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February 4th, 2002


Friends, I have noticed a disturbing trend in the English language as of late. Yes, we’ve all suffered through the highly inappropriate yet totally pervasive use of “like”, and have come to expect people to say, “uh” and “um”. I stand before you with an adverb this time – one that is being used into oblivion.

It’s actually, and it’s everywhere. I’ve noticed it in classes, in circles of friends, on television, and online. “Actually” is quickly becoming the coolest adverb around; its meaning is being squeezed out in order to help people sound impressive. Or, actually, thoughtful.

Go ahead and look at that definition. Go on. I’ll wait. Then tell me you’ve actually heard people abuse this otherwise outstanding word. Come on: the other modifiers have succumbed, but please, not the adverbs! -pm

Posted in Everyday Life

FROM: Elizabeth
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 12:35:21 pm
There are two kinds of grammar and thusly grammarians: prescriptive and descriptive. A prescriptive grammar gives rules on how the language should be, and would most likely say something like 'the frequent use of "actually" is a travesty!' Prescriptive grammarians love to pretend that they have control over the language. But in fact, they don't. Language is changing, ALL THE TIME! If not, we would all be speaking Middle or Old English, or possibly German or Latin. The only thing that prescriptive grammarians can do is perhaps slow things down a little, that's it. They are fighting an impossible battle.

On the other hand, descriptive grammarians simply set out to explain the current usage of the language. They don't say "This is wrong/right, good/bad", but they just say "This is how people use this word".

When Paul infers "People use actually all the time!" he is being descriptive. When he infers "This is a bad thing!", he is being prescriptive.

Everyone has a choice as to what concept of grammar they would like to associate with. So choose wisely.

And Paul, I am honestly NOT attacking you personally, it's just that I have been forced to repeat those definitions and ideas a million times since I started school. If you are offended in any way then I retract my response quicker than you can say "What the ???".

Current M.A. student in Teaching English as a 2nd/Foreign Language

FROM: Matt
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 1:29:51 pm
Do you want to get married?

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 2:03:40 pm
Wow, a Ping proposal! :)

Unrelated, but I realized last night that Matt looks like Adam Vinatieri (when they both have beards).

FROM: Paul [E-Mail]
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 2:21:21 pm
I don't have any master control over the language, thankfully (we'd all be using ten syllable words in place of words like "no".)

But you do bring up a good point, Elizabeth. English is probably undergoing new shifts - the likes of which I haven't really seen before. That is, there are new words invented all the time... but not much has happened with the actual structure and syntax for quite a while. My beef with "actually" is just what I see as abuse/misunderstanding of the true meaning of the word... but it's possible that the people using it incorrectly know they're doing just that. Kind of subversive.

However, the people I've observed using "actually" in a poor fashion aren't grammar anarchists of any kind, and are probably just ill informed.

Anyway, I'm a grammar snob - this I admit - but I also acknowledge that the language is ever changing.

(If I ever got my hands on a time-travelling DeLorean, though, I'd try to infuse the phrase "don't go there" into 1955, just so it'd be "uncool" by 1995.)

FROM: Chris [E-Mail]
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 3:20:25 pm
The Ping proposal is probably one more proposal than most of the matching sites have ever seen!

FROM: fresh
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 3:56:32 pm
not totally off subject but is anyone else from beantown or the surrounding area and poop their pants when the pats won? i cant believe the actually won! thank you

FROM: Robert [E-Mail]
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 4:24:18 pm
Paul: I understand why you're bothered, but I just warn you that complaining about popular (mis)uses of the language can make you sound like an old codger before the time is right.

FROM: Paul [E-Mail]
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 4:43:30 pm
Robert, I already sound like an old codger most of the time. Darn whippersnappers.

FROM: Matt
DATE: Monday February 4, 2002 -- 4:54:13 pm
Funny you should say that about Adam Vinaterri, I thought the same thing too. He should have been MVP I tell ya.

FROM: Monica
DATE: Wednesday February 6, 2002 -- 11:28:23 am
at work last night (an ice cream/bagel joint) I asked this girl if she knew what she wanted, and she said "Actually, I don't know yet, actually"
The overuse of the word sounds affected.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Wednesday February 6, 2002 -- 12:55:36 pm
The Lake Superior State University 2002 List of Banished Words should be right up your alley, Paul. I was cheering when I read the "IF…THEN THE TERRORISTS WIN or THE TERRORISTS WILL HAVE WON" section.

FROM: Elizabeth
DATE: Friday March 1, 2002 -- 11:51:40 pm
Matt: Yes, but only because I am drunk. Do I get extra points for pinging while drunk?

What is this then?

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