George Carlin was the poet laureate of grammar in America. I don’t know if that’s even a correct usage of the term poet laureate, but this post is about misuse of words anyway, so it seems appropriate. One of my favorite observations of his:
“Flammable. Inflammable. Non-inflammable. Why are there three? Either something flams or it doesn’t flam.”
What’s more, the late Henny Youngman once said “I read somewhere that drinking was bad for you. So I gave up reading.” That last joke has nothing to do with this article. I’m just on a roll.
The Misuse of Words and Phrases
So, where were we? Ah yes, the misuse of words and phrases. Starting with this article’s headline. How many of you use the phrase for all intensive purposes. Wrong! (Game show buzzer goes here). The correct phrase is for all intents and purposes. Your welcome. (Buzzer!) Sorry, I meant to say you’re welcome. Didn’t mean to pass along ownership of the word welcome to you without permission.
Now let’s look at the back half of the headline. Regardless of what you may believe, irregardless is not a word. Supposebly. Or perhaps, supposedly (with a “d”) it is. Here someone tries to make a case that supposebly actually has a meaning and is quickly drowned out by the general public.
Well some words and phrases are obvious misuses because the words don’t even exist … at least in enlightened circles. But then we have the phrases that seem to be at odds with each other in a chicken and egg sort of way.
Hold Forth or Hold Court? That is the Question!
Are you one to hold forth? Or hold court? I’ve always considered myself the hold forth type, thinking that was the original phrase and that it had been butchered into this hold court thing, thereby validating me as the superior linguist in any conversation. After extensive research. Okay, actually a 2-second Google search – I discovered that, in fact, both uses are correct.
Hold forth means simply to spend a long time talking about a subject matter. I suppose you could say I’m currently holding forth in written form, assuming you’re still reading this.
Hold court is like sitting around in social situations with a group of people who are hanging on to your every word. As you’re doing with this article right now. Correct? 🙂
Do You Flesh Out or Flush Out?
Okay, pet peeve time. These phrases are the very things – (very things, that’s an odd way of putting something) – anyway, these are the very phrases that drive me the most nuts around here at work. As part of a marketing company, we’re all about idea generation. So, to me, the phrase flesh out would be most appropriate because ideas usually start as puny skeletons that you need to nurture into big daddy notions by adding flesh to them.
To say, let’s flush out this idea to me means – not a good idea. Let’s haul this idea off and beat it senseless with a shovel, then cart it off to the men’s (or ladies’) room and … you know.
So, team. Let’s flesh out using less of the term flush out. And flush out using the word flush when we should be fleshing. This is not to be confused with Flushing Meadows, Queens (New York), home of tennis’ U.S. Open, as there is no Fleshing Meadows, Queens. Go ahead, Google it.
There, I feel better to have addressed that. I’ve been champing at the bit to do so. Yeah, you heard me. CHAMPING at the bit. If you feel you need to chomp at the bit, go right ahead. But elitist grammarians will know better. Trust me, these phrases are not one in the same. Nor are they one AND the same.
Do You Care?
I suppose you could care less about all this. But really, I bet you couldn’t care less.
Well, for all intensive … rather, all intents and purposes, I’m running out of words and phrases to make fun of.
But first, I’ll leave you with this quick sidebar.
“That that that that sentence contains is actually written with correct grammar.” Yeah, four thats in a row. Beat that with a stick! I actually remember that sentence from a grammar class I had in college. Now before I get into too much breast-beating, I’ve called upon my little friend Google again and found out there’s actually a sentence that includes seven – count ‘em – SEVEN thats in a row! In fact, the whole sentence example has 11 thats included. Bore some people with this bit of trivial fun at your next party while holding court.
Ying yang or yin yang? Hunger pang or hunger pain? Purposely or purposefully? Beckon call or beck and call? Just a few things to wet … er, whet your appetite.
Starting to think that I should get a life.
P.S. Do you think anyone’s ever had a pet named Peeve?
See Also: “Yes, and…”