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December 18, 2003
On Honey and Pet Names
According to what I've seen in the media, "Honey" must be the most popular pet name for one's spouse or significant other. If that's true, why? Yes, honey is sweet, but as a hypocorism it seems so overused! Can't people be more creative? "Darling" has been used before, and I wouldn't mind it coming back, if only to make "Honey" less common. If you want to go with the sweet theme, there's "Sugar" or "Sweetie", but why not "Sucrose" or "Treacle"? "Molasses"? "Saccharin"? Why have pet names at all? As placeholders when you can't remember your lover's name? If they're supposed to show love, then they should pertain to something unique about a person or a relationship. At this point, "Honey" just isn't good enough.
December 13, 2003
Eligible Bachelors: Like Being Somewhat Pregnant
I hate the term "eligible bachelor". What's the bachelor in question eligible for, marriage? Of course that's true, because a bachelor is by definition an unmarried man, so at least in theory he should be able to marry. Yes, I see that the dictionary entry for "eligible" says it can mean "desirable" or "worthy of choice", but I don't care. Maybe I've just seen so many of those fawning puff pieces on the most eligible bachelors that the phrase has lost whatever qualitative meaning it once had.
December 08, 2003
Pushing Back in Time
Why do people say "pushed back" when an event will take place later than scheduled? An example: "Tuesday's stockholder meeting has been pushed back to Friday, to give the CEO time to flee the country." They should say "pushed forward" instead, since on a calendar you push the event forward in time, so it happens farther ahead in the future. To push back an event should more literally mean to move it earlier than scheduled, though I believe some people refer to this as an event being "pushed up". "Up" is the opposite of "back"? Maybe this makes sense if you're looking at a schedule with time listed chronologically from the top of the page down, but does the metaphor still work for events moving between days? And why aren't events ever "pushed down"? Perhaps it's all part of a corporate conspiracy to obfuscate time, making people miss meetings because they got their directions mixed up. But then, perhaps the phrases come from the corporate world's tendency to eschew responsibility and avoid confrontation: If something is pushed up, then it's creeping up on you, soon to be staring you in the face. However, if something is pushed back, it's away from you; you have time to avoid dealing with it -- maybe enough time to get to Tahiti.
December 05, 2003
Well, Excuse Me!
I've noticed that "'scuse me" has almost thoroughly taken the place of "excuse me" in spoken English. Even news broadcasters say it on occasion (but then, their standards for speech have been sliding toward the vernacular for years). I think this usage occurs so frequently that it's become hard to say "excuse me" without sounding sarcastic, pretentious, or hostile, particularly when trying to get someone's attention (when moving through a crowd or asking for help, for instance). Perhaps the last "comfortable" use of the spoken "excuse me" occurs when someone sneezes or coughs and then uses the phrase to divert attention, which I'm not sure is usually necessary or helpful. Yet people on the news seem to like it, even if they can't manage to utter the extra syllable.
December 02, 2003
The Ultimate Sacrifice
I'm tired of the news media using "the ultimate sacrifice" as a synonym for dying heroically. Yes, losing one's own life to save others is noble and deserves respect, but it is not an "ultimate" sacrifice in the sense of "greatest" or "most significant", a sacrifice in which a person has lost the most. While "ultimate" is primarily used to mean "last", I don't believe this is the sense that is usually meant in the context of praising a hero. In fact, calling death the ultimate sacrifice may be a sort of unintentional insult, saying that the most a person had to lose was his or her life. But then, what's a more ultimate sacrifice than death? Losing one's soul, one's entire capacity for goodness, which in the vast majority of cases is not something to be revered. At least not until sweeps season.
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