As a writer – even a part-time writer – and someone with just a soupcon of OCD when it comes to things like exactly where the pillows go on the couch and how my cologne bottles are lined up, there are many things – many things – I hear or see in print, on the Internet and in all the multifarious e-mails I read in the course of a week that make-a-me crazy.
Apparently, for example, a lot of people don’t seem to know the very real difference between “their”and “there”. Or “its” and “it’s”. It seems that somewhere along the line, the rule changed about when to use “who” and “that”, as in: “She was a person who did a very good job”. People are now “that’s”, as in “She was a person that did a very good job.”
Similarly, a choice is “between” two things or “among” three or more things. It is not, as in the current ad for something (I forget what) featuring Kevin Bacon as a Kevin Bacon geek, “a tie between all Kevin Bacon's movies”. Unless the gaffe was intended to show how dull the character is. But I doubt it. Everyone these days has a choice “between” everything. Not “among”.
(And for the record, et cetera is not pronounced "ex-etera", and a bride and groom celebrate nuptials not "nup-tuals", dammit! There... got that off my chest.)
And in the aftermath of the tragic, horrifying shooting in Arizona last week, the pundits and politicians and journalists and TV anchors have gone into overdrive, trying to “make sense” of this tragedy (as they do when anything horrible occurs: if we can just “make sense” of it, then… what?) And as usual the old tried and true clichés have been dragged out of the back of the Word Wealth closet and I’ve had it. Herewith a few of the tropes I would gladly go the rest of my life without:
National dialogue - About race. About politics. About psoriasis. Enough! Dialogue is written for plays and movies. And anyway, even if we did all sit down for a cozy, healing “dialogue” it wouldn’t be long before the whole thing turned into “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with really bad language.
Culture of (insert problem du jour here: corruption, violence, denial, cheese...)
Diversity – As in the rich panoply of human experience to be found in a group of people who share something in common? Well, no. We're all Americans, like it or not, and as such we have certain things in common. And of course, within our American-ness, there's a great deal of diversity among us. But diversity as it's currently understood and promoted is better defined as Balkanization. Every aggrieved group - and sub-group -- demands recognition and some sort of special dispensation in the name of "diversity". It's what I call Wooden Shoe Diversity: it's all based on your ethnic background, or where your ancestors were from, or who you sleep with or whether or not your genitals are original equipment. It all comes down to your quaint native costumes. Your delicious cuisine. Your funny customs and holidays.
It is most certainly not based on diversity of opinion or personal philosophy. True diversity in that respect is a rare commodity. For the most part there are, among those who say they cherish diversity the most, only one, maybe two ways to go. If your personal philosophy or political stance are too far out of the approved mainstream it doesn't much matter if you're a polyamorous Estonian with some gorgeous embroidered skirts and a bunch of recipes that call for spices you can't get here, to be served on