I work very hard at appearing calm, balanced, and of “an equable disposition”. It’s all a lie. I really live at a slow simmer, ready to break into a full boil.
I hate ignorance, complacency, and sloppiness, which makes it very hard to watch TV news and all but impossible to watch commercials. I can’t drink coffee while watching TV for fear I’ll throw my mug at the screen.
Of all the irritants in daily life, probably nothing grinds my gears as much as those who torture the English language while thinking they are speaking well.
So, get ready . . .
Small means little. Little means small. What does small-little mean? Is it smaller than little, or littler than small? Despite the fact that it makes no sense whatsoever, small-little seems to have completely replaced both small and little in everyday speech.
First ever — are you kidding me? First ever! First means first. Period. It is an absolute. All reasonable modifiers added to first reduce the field over which it is absolute. The first person to graduate from Harvard is absolute. The first black person to graduate from Harvard is also absolute, but from a smaller set of people. The first left handed, gay, Canadian Mormon to graduate from Harvard is absolute, from a yet smaller set.
Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. Saying he is the first ever man is space doesn’t make the statement more absolute, it just makes the person speaking seem ignorant.
If you’re first, you’re first. Saying first ever doesn’t make you more first. It doesn’t make you any firster.
What next? Infinity-er, followed by infinity-est?
The English language changes constantly. What is normal today is likely to seem quaint tomorrow. Despite this rant, I have no problem embracing change, but as users of the English language we still have one obligation.
If the change is stupid, don’t use it.