We all have hang-ups when it comes to language. (Some of us have hang-ups about the term “hang-ups.”) And we react in an almost Pavlovian fashion when certain language is used. That’s why it can be extraordinarily easy to flip out a portion of your audience simply by using everyday words.
I used to work in a headquarters where the top staff studied the chief executive’s word preferences with the intensity of a Cold War CIA analyst examining the pecking order of the review panel during the Soviet May Day Parade. As I recall, “render” was one of the prohibited words because the CEO associated it with melting fat. “We provide services” – it was whispered – “not render them.” When that CEO left, a new one arrived, and another lexicon was developed.
A late friend of mine, one of the most enjoyable language snobs I’ve known, hated to see any qualifiers or additions to the word “unique.” She rightly noted that “unique” is like being pregnant; an item either is or isn’t and so it can’t be “really unique” or “fairly unique.”
I’m not immune from such prejudice. To my ears, “irregardless” is like nails on a blackboard - although I haven’t heard that sin in years – and whenever someone describes a product as a “quality product” I’m tempted to ask, “Poor quality?”
Aside from “hang-up,” are there any words that drive you nuts?