone come up with such an ugly-sounding word to describe beauty?

Inquiring minds want to know. [3]


[1] Source: literarydevices.net.

[2] I suggest you tell anyone you’re going to describe as “pulchritudinous” what the word means before you use it.
Source: vocabulary.com.

[3] And did he ever have a date?