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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Decline and Fall of the English Language

Editors and grammarians have bemoaned the decay of the English language for decades, if not centuries, so my lament is nothing new. Our language is dynamic, always changing, I realize, but instead of improving, it declines in accuracy. We misuse a word so often and so long that the misuse becomes acceptable in even the highest circles. What a shame!


I hopelessly still expect people in authority, people with influence, people who should know better, to get their words right and not follow the downward trend. Alas, it is not to be so. Last night I heard a news announcer say, “Just like that, speculation that former governor Jeb Bush is running for president is squashed.”

Squashed? Someone smashed it? Squash means to crush something with pressure or to force something into a small space. The correct word is quashed, my friends. To quash something is to stifle, suppress, or declare it null and void. I beg you, don’t quash correct English. News announcers and television journalists who write the scripts for announcers should know better.

Speaking of people who should know better, a few years back, I sat slack-jawed at an interchange on Celebrity Apprentice. In the boardroom, Cyndi Lauper said, “I feel bad about what happened.”

The famous (or, depending upon your opinion, infamous) Donald Trump chastised Cyndi and said, “You feel badly, Cyndi. It’s badly.”

Cyndi, having been incorrectly dressed down, responded, “Sorry. I feel badly.”

What? Donald, you made a bad mistake for badly misleading Cyndi. She was correct in saying she felt bad. For her to feel badly, her fingers would have to be numb.

Do you also feel bad about the deterioration of our language? Go forth, then, and quash all those incorrectly use words!

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