YES! JOIN FOR FREE!
Enter your address below to receive free email alerts when a new comic or a blog post is published:
You may unsubscribe easily at any time & your email will never be shared with anyone!
SHARE
FOLLOW
SEARCH
EAGANBLOG ARCHIVE
Explore the current collection.

Category: Language

Fluff Not
This Eaganblog marks my 400th, and in keeping with my promise that absolutely no one has asked for, I am taking a look back at what I have done here. As with my 100th, 200th, and 300th, I see mixed results.

First, the writing itself. Once again, I am way over my limit with modifiers — too many adjectives and adverbs are gumming up the works. All those multisyllabic words (see what I mean?) are just bumps in the road on the way to getting my message across. Come to think of it, there have been too many syllables, period. Best to keep it simple, in my view, but it seems that the temptation of syntactical fluffery is still too hard to resist. I resolve to do better. Perhaps better verbs will ameliorate.

My choices of subject matter have been pretty constant, but I am happy to report that I have backed off in the Politics category. (There are, in case you haven’t noticed, categories of blog that have been compiled from Eaganblog. Click on “Categories” to see them.) I don’t have a whole lot left to say, after all, about Drump and his enablers in Congress. All crooks, and not a sincere belief or redeeming human quality among them. I’d call them traitors, but that word has lost a lot of its meaning these days. Anyway, they are a collective blight we will have to endure until we can find the right disinfectant. As to their supporters among our fellow citizens? What the hell are we going to do with these people? When I come up with an answer — even a lame one — I’ll let you know.

Speaking of categories, I am generally happy with the Poems collection. A couple of clunkers in there, but they’re generally amusing in a goofy sort of way. Even the few serious efforts wear well when I go back and read them. There is still no “Epigrams” category, sad to say. I had originally imagined that I might generate a lot of those. But pairing brevity with genuine pith is easier said than done, and the high quality epigrams have just not been happening. I hope to rise to that challenge soon.

I am fond of the Big Picture category, though there haven’t been too many additions to it recently. My very first blog, back in 2012, was a Big Picture entry. Can it be that I have run out of fundamental ideas? Have I exhausted my supply of Truly Important things to say? Am I that shallow? Don’t answer that.

Before I go, one more question: punctuation? In a word, yes. Specifically, yes to parentheses, dashes, and hyphens. Some might say that I overuse these tools, but I have no apologies for those critics even if they don’t exist. I am, at heart, a prescriptivist when it comes to language, but I like the informal, conversational tone these marks can produce. This essay, for instance, has two sets of parentheses and several em dashes. No hyphens, though, at least until I label this an exercise-in-retrospective-self-indugence blog.

You see? Too much fluffery. Again.
Never Ending
Lather up.
Hunker down.
Go below.
Screw around.

Go along.
Get by.
Roll over.
Run inside.

Do without.
Fall behind.
Get one off.
Go outside.

Come on over.
Come on in.
Turn it on.
Go between.

Turn it around.
Work it all out.
Come from above.
That’s what it’s all about.

Where do you come from?
Where have you been to?
Where is your head at?
What are you into?

You know what I’m against?
Using a preposition
To end a
Sentence with.
Just Say Suck
Perhaps I should be more forgiving. At this point, however, I think it’s too late to change. I am perfectly happy, it seems, to hold people fully accountable for their sins of pronunciation.

The day I have dreaded for so long arrived last week. I knew it would come eventually, but it still hit me hard. I actually heard someone say that they had managed to successfully “access a web page.” That may not seem alarming because you are reading this, not hearing it. My torment came from how the word was pronounced — “assess,” rather than “ak-sess.”

I had waged a brief, hopeless war in the 90s against the conversion of “access” into a verb. I knew I could not win against any coinage backed by the full force of the digital revolution, which had adopted the new usage without question. Part of me recognized that it filled a growing need in that province of our brave new world. I still don’t like hearing it, but I have come to accept (“ak-sept”) it.

This new experience with the word, however, has delivered a setback to my belief system. As an avowed Prescriptivist, I tend to fret over any change to the language, including to its pronunciation. Perhaps I just like having a reliable set of rules that we can all go to when communication needs to be clear and precise. Or maybe I’m just a control freak. Either way, I don’t feel comfortable with the Descriptivists’ philosophy. For them, acceptable standards of usage are simply reflections of whatever convention happens to be current at any given moment. If enough people are using the language in a certain way, then that fad becomes a guidepost for other users.

To me, this is chaos. There are no rules in a Descriptivist universe, only whims that shift with the latest meme. I have no doubt that those subscribing to such a doctrine lead lives uncomplicated by stress or lexemic guilt, but such an existence is not for me.

My theory is that the trend away from the hard /k/ sound in access and other similar words began with some folks’ dislike of the sound of the word succinct. The correct prescriptive pronunciation here is “suck-sinct.” It is my belief that people didn’t like to hear the ugliness of “suck” come out of their mouths and began (mis)pronouncing the word as “sussinct.” This misplaced value judgment has now opened the door to a changed pronunciation of other double-c words.

Descriptivists no doubt shrug their shoulders at such mutations. It is my curse that I cannot. What is happening here is a loss of clarity. I prefer the use of “ak-sess” to “assess” because assess is already a word, and it means something entirely different from the new one. Among other things, this is highly unfair to a perfectly good word. Assess has now lost its integrity, at least as a spoken word. It has become two-faced, with two etymological lineages, and two confused meanings.

There would be no such confusion with the mispronunciation “sussinct,” of course. Saying it, in fact, simply creates a whole new word. Still, I sense that it is wrong to do this. Do we need a new word? Do we just forsake the old word? Is the only reason for this change our delicate sensibilities? Do we really want to abandon the opportunity to say “suck” any time and place we want without fear of objection?

So, you see that there are consequences to these willy-nilly changes in our language. I do not endorse the Prescriptivist view just because I am a control freak (that’s just a happy accident [ak-sident]). In my view, we are tempting the forces of darkness each time we countenance these “harmless” alterations to our native tongue.

Let me acknowledge, however, that spellings that employ the double-c are a problematic oddity in the English language. As you know, the unaspirated allophone for the phenome /k/ with an accompanying palatal coarticulation is not always called into play in such a configuration. Accordion, tobacco, impeccable, accuse, and many other words fall in this category. So do some of our Italian imports, such as broccoli and piccolo.

Yes, it’s confusing, but are we going to let that keep us from doing the right thing? Of course not. There are layers and layers of sound linguistic reasoning we could delve into here that explain how all this works, but I don’t want to bore you with that. Instead, let me bore you with this sad truth: follow the rules, or everyone will suffer.

There is no Language God to enforce this edict, and no Language Hell to threaten as punishment. As a control freak, then, my only power is your common sense. I know I can count on you to try to do the right thing. In that, I wish you suck-sess.
Bilk
I was glad to see the word “bilk” enter our public discourse here recently. Our new provisional Attorney General, Matthew Whataker, Esq., has been accused of bilking disabled veterans, among others, out of their meager savings as part of his duties for World Patent Marketing. That was one of his last gigs before becoming Jeff Sessions’ chief deputy at the Department of Justice.

Besides being a good, organic example of Anglo-Saxon punchiness, bilk is a particularly appropriate word choice in this case. It carries a connotation of sleaziness which nicely matches the quality of this scam. “Defraud” or even “cheat” just don’t have that odor of lowlife we detect coming off bilk.

Some might argue that “hoodwink” could be a contending choice here. You’ve got to love the word hoodwink, but let’s remember that Mr. Whitaker’s involvement in this scam went far beyond mere theft. He was also called upon to menace customers with criminal action if they dared to complain about their mistreatment by WPM. Bilk, I think, offers a hint of muscle behind the con, of the domination of a weak victim by a powerful deceiver. To hoodwink seems more like simple duping. For instance, when Kim Jong Un tricked Trump by agreeing to denuclearize while secretly supernuclearizing, he was hoodwinking him.

Nor can we fairly call Mr. Whitaker a mere “chiseler.” That term should be reserved for the likes of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his relentless efforts to profit from his position of public trust. EPA chief Scott Pruitt set the benchmark for this field until his chiseling began to undermine the pedestal of Trump himself, and had to go. Whitaker’s crimes are less opportunistic and more meticulous in their planning.

“Weasel” doesn’t fully capture Whitakers identity, either, though there’s little doubt that he is one. Weaseling bespeaks the kind of unctuous, self-serving deception we expect from, say, Ted Cruz or Mike Pence. Lyndsey Graham is also a weasel, but it’s unclear why he’s suddenly gone all in with that role.

“Flimflam” and “bamboozle” certainly convey the spirit of Whitaker’s schemes, but perhaps not their corporate, white collar nature. Roger Stone and his fancy suits are closer the essence of this type of political grifter.

It is clear, however, that Whitaker “swindled” his clients. He also “fleeced” them and “rooked” them and “ripped them off” good and proper. It’s just that bilked feels like the perfect nomenclature for deceits perpetrated as a part of his training by the acting chief law enforcement officer of our nation.

Trump, of course, fits into all of these categories. For starters, he is the boss, and therefore responsible for every misdeed committed in his name. But all it takes is a cursory glance at his resume to find corroboration of almost every kind of corruption, from weaseling to swindling — including bilking. He is, in fact, the bilker-in-chief in this rogues’ gallery of miscreants. And if Robert Mueller has anything to say about it, we might be adding some other descriptors to that list, including “treason.”
first  previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  next  last
image
Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon