Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don't revert back - give 110 percent

Do you like morning radio shows? I don’t. The main problem is that so many of them feature broadcast studios filled with various obsequious-sounding staff members who laugh like hyenas at every inane utterance by the morning hosts. The constant laughter is not my morning cup of tea. But millions of people love it. They go gaga over the morning laugh fests. (There’s an interesting saying for us to consider — going gaga. Have you wondered about how someone can go gaga? Supposedly gaga evolved from a French saying in the early 20th century, and it had to do with losing your marbles, as in your senses. So if you go gaga over something, you’ve lost the ability to think reasonably about it. I’ve always wondered if an infant could go goo-goo gaga.

Now my question to you: Did you spot the wee punctuation error in the preceding paragraph? I don’t have any statistics about it, but it seems to me that people who use parentheses are almost as likely to leave them open as they are to close them. That’s what I did in the first paragraph — I deliberately failed to close them. Don’t do that.

My wonderful nephew Stephen knows of — and shares — my inability to read a parenthetical remark without first glancing forward to see if the parens are closed. Being a perpetual scamp, Steve sends me emails in which he never closes them. Who cares? You should, because you probably use parentheses, and not closing them (as in this example makes it difficult to read.

You might be surprised to hear it, but I have a point to make here. Most radio personalities have some specific language uses that irritate me (surprise!). It is almost a certainty that if the radio station runs a contest, the listeners hear something like this: “Be the 11th caller and you’ll qualify for an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii!” Wrong. That lucky caller will NOT qualify for the trip. The caller will qualify to continue as a contestant, moving on to the next round. If you’re caller 11 and you truly qualify for the trip, pack your bags, babe, and get some swimwear.

Here’s another — “Stay tuned for our extra-long 40-minute music set.” Think about it. Forty minutes is 40 minutes, period. I recently called one of the stations saying that and told the representative, “If your 40 minutes really is extra long, it’s only because you’ve picked boring music.” The response I received is what I expected: “Huh?”

This morning I heard an announcer on a national radio show say, “Every since it happened … .” That’s a common usage in some dialects, but it’s no more correct than “ain’t” is. You and I should work to eliminate “every since” and the ubiquitous — on the radio and off — “110 percent.”

Logic applies: There is no “y” in “ever” and for heaven’s sake you cannot give 110 percent. I know, those who talk about giving 110 percent are trying to express that one should give more than humanly possible. The trouble is, it’s a self-defeating phrase. If one can give 110 percent, then one theoretically could give 111 percent. Or, if you really, really tried, maybe even — oh, I don’t know — 114 percent. What about 150, or 213 or (as some truly say) a thousand percent?! A thousand! Why, that makes 110 seem paltry. He must not have really wanted it — he gave only 110 percent.

While we’re in a helpful mood, let’s stop our friends and neighbors from saying “revert back” and “repeat it again.” If a speaker has repeated something and you need to hear it a third time, then “repeat it again” is all right. Just keep in mind that you utter something the first time, the second time is a repetition and only THEN are you able to “repeat it again.” So — if you want to hear something a second time, ask the speaker to repeat it, not to repeat it again. And “revert” means to go back, so naturally we never want to say “revert back” (unless we intend to say “go back back”! Is that what you want want? Here comes a close parenthesis. Enjoy.).

Don’t go gaga, but I’ll repeat this again — I’ve heard “revert back” every since I was a child (giving only 500 percent effort at the time), but it’s terrible to hear it for an extra-long 40 minutes.



Carter said...

Since you only heard it on the radio, perhaps there were parentheses around the "40-minute" in the script (if there was one.) Perhaps a normal "music set" is 20 minutes and "40-minute" actually is an "extra-long" "music set." See my point?

mcs said...

By the way, "emails" in the plural sense is incorrect. One could say, "email messages".