Tuesday , January 31 2023
"To gift" or not "to gift?"

Language Matters in Life and Business: Year-End Language Gripes

giftingWith the holiday gift-giving season roaring to a climax, it’s only fitting that my biggest language gripe of the year is something that as far as I know is a relative newcomer to the English language: the word “gift” used as a verb. It’s everywhere now, but why? Why are we suddenly saying “gifting” when we had the perfectly good gerund “gift-giving?” Why should I “gift” when I used to “give?”

With that, I herewith gift you with the rest of my end-of-year language gripes:

So this one is about the new verbal habit of beginning every story and every answer to a question with the word “So,” as if you’re continuing a statement or a story that was already underway, when you’re not. One could explain this tic as simply a replacement for the now old-fashioned “Well.” But “so” is a little different, in that it implies a continuation. (Though it doesn’t provide cause-and-effect linkage, as “so” usually does when used in the middle of a sentence). So, how about we just try and stop this habit?

Misuse of the preposition “around” is becoming epidemic. It makes no sense to say you’re focusing around something, like this Pinterest page about “Sixth grade writing essays focusing around shoes.” (Should I even mention the redundancy of describing essays as “writing essays”?) Focus on something. By the same token, don’t have a discussion around something, as in this opinion piece titled “Why I Disagree With the New Discussion Around Robin Williams’ Death.” (Should I even question how you can disagree with a discussion?) Have a discussion about something.

Dangling modifiers and participles are more prevalent than ever. One of the most forehead-smacking recent examples is the warning affixed to those ridiculous detergent “pods”: “Like any detergent, keep away from children.” Because the phrase “like any detergent” refers to the detergent in question, the detergent in question is the subject of the sentence. But the detergent is nowhere in the sentence! Instead, the phrase after the comma introduces a second subject, an implied “you” – it’s a command to you to prevent your kids from getting their little hands on the environmentally wasteful little items. Here’s something else we need to keep away from impressionable schoolchildren: the marketing department that wrote that warning.

In closing, I’ll rant just one more time about the use of the word “pass” to mean “die.” The old euphemism “pass away” was fine. It cloaked death in a bit of poetic imagery that we all nevertheless understood. But the shortening of “pass away” to “pass” was an unfortunate development. “To pass” already has so many other meanings. Using it to mean “to die” not only grates on my ear, it can cause confusion. It’s a losing battle, but I’m going to keep passing on “pass” till the day I pass. Away.

So OK, I’ve finished griping around verbiage I don’t like. For now, anyway. Like any alcoholic beverage, gift some spiked eggnog my way.

I mean, please pass the eggnog.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases in various genres. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.

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