The English Language and Social Class

I’ve still been thinking about common mispronunciations since Saturday. While doing a little casual googling to confirm what I suspected about which mispronunciations annoyed people, I came across a post which featured some of the more common language errors that bedevil Americans in particular. They were all there: supposably, libary, literally, irregardless, aks et al. And I can understand why they might be annoying. If you say one thing, and someone else says another, that’s annoying. Even more so if the dictionary agrees with you. Getting annoyed is ok, but are such errors really a sign of the death of the English language?

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Redundant Words and Phrases

I’ve often written about the great flexibility of English, and the wide range of options it affords those who use it. The downside to that, however, is that sometimes people’s English can get too complex and confusing. There are a few reasons for this. Sometimes, the point someone wants to make is quite complex and requires long and complex structures to be expressed. At other times, one might simply want to show off their vocabulary, or indulge in a little purple prose.

So even though English allows for a variety of registers in how one uses it, I firmly believe that one should keep one’s language as simple as possible.

Occasionally though, even the best of us can indulge ourselves, and one of the common results of this is the use of redundant words or phrases, though this can also be due to honest mistakes. Here are a few of the more common redundancies in English: Continue reading

Literally Unbelievable

Is there a word as commonly misused as literally? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

In a literal manner or sense; exactly:

‘the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the roundabout’
‘tiramisu, literally translated ‘pull-me-up’’
The opposite of literally is figuratively. We’d mostly use this word if there were a chance that something we said could be taken literally, or if we wanted to refer to both figurative and literal uses of the same phrase. For example:
The mysterious blackout left people both literally and figuratively in the dark.
Yet if the meanings of these two words are so diametrically opposed, why would people make apparently obvious mistakes with them? Here are some of the most egregious mistakes I’ve come across:

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