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If I ruled the world

Food For Thought

Not being a tidy person (meaning I don’t put the groceries, the laundry or my creative projects away promptly and clean up as I go along in the kitchen), I nevertheless believe a few changes I’d like to suggest would make the world tidier and more efficient. Things that serve no seriously useful purpose and generally tend to cause more chaos than they prevent. Some of these, I’ve no doubt mentioned here before, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat them in the hope somebody may see the value of these suggested changes and start a movement to spread the word.
Because language is of particular importance to a writer or anyone who relies on words to accomplish their work, I am strongly in favor of doing all we can to protect our language. Because the English language evolved from, and has adapted words from, several other languages, we have a number of conflicting grammar usages that confuse at least 80 percent of all English-speaking people and are seriously endangering clarity. We have so many words to choose from when expressing an idea it seems silly to use a weak word or one that leaves our meaning unclear.
For instance; specific words that were originally intended for use in a particular business, sport, art form or scientific field should be reserved for those areas exclusively. To misuse a word such as “segue” which was originally a music term, and force it into a discussion of sports strategies, is absurd. The words “transition,” “shift,” or one of several other choices are more explicit. That inappropriate use serves mainly to weaken the word and blur its specific meaning, plus it tends to show up the speaker as pompous and obtrusive. In the language of music, “segue” means a smooth, seamless transition from one movement to another, or from one melody to another as in a medley. It means so much more than just the assumed “transition.”
There are numerous other words similarly misused, words specific to computers, sports, medicine, banking, farming and many other fields. Borrowing such a word occasionally (such as in poetry) is acceptable if it points the reader to a new view of an old topic, but care should be taken to see it does not mislead, and we should never allow it to become a habit or mannerism. (One might easily get away with referring to a girl with a “dark cloud of hair” but “cumulonimbus of hair” becomes comical.)
Some words should be tossed in the trash and never used again. A couple examples of these useless and confusing words are “whom” and “hopefully.” Both words are almost always used incorrectly. Even the people who remember their eighth grade English classes and know “whom” is used as a direct object tend to pause, consider, and end up using it wrong after all. Even when used correctly, “whom” sounds self-conscious and pompous, so we’d be better off without it. And to say that, “Hopefully, I will get to the party on time,” does not mean you hope to arrive at the appointed hour, even if that is what you mean. You are actually stating you will arrive on time, full of hope. Hope for what, never seems to be clearly stated.
I’d also like to see a ruling as to which of the following conflicting phrases we should use, then banish the other one and stick to the chosen version. I’m talking about certain idiomatic pairs that seem to mean opposite things but are used to express the identical thought. One person may say there were “quite a lot” of people at a party, while another guest might say there were “quite a few” guests there. How can “a lot” and “a few” have the same meaning? The same goes for the terms “caretaker” and “caregiver.” And what’s the difference between “a fat chance” and “a slim chance?” As any one who has battled the bulge knows, there’s a vast contrast between slim and fat.
For years (to ward off motion sickness), I read every billboard, highway sign, delivery truck, and business name we passed when I rode along in the back seat of the family car. I was confused by the warnings painted on those big tank trucks; FLAMMABLE or INFLAMMABLE. I knew the “in-” meant the same as “un-” or “not.” Why bother warning us something would not burn? Did flammable mean it could burst into flame on its own, and inflammable mean it would burn if set on fire? No, Dad said, they mean the same thing. I checked many dictionaries and asked several English teachers, and got the same answer. Let’s get rid of one of those words– why not the longer one, to save time, paint and spelling-test mistakes?