Today’s column will, I willingly admit, contain no small amount of whining on my part. However, if we’re lucky, you’ll agree with some of my points, you’ll learn from one or two others and, all in all, I’ll end up a happier person. Not bad for one column.
Let’s start with OUT THERE. I put it in caps here to create what I hope will be a splashy farewell. By my estimate, more than nine out of 10 uses of OUT THERE are simply not necessary. All of us want to reduce (eliminate?) our use of unnecessary words, yes? Listen to how often people throw in “out there,” and mentally, quietly, ask yourself if the statement would make as much sense without those two terribly overused words.
Let me cite some recent examples from the radio. “Is there any evidence out there that contradicts this suggestion?” See that? Take those two oft-repeated words away, and you have a shorter, cleaner sentence that’s even easier to understand.
Here’s another: “There are many programs out there that can help — Fannie Mae’s out there, some others are out there … many programs already exist out there and are helping.” First, you have to believe me when I say that’s a direct quote, with a national financial expert using “out there” four times in one sentence. Second, those two words give some comfort to the speaker (obviously), and they are not wrong, but they are off-putting in their repetition and usually not needed.
One more, from the radio on the same day: “There are two faith-based arguments out there that contradict what you say.” Do we need that “out there” out there?
The other thing is, kill “The other thing is” — unless you have set it up. Here’s what I mean (and boy, I’m starting to feel better already). Many people say “The other thing is” without first saying “There are two things here. We’ve covered one of them, now here’s the other one.” A better way to phrase it, in this perfect language world you and I are building, is “Another” thing is, rather than “THE” other thing is.
This next one slays me. “He loves her more than anyone on Earth.” Really? Then where is she? Isn’t she on Earth? The solution, of course, is to say “more than anyone else on Earth.” Prick up your antennae whenever you approach any “any” words (anyone, anything, anywhere, etc.). Today I read this in a university magazine: “I think Carnegie Mellon University placed more emphasis on that plan than any other university did.” See there? That’s the correct approach. The “other” lets us smile.
Another antenna alerter is “annual,” as in this from the paper recently: “The company will create jobs with average annual salaries of more than $94,000 a year.” Oh, please. See the redundancy there?
Now let’s zip through some. It’s tenterhooks, not tenderhooks. It’s smorgasbord, not smorgasborg. It’s biceps and triceps for both the singular and the plural of those muscles. It’s convenience, not convience. Don’t say “In my mind I was thinking … .” Where else would you have been thinking? In your elbow, perhaps?
We need to stop people from referring to the real truth and to true facts. All truth is real and there are no false facts, only false statements. And, as you may know, it’s harebrain, not hairbrain. You lose change that is loose, you swim a lap that you swam yesterday, and for heaven’s sake you care about language a lot, not alot.
Please tell me that you don’t say someone graduated college. The person graduated FROM Wake Forest (or wherever), FROM college. Language purists will point out that the institution does the graduating — we are graduated from the school. Four little letters (f-r-o-m). Use ‘em.
Do you say “And so forth and so on” or “And so on and so forth”? I hope not. Are they wrong to say? Of course not. But tell me what “and so on” adds that isn’t already covered by “and so forth,” and vice versa. Keep it simple; you don’t need both parts.
Is it a card shark or a card sharp who cheats when playing? Actually, they’re interchangeable, along with card sharper.
“Prices on the New York Stock Exchange rose higher yesterday.” Have you ever heard that? Of course they rose higher; could they have risen lower?
I’m done for now. What a relief. Thanks.