Weekend Semantic Snobbery

A personality profile once indicated that I tend to judge others on their verbal skills.  I’ll admit it.  I am indeed highly attuned to others’ facility with words.

As I’ve indicated previously, this can be a problem for me since my sole engagement with radio and television has to do with sports.  Listening to former athletes’ unscripted comments is to endure a torrent of malapropisms.

I’ve heard the term “misnomer” misused several times in the past, most recently by an ESPN talking head.  He noted that some analysts predicted that the Atlanta Falcons were ready to “take the next step” and become an elite football team.  “But,” he stated, “that is a misnomer.”

A misnomer, however, is a misapplied designation.  It does not refer to a misunderstanding or a misguided notion in general.

My favorite NFL analyst committed another common verbal error, one not limited to former athletes.  He fused two words to invent a third, one that isn’t a word at all.

He referred to a quarterback who was trying to “surplant” the first-stringer, establishing himself as the starter.  He must have fused “surpass” and “supplant.”  It did the job of communicating his thought, but he certainly didn’t escape my condescension.

I immediately recalled my former colleague who insisted on using the non-word “irregardless.”  It’s another combination of actual words: “irrelevant” and “regardless.”

My friend Dave directed me to Dave Barry’s very useful discussion of this non-word’s proper usage:

Q. How is the word “irregardless” used?

A. It is used to add emphasis to a statement:

WEAK: Webster gonna bust your head.

STRONGER: Webster gonna bust your head irregardless.

I hasten to add that I am indeed trying to be less judgmental of others’ verbal dexterity.

I certainly want to avoid misunderestimating people.

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