I am very prone to boredom. I have two hours of mass transit commute everyday, so if I forget part of my vast collection of time wasting paraphernalia I tend to ruminate on stupid worthless things to pass the time. I have a veritable menagerie of pet peeves, and using a word incorrectly, or in a way that doesn’t make sense to me, is one of them. Is this arbitrary and hypocritical? Yes! But they wouldn’t be pet peeves if they were based on reason, would they? I’m not asking people to change to my view. The fun thing about a language that is not dead is that it must necessarily change to reflect the way it is actually being used. People control what a language is, not the other way around. Nevertheless, below are some of the things that have been called into question by my mind’s many standards. Enjoy.
So we all know that lucky people, that is to say people with good luck, have unlikely things happen in their favor frequently. People with bad luck, on the other hand, have improbably bad things happen to them. Yet, these unfortunate people are often referred to as being unlucky. Why? Clearly they have a whole lot of luck, it is just all bad. If we define luck as one’s tendency to defy odds, regardless of whether this defiance is one the plus side or minus side, then a lack of luck would be one’s tendency to adhere strictly to the odds. Probably this is a perversion of the intention of the creators of the terms, but logically it makes great sense to me.
As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as false hope. Hope is, after all, the belief that things can turn out the way you need them to, yes? It isn’t about success actually being possible, it is just about believing it is. And belief can’t be fake, can it? It can be unreasonable, it can be unfounded, but you either believe something or you don’t. If false hope does exist, it is a situation where someone claims to be optimistic about something, but really isn’t. In a situation where the home team is likely to fail, but one person claims falsely that there is a secret play that they are holding back for just the right moment, that person is creating REAL hope with a false claim. Simple.
I was watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, and he was doing a salesman routine with some honey he’d helped to harvest the day before. As he was lauding the virtues of the sweet nectar, he claimed that it was organic. The producer of the honey chastised him, claiming that no honey is organic. As a man with a few chemistry classes under his belt, I cry foul. Honey is a combination of fructose and glucose. These are simple sugars, with molecular formulas consisting of C, H, O and various little numbers. That capital C over there stands for carbon, and you know what a compound containing carbon is called? An ORGANIC COMPOUND! Not only is ALL honey organic, but you would be hard pressed to find something considered food that is NOT organic. Oh, sure, farmers and green grocers have decided to co-opt the term and use it to coax health conscious consumers into purchasing things under the belief that these foods were made without the use of insidious chemicals, but that doesn’t change the fact that potatoes grown with manufactured pesticides and fertilizers are still carbon based lifeforms. To the average consumer ?chemical free? and ?organic? are synonyms, but saying something is chemical free is like saying something is atom free. A chemical, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is ?something produced by or used in a chemical process.? Now, ignoring the fact that it is a word that appears in its own definition, digestion is a chemical process. So even if you FOUND a chemical free food, eating it would MAKE it a chemical.
Careless, carefree, uncaring… based on my understanding of language structure, those three words should all mean the same thing. Yet, mysteriously, they have vastly different connotations. Careless is someone who does not give due attention to things that warrant attention, carefree is without a care in the world, and uncaring is heartless. WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THIS LANGUAGE? I seriously need standardization. I’m an engineer at heart. Slapping negatives on a number just alternates value in relation to zero. Surely it should be the same for language. Instead, depending on WHICH negative you use, you can end up with a positive thing, a negative thing, and a REALLY negative thing. Someone needs to storm the Oxford English Dictionary Offices and demand some sanity, because this is out of control at this point.