Wednesday, March 31, 2010


First, this:

Which leads, of course, to this (which spawned the following):
I used to work at Toys R’ Us back during my high school years, and I had a boss who absolutely hated my guts. He legitimately treated me badly to try to get me to quit, and the strategy had worked on two other people.
Note the use – misuse, rather – of legitimately. The word Opie’s scratching around for here is probably literally, though, as the commenters point out, it could also be deliberately, at least in the first case, but not in the second.

What’s going on here is someone’s trying to use a two-dollar word on a seventy-five-cent vocabulary. If you want to use a word, make sure it’s the right word before you use it, else you’ll end up looking foolish. Not getting-involved-in-a-land-war-in-Asia foolish, but foolish nonetheless.

Just as egregious, however, is this. At least Opie No. 1 had the smarts to use a real word, albeit incorrectly. Opie No. 2 here just makes one up.

In this case, we’re likely dealing with someone who uses the commonly-accepted abbreviation for legitimate: legit. While it’s an acceptable word, it’s hardly on that can be made into an adverb without making you look silly. Legit is slang, and has its origin among snobs who wanted a word to mark the difference between television dramatics and those put on a stage. Stage dramatics were more legit, they said, because that's the kind of bohemian thinking that goes on among those on stages, I suppose.

What's worse about the first example is that it takes the winds right out of Opie No. 1's story. If he were legitimately berated, then why in the world is he complaining about it? As for Opie No. 2, well, her mistake just makes her sound a wee bit illiterate.

It’s true that we drive the language, rather than letting it drive us. But as we drive the language, we ought to be careful to avoid wrecking it.

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