July 10th, 2012
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a grammar or usage rant here at Rose-coloured, the reasons being (a) people hate them and (b) I’ve calmed down. I think the calming was due in large part to my brief stint teaching in high schools a couple years back. There’s nothing like being exposed to young people on a regular basis to convince you you are not as smart as you think you are. Also, the youths do cool stuff with language, and I’ve grown to appreciate it more–just yesterday, I was expounding on how interesting it is when they drop the “m” in random and make it a noun–”That guy is such a rando!” Useful, no?
Also, on the part (a) front, those rants just made me sound bitchy and pedantic, and we could all do with a bit less of that, I think.
Well as I’m doing dissolving my prejudices against certain types of language, there are some things that are technically correct that I still CAN NOT DEAL WITH. Do you have those? Words or turns of phrase that you irrationally despise, though they actually do just fine at conveying what they are meant to convey? I had a colleague who loathed the word “amalogomate” because “it sounds like bugs having sex.” You can’t really argue with that.
My most loathed word is the seemingly innocuous “sip.” I think it sounds disgusting, I think people use it to be fey or sexy, and the alleged sexiness is in itself disgusting, or else because they don’t know how to conjugate the word “drink” (that’s another post, however, the sort of post I don’t write anymore, allegedly). Generally I think “sip” is the worst word in the world. Grr. Blech.
Let’s try to get to the root of the problem. What does “sip” actually mean, anyway–how is it different from “drink”? Well, Canadian Oxford says it meant “to drink in one or more small amounts.” Whereas drink just means any amount. But for practical purposes, in prose writing, is there really any difference between, “He nodded, sipped some coffee, and began to speak,” and “He nodded, drank some coffee, and began to speak”? Well, the first one sounds ickier, but otherwise I feel they are identical. No one is going to think he slammed down the whole cup without the nuance of “sip” are they?
I don’t think I ever liked this word, but I can pinpoint where it all fell apart completely–the use, in a romance novel, of the phrase “sipping kisses.” I believe this is supposed to imply a series of small kisses, but to me it sounds like drinking saliva or somehow liquifying the other’s face. It’s just the worst thing ever. WORST THING EVER.
So what’s your most loathed word?