Friday, May 15, 2009

I’m too flusterated to conversate

Sometimes people misuse or even make up words, and when they do, readers of this column seem to be within hearing (and note-taking) distance. That’s good for me, because they tell me about it. Here are some examples.

Reader Douglas offered a “conversate” note: “Loved your column today, as usual! Let’s conversate about it!” I had never heard that word, possibly a verb derived from the noun “conversation,” but soon thereafter came this from Reader John, lamenting the language of people he once knew: “No amount of gently telling them … could keep them from using the word ‘conversate,’ as in ‘I would love to conversate with you.’ Oh, me.”

Golly, I guess I’ve missed out on a lotta conversatin’. Reader John had some others up his sleeve, as well: “Where I live, I often hear the terms ‘flusterated’ and ‘chimley’ for, of course, ‘frustrated’ and ‘chimney.’ I guess they just combine ‘flustered’ and ‘frustrated’ and come up with ‘flusterated.’ Where ‘chimley’ comes from, Lord knows.”

I’ve heard “chimley” myself, John, and all I can add is that it seems to be slang for “chimney” in Dorset, in the southwest of England, but that doesn’t tell us much.

Did you happen to notice my use of “myself” in the preceding sentence? Readers ask me about the proper use of “myself” more than they ask about any other single word. Here’s an example, from Reader Audrey: “I am an uneducated 72-year-old homemaker … [who does] not remember the rules of grammar and would have difficulty identifying the parts of speech beyond the initial ones. But, I frequently hear things that I feel are incorrect because they just sound wrong. Recently, it seems people being interviewed by the media use the word ‘myself’ when I think they should say ‘I.’ Could you comment?”

Audrey, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Other than occasional exceptions granted by poetic license, “myself” should be used only to refer back to the subject of the clause (I hurt myself) or for emphasis (I myself could not swear to it). And by the way, your practice of deciding whether a usage is correct by how it sounds means that you’re paying attention to what’s said, and you’re striving to use language correctly. Great awareness.

Reader Steve sent this: “I just heard a new word, and I hate it — shoportunity.” It’s safe to say that I always agree with everything this Reader Steve says. Try these, also from him: “On my all-time hate list are ‘happytizers’ and ‘happyteasers.’” I know what you mean, Steve. It’s enough to drive you to drink.

National media are rife these days with uses of “bromance” for brotherly romance, “frenemies” for people you love and hate, “dramedy” for stories that can make you laugh and cry and even “staycation” for taking a vacation where you stay at home in tough economic times. And if that’s not enough, I just heard a National Public Radio host talk about “celebutantes,” meaning, I suppose, someone who’s a celebrity debutante.

Some new words are actually quite useful; others are downright endearing. Reader Scott sends us this: “As [beloved baseball announcer] Loel Passe used to say on KTHT [radio] in Houston when a Houston Buffalo would hit a home run, ‘Hot ziggity-dog and good ole sassafras tea!’”

I remember that, actually. I also recall Loel saying, “Now you chunkin’ in there.” For those unfamiliar with the patois, if you’re throwing a ball well, you’re chunkin’ it. See why I like the Loel Passe sayings? They’re colorful and memorable.

We turn now to Reader Wiley, who writes me this: “In your article you mention ‘prioritize,’ ‘levelize,’ ‘monetize’ and ‘Talibanize.’ Another common use is ‘accessorize,’ and I think I saw the ultimate use of this practice recently when a writer said someone had been ‘funeralized’!”

Whoa, that is ultimate, Wiley. It demonstrates how things can get ugly when we add the suffix “ize” to make verbs where none have gone before.

Finally, we come to this from Reader Ginny: “Today I was watching Fox News … [describing] the Obamas’ European trip. The hostess, Martha McCallum, told what gift the Queen had given them. She said that it was a silver framed picture of ‘she and her husband.’ I wanted to throw something at the TV set but restrained myself.”

Yikes. I’m glad you restrained yourself. That would have been a costly way to satisfactionize.



Spider said...

A "happyteaser"? Hmm, isn't that just a stripper with a smile?

Dennis Buckman said...

Mike, it sounds as if we need to conversate about this subject a little more!!!!

Doug said...

One of my favotites: Dr. John, the New Orleans musician, said he was "traumaticalized" seeing New Orleans soon after Katrina.

Tony Blake said...

I always thought the word was "chimbley."