Random rants for a Monday morning

In no particular order.

–I wonder how many people who seem to take issue with Thomas Wolfe’s book title “You Can’t Go Home Again,” have in fact read the book.

–If a person “wants to thank” someone else, why not go ahead and just do so?

–There is one noun whose plural form correctly employs apostrophe-S: Apostrophes.

–Someone addicted to alcohol is an alcoholic. I hear the terms workaholic and chocoholic a good bit, but I don’t know anyone who is addicted to workahol or chocohol. I don’t even know what those substances are.

–To me, saying “Happy Birthday” means “congrats on achieving this milestone.” The hope is that their everyday is happy, not just that one. Oh, and when the greeting is offered a day or more later, it is the wish that is belated, not the birthday.

— I wonder how often “I hate to tell you. . . ” means “I am enjoying telling you.”

— From time to time, I see in social media discussions, letters to the editor in the newspaper and elsewhere, someone state his/her (I think it’s almost always “his”) viewpoint and then conclude with “end of discussion.” Does this strike anyone else as presumptuous? Close-minded?

–There is an appropriate response to “Thank you.” That response is “You’re welcome.” When I hear “No problem,” I usually wonder why there was ever any question that might be a problem. I read an explanation in “American Scholar” a while back, in which the writer conjectured that human interaction has become so problematic that it must now be necessary to acknowledge those times a given interaction is problem free.

Insufferable suffixes

As most people know, the word “alcoholic” as a noun means “someone addicted to alcohol.” This usage is older than any of us. It’s easy to see that the word was created by adding “-ic” to “alcohol.” (It was repurposed from the even older adjective “alcoholic,” meaning “pertaining to alcohol.”)

In more recent times, it has become fashionable to indicate craving for, obsession with or indulgence in whatever by adding “-oholic” or “-aholic” to the end of said object. Not “-ic,” but “-oholic.” It keeps part of the word “alcohol” though not referencing alcohol.

A popular one is “workaholic.” Addicted to workahol? Also, “chocaholic.” Shouldn’t that be “chocolatic”?

And we have “shopaholic,” “sexaholic,” “foodaholic” and many others. I’ve recently seen “musicoholic” and “dogoholic” groups on Facebook. I once heard someone try to coin the term “theateroholic” to describe a — well — theatric person. In response to a question in a Facebook post about dependence on driving, I commented, “No, I’m not addicted to gasohol.”

Indeed, few, if any of these cases of “-oholism” are addictions on the order of alcoholism.

Another overworked suffix that broke into our language (by dark of night?) in the ’70s is “-gate.” You know the story. Some people wanting to ensure the re-election of the current president broke into the national headquarters of the other party. That office happened to be in the Watergate Office Building in Washington DC.


Within a couple of years, William Saffire began coining “-gate” terms for a variety of scandals. And the — er — floodgate was opened: Vietgate, Irangate (or Contragate), Billygate, debategate, emailgate and nannygate, to name just a few.


And the phenomenon hasn’t been restricted to politics. Scandals in entertainment, journalism and other areas have been tagged with the “-gate.”


In the sports world, we’ve had inflategate, bountygate and Astrogate, among others. I once was part of a “vendingate” controversy, which I described in a previous blog post, “A Boost in Status.”

The Wikipedia article “List of ‘-gate’ scandals” provides a long list.

All because of the name that had been given to the building where one political party happened to rent office space. One could wonder: What if it had been called the Amsterdam Building? Or the Suffolk?

Are we faced with a gateaholic crisis?

As one who cares about language usage

This was the offending meme, the one that was one-too-many for one of my Facebook friends.

In my early years on Facebook, I not only posted grammar-themed memes, I also crafted occasional comments of my own on the subject. My primary reason was to vent about what I saw not only on Facebook, but just about everywhere, including newspapers. I guess I also held out some hope that somebody or another would be willing to learn — or be reminded. If not, I did know there were some individuals who cared as much as I about correct use of our language. I was confident they would enjoy the posts.

I still see errors that to me are analogous to fingernails on a chalk board. But I stopped commenting some six years ago. That’s when I posted the meme above, which I thought was concise and useful. Someone who was at that time my FB friend somehow took it personally, even though I never, ever aimed any comments at an individual.

The reaction included: “I feel like we are back in HS again and you are the grammar patrol. Bet you are wearing that little belt and have red pencils in your pocket protector just waiting to make a big circle around all mistakes.” Yet I never — ever — corrected anyone on Facebook.

As I explained then, I majored in English, did a lot of writing and editing in my professional career, and have a touch of OCD. Also, I think there are good reasons for us to try to follow rules of grammar and usage. The primary reason is to keep English speakers speaking a common language so that we understand each other.

Most people don’t get angry at people who advocate for proper grammar, but many seem to find us amusing or eccentric. Yet why should trying to speak and write correctly be considered abnormal? Why isn’t it the other way around?

Why ascribe names such as “grammar patrol” or “police” or “nerd” — or worse?
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Another N word

Though World War II ended two years before I was born, people my age grew up in its shadow. “Nazi” was not a word one used flippantly. It was not something you called anyone other than historical figures who were, in fact, Nazis. You certainly didn’t give a friend that tag.

Now some, ignoring or ignorant of history, find it amusing to append it to the word “grammar.”

(On the “Seinfeld” episode about the “Soup Nazi,” the character Kramer never calls him that. A couple of years ago, we took the Real Kramer tour in NYC. The first stop was at The Soup Man — the real shop on which the episode was based — for a cup of the best soup in the world. Kenny Kramer — the real person on whom the character was based — never referred to the business’s founder as a “Nazi.” But I digress.)
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Back to the high school reference, I was not a member of any “grammar patrol.” I hadn’t worn a patrol belt since elementary school and then my duties concerned behavior, not grammar. I had no pocket protector, nor did I carry a red pencil.

I was a student, learning from my mistakes. I appreciate my teachers’ having corrected them.