Saturday, October 25, 2008

Careful Language

Why don't people just learn the difference between "literally" and "figuratively"? Last week, I watched Jerry Jones (the owner of the Dallas Cowboys) say about troublemaker Adam "Pacman" Jones: "After this latest incident, he's literally walking on a tightrope now." Really? What's it stretched over? Can I come see?

It reminds me of the days when I taught freshman composition and some poor girl wrote about how she went that Fall with some friends to a haunted house that "was so scary I was shitting my pants. Literally." Ewwww.

Perhaps I'm too fussy when it comes to speaking clearly. There is no Grammar Police (other than those folks who seem to take pride in correcting people who misuse "who" and "whom" in front of large crowds). But what's the other option? Speaking so un-clearly that you end up saying absolutely nothing? I know this is one of the major complains for presidential candidate Barack Obama. He speaks well and looks confident in front of crowds, but his words are elusive to the point of being completely emptied of meaning.

And don't get me started on the "it's" vs. "its" issue. It's one of my biggest language bugaboos ever. It drives me bonkers. Its the God-honest truth (Cringing at the misuse of "its," even for the effect).

Maybe we should get together and hire a couple of out-of-work ex-English teachers, arm them with Tazars, and send them out to improve America's vocabulary (with force, if needed). Literally. Or maybe just figuratively.