Archives for category: contrarian

I can’t seem to help myself. I get my dander up when confronted by improper use of idiomatic English (or even just plain, old correct English) expressions by people who ought to know better.

A few on my mind lately include:

  • One does not “home in on” something. One “hones in on” it. [UPDATE: I have learned this is not exactly right. Both are correct. See comments below.]
  • One does not “take a different tact.” One “takes a different tack.”
  • “Alumni” is a plural word, and its singular is not “alum.” Someone is neither “an alumni” nor “an alum” of an institution. One is an alumnus (male) or an alumna (female). When gender is in doubt, the masculine is used. No, that’s not sexist, it’s grammar.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest!

What are your pet grammar peeves? Add them in the comments.

Let me just get something off my chest. There are two words whose current common usage I can’t stand.

Those words are “about” when used as a weasel-word substitute for “is,” and “around” when used as a weasel-word substitute for “about.” Both transgressions are often committed by otherwise intelligent people.

About

First up, “about.” This is deployed in the service of a definition, apparently when the writer is unsure what the definition in question is. Here’s a good example:

“Leadership is about listening to your colleagues.”

Note that the first part of that sentence, “leadership is . . . ,” promises us a definition. This hope is dashed immediately with the “about” which makes the sentence actually mean “leadership appears to have something to do with.” Too often, this construction is used not as a way of qualifying or extending some concept that has already been defined (which is a usage that would work) — it is instead treated as if it is the definition.

When I read that something is about something else, I am immediately suspicious that the writer is not sure what they really want to say.

Around

Now, let me come to the rescue of the poor word, “about,” which has been kicked to the curb in hifalutin discourse by a strange construction using the word “around.” Like this:

“My work is around the ethnographic taxonomies of indigenous peoples.”

My friends in academe seem the most common transgressors. Here again, the word seems designed to give the writer a little bit of room, as if they are not exactly sure what their work is about and so would rather tell us what it is in the vicinity of.

Thanks, I just had to get that off my chest.

Just a few contrarian bullets . . . thoughts, complaints, and predictions:

  • When someone talks about their “personal brand,” I cringe. You have a reputation. You must manage it. But please don’t put on airs. You ain’t Pepsi.
  • If someone trots out “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” one more time for grads, I’ll . . . well, I don’t know what.
  • In what universe is marketing really “about the conversation?”
  • Speaking of which, I trust sales people more than marketing people when it comes to advice. Sales people actually have to deliver.
  • There are lots of blogs about how to blog. Why? What do they know?
  • What’s wrong with newspapers: They have to fill space no matter what.
  • What’s wrong with online news: No space or time limitations.

Got any to add?

Just a few contrarian bullets . . . thoughts, complaints, and predictions:

  • There is a difference between a “brand” and a “label” — many label when they think they are branding.
  • There is a difference between “being online” and “having a brand.”
  • Young professionals tend to overvalue their intelligence, and undervalue others’ experience.
  • Few people want to have a “conversation” with a business or institution.
  • Twitter will fizzle out because it requires too much insider knowledge (e.g., using the @ sign to address people), but it may remain a useful platform to publish into other streams.
  • URL shorteners must go away, they are an open door to abuse and rely too heavily on user’s good will.
  • MySpace should not be counted out, if only because Rupert Murdoch knows how to make money.
  • Now that it includes just about everything, I would pay a yearly fee for Facebook.
  • AOL was ahead of its time and could have been Facebook.
  • Facebook does, however, need to fix its email system.
  • Much as I am a fanboy, I can’t imagine Google succeeding at anything in the social space.
  • In five years, geeks will say, “Remember Wave?”
  • Linux will always be the future of operating systems.
  • The government will try to regulate Facebook like a utility.
  • Too often, leaders address poor execution with new systems (e.g., the “Homeland Security” department).
  • Many organizations do not need to exist in their present form.
  • We will look back on the oughties as “the decade of the police procedural.”

Got a contrarian bullet? Let me know in the comments!