Advertisement

Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

FYI, ur luv, FAQ: Where has good English gone?

It's always true _ there's never a language police officer around when you need one. In today's nervous world, I find myself praying that standard American English will once again find a place in public discourse instead of the all-too-prevalent jargon and newsspeak.

I, for one, do not want somebody to be there for me 24/7. Take an hour off for lunch. Read a book.

Tell Jeb Bush that schoolchildren are not there K-12, but go to school from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Our twin national tragedies, the assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, not 9/11 _ a real date in history and not some phonic shtick that is easily confused with the emergency phone number.

Was it sportswriters, headline writers or computer geeks who started this stuff? The sports guys are always contracting things _ K's for strikeouts; football players are TE's or DL's; there is some occult presence known only as the BCS.

Perhaps it started with the headlines in the show business journal Variety _ after all, it takes a real expert to decipher something like "STIX NIX NEW PIX."

And the computer guys? What can you say about people who say IMHO when they mean "in my humble opinion?" I implore them, "give it up ASAP," as they say in the initials-crazy military. To the computer world, I shout: F1 (help).

One of my most enduring hatreds is for the ad writers who peddle prescription drugs on television and write copy like, "Do not take Pusilanimous-B if you are taking MAOIs." Say what?

Of course, those talking heads on TV are the predominant offenders. Polly never learned to want a cracker any faster than these folks who zoom in on a contraction and immediately make it a cliche. If I had wanted to talk in code, I would have signed up for duty at Bletchley Park.

Yet, scientists and other tekkies perpetuate this kind of communication all the time. I'll admit that it is not convenient to speak in long latinate names. On the other hand, there is a kind of epiphany that happens when you discover that PVC is really poly vinyl chloride.

Even the French, with their well-known penchant for outrage at any new usage that allegedly debases the purity of their language, play the jargon game, i.e. SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer) or the national railway system, which runs a bullet train called the TGV (train a grand vitesse). Note: the TGV should not be confused with the TGB (tres grand bibliotheque), which is the new French national library.

The French TVA is not our TVA _ theirs is a value-added tax; ours is the Tennessee Valley Authority, an electric power company created by the federal government.

Yes, I realize that this maddening urge to speak in shorthand is endemic, but why, already gaining on my eighth decade, must I be forced to comprehend an ever-increasing amount of jargon?

I long ago dismissed Colloquial Amharic as a need-to-know language since I have no plan to visit Ethiopia, where it is spoken.

Some genius in Bialystok invented an artificial language many years ago which was intended to eliminate barriers to communication (Esperanto), but it never caught on in this household.

Fortunately, I am relying on nature to filter out some of this stuff.

As my hearing and vision continue to decline, I will inevitably miss more of these linguistic depredations. Sic transit horribilis mundi.

_ Jerry Blizin is a former journalist and public relations executive. He is retired and lives in Tarpon Springs.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement