524 Comments
Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I’m a language and writing teacher with diverse classrooms of multilingual students, and I frame conversations about language norms as white supremacist. Is there such a thing as “Standard English”? Who are the gatekeepers? Language use is always contextual. My job is to help students develop the rhetorical awareness they need to communicate effectively across a range of social and professional contexts. So conversations like this one are always interesting to me. What do our language choices (and pet peeves) reveal about us? Languages are organic and dynamic and always changing. Thank you for this thought-provoking conversation!

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Apr 17·edited Apr 17

Aye yai yai ... I teach composition and struggle with this too. I definitely want to be inclusive, anti-racist, decidedly not white supremacist, and yet it's hard when you've labored to acquire specialized knowledge that you genuinely geek out on only to find it is, in fact, unjust when applied as a standard. Also, I don't want my students to be excluded from very real employment opportunities because the standard of English usage being applied to them is white supremacist. So what best serves our students' interests?

On the level of aesthetics - in a hopefully non-hierarchical way - I guess I can just vibe with my tribe of grammarians and vocabulary nerds and leave it at that for they, they resonate with me.

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It was ever thus.... My campus/students are decidedly pre-professional and competitive and anxious and they want access to the country club. AND we value social justice and DEI and restorative pedagogies. I recently attended a presentation by April Baker-Bell on linguistic diversity. I disagreed with her argument that there is no such thing as Standard English. I am pretty sure there is [and that it is white supremacist]. I'm just not so sure where it actually prevails these days or who the gatekeepers are. The fact is that there are multiple Englishes and there are many other factors that determine one's ability to access power than the language they use. Language can and often does matter to my students' "success," but it is not the only thing that matters.

And with the emergence of generative AI, I just hope I have a job until I am ready to retire in a few years. But that's a thread for another day!

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Apr 17·edited Apr 17

Oh dear, I'd like to revise Aye yai yai to read AI y(ai) y(ai). I've caught 13% of my students flagrantly using AI, especially for summary work. It's dispiriting - the calculator of writing.

My students are often first generation and when not are typically in the engineering programs and feel secure in their job prospects. So, I find myself in the position of generally caring more than they do about their learning the master's tongue. Oh the ambivalence.

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“AI y(ai) y(ai).” 😆😆

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Yes! I always think about this when my Boomer mother gets all worked up about new words and phrases being used.

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“Boomer Supremacy”?

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Ahem. That was supposed to be a (bad) joke, *not* a Baby Boomer slam.

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Yes. And why do we become so very irritated? I think about it too.

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I still get “irritated” when I see “a myriad of” versus “myriad” but I try to laugh at myself: my side lost! LOL.

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My understanding is that both are correct and the noun is actually the older form, per M-W (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/myriad). I just want people to use it consistently within the same piece of writing instead of jumping back and forth!

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A genuine wonder: in this crowd do you care about the distinction between nauseous, the quality of causing nausea, and nauseated, the sensation of needing to vomit? I never say anything for obvious reasons, but I notice. I surely do.

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This was one of those things where the minute I knew it, I could no longer misuse it. So now I always use nauseated. Someone once called me out on Twitter for using the word "lame" which they said is an ableist slur, and whatever your feelings on that, I can never use the word "lame" again unless it is to describe someone who cannot walk. I guess I take strongly to correction!

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Clearly this crowd cares. I feel … well, I feel nauseated at how I’ve been using this incorrectly all of my life.

Or I’ve at least been made to feel nauseous at the recognition of this.

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Yup, something causes you to be nauseous. If you feel like throwing up, you are nauseated. If you say you are nauseous, that means other people will get nauseated around you!

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My physician husband INSISTS on nauseated and corrects everyone...not sure it's always well received ;)

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I definitely do, although I know it stems from having parents in the medical field who understood the distinction and adhered to it. I, too, resist from saying anything, but I always am sure to use nauseated when I mean nauseated.

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It's nice to know there are others out there, maybe even "dozens of us!"

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Me! I never say anything, but it bothers me.

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Apr 19·edited Apr 19

Social media (particularly public posts, which I end up paying far more attention to than I should) has shown me just how obsessed we (Humans? Westerners? Americans?) are with thinking of ourselves or presenting ourselves as smarter, better-educated, more knowlegeable, more articulate, etc. than others. Sure, on a certain practical level, it's important that we have basic standards of communication in place so that we understand each other, but beyond that, who cares if some stranger is attached to a different syntax than your own - whether it be due to "ignorance" or their own personal language sensibilities?

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I used to feel so antsy and angry and reactive when someone used a word "wrong" and would obnoxiously lecture people about it in public. It took a lot of un-learning, including a college class on linguistics (language is something we all create together!), reading a powerful critique of Strunk and White (wish I could remember where that was published), years of writing on the internet and seeing how the power of language actually works in practice, making close friends who are both dyslexic and some of the most brilliant people I've ever met, growing older and humbler, reading about white supremacy and the myths of perfection and objectivity, and, the final nail in the coffin, getting a job as a book editor, which made me realize that perfect grammar is a cost center and not why most people buy, love, or care about books. I'm proud to say that seeing a misplaced apostrophe no longer bugs me at all, and though I sometimes feel that familiar nails-on-chalkboard sensation when someone uses a word to mean something other than what I expect it to, most of the time (if I've had enough to eat) I can convert that to curiosity and wonder, which I can safely report is way more fun than the alternative. Language is generative! People are taking the means of communication into our own hands all the time, and that's freaking cool.

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Heck yeah, that's worth being proud of. I think we need a space for recovering grammar police. I used to correct eeeeverything and everyone (including people I was flirting with over text -- not the best strategy for endearing yourself to someone!). Similar to your arc, some gentle corrections were made, and I'm less obnoxious/judgmental and much happier ;)

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I knew that I was truly enamored of a man when I didn’t correct his use of coarse. Of coarse, after we broke up it started to really annoy me again.

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I laughed out loud

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Hah

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😆

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Yes! Life's so much better not being a cop, so why is it so difficult sometimes?

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Someone wrote a critique of Strunk and White? That you do not remember where it was published does not diminish the fact that I have some new heroes, and like in the comics I loved when I was growing up, they have secret identities!

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LOL the gist as I remember it is that they broke most of their own rules in that very book and that the whole thing is a manual for upholding class divisions rather than how to actually communicate clearly and beautifully in writing.

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I must seek out this critique of Strunk and White supremacy!

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it was almost certainly Geoff Pullum who wrote the critique you're thinking of: https://www.chronicle.com/article/50-years-of-stupid-grammar-advice/, longer paper here: http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/LandOfTheFree.pdf

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Pullum immediately came to mind for me too. Syntax classes at uni would not have been the same without his scathing and incredibly entertaining rants about "prescriptivist poppycock".

Thanks for sharing these links!

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"Perfect grammar is a cost center" ... 💯

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Yes my dyslexic, brilliant husband expanded my mind a great deal beyond "if a man can't spell, don't fuck him" reductiveness! Hooray for diversity

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Thank you for this comment. <3

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Yes. As they sometimes say on Reddit and I’m sure it’s already cringe, “this is the way.”

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That's a quote from The Mandalorian.

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😆 I do know it’s a quote from The Mandalorian (and I like that show). I referenced Reddit because this is, well, a comment thread. :)

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Is that not the truth?

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I have not noticed the phrase that irks you so much. "Very unique" used to irritate me, but I've let that go. Every time someone uses the word "decimate"to mean total destruction, I want to tell them it means killing one out of ten, and ii comes from the Roman practice of punishing a disobedient legion. But I resist, because I want to have friends!

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"very unique" or "so unique" still bugs me. THERE ARE NOT DEGREES OF UNIQUENESS. I don't point it out any more because I also like having friends, but it makes me twitch.

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I heard President Bartlet in my head when I read this!

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Every time I see/hear it and my husband is nearby he watches me because it is my #1 pet peeve. I have chosen to start correcting it only when it’s in writing in something I’ve been asked to edit/review (because I also like having friends) but I still seethe inside.

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Very pregnant. You're either pregnant or you're not. I understand it to mean that the baby carrier is very large and/or expected to delivery any day, but pregnant is a state of being, not a descriptor! (I rarely, if ever, correct this one.)

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Hahaha when I was pregnant last year I would definitely say things like "extremely pregnant" in order to signify that I was, in fact, close to giving birth and therefore much more uncomfortable/put out/etc than I had been at, say, 20 weeks pregnant!

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My husband jokes that he is going to put “unique does not require a modifier” on my headstone because this one is the faux pas that grates my gears the most!

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founding

Came here precisely to talk about using modifiers with 'unique'.

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Neither you nor I are unique in our irritation.

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founding

Just today at lunch, I was explaining a massive downturn in our finances during a career change (my husband's) in the mid-'90s. I started to say, "We decimated our retirement savings," but suddenly realized, "Oh, no! It was WAY more than a 10 percent reduction"--and shifted to "destroyed." As in "We destroyed our retirement savings." My friend, who has a Ph.D. in French literature, nodded sagely at the word switch. As with you, this is only a switch I make myself--I wouldn't force it on others, especially friends. (FWIW, we have since replenished our retirement savings.)

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But it's fun to think about the correction even if never made! I will do it with my daughter, my oldest, because we joust about words all the time.

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I think it does not help that decimate and desecrate sound very similar and are colloquially used in similar contexts!

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Yes, I confess to editing myself when I’m about to use “decimate” or other words that indicate a specific number.

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lolololololololol 😂

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Shared my annoyance with very unique in another comment! Even worse is some version of "somewhat unique"—huh?

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Same! Very unique is a (silent) pet peeve.

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Fascinating quibble! (I love linguistic quibbles.)

Speaking as both a physicist and a musician, resonance generally has driver and driven, a source and a sink, an active element and a passive element, and the driver is where primary energy is converted to provide the vibration that serves as the source of the resonance, while the driven is carried along with the driver and disperses the energy (though it may also amplify the energy by "entraining" its own energy with the driver.) Resonance is a transfer (or flow) of energy.

To say, "That resonates with me," is to claim that the flow of energy is from me to "that."

To say, "I resonate with that," is to claim that the flow of energy is from "that" to me.

As a musician, I expect to be providing the primary energy, and my goal is to get my instrument, and the audience, to resonate with me. I draw the bow across the violin string. The sound post inside the violin distributes that vibration to the entire instrument, and I pour more energy into the bow to make it project further. It moves the audience, and they begin to tap their feet, sway in time, synchronizing their own energy to amplify my energy. The audience resonates with me.

There is a kind of narcissism in the expression "That resonates with me." I become, in whatever way, the master, and the universe is my slave.

"I resonate with that," is what the audience would say as they are tapping their feet to my fiddling.

Donald Trump, the wannabe puppet-master, would say, "The Public resonates with me." The Trump acolyte would say, "I resonate with Donald Trump."

I don't see an abuse of language here. Instead, I see two entirely different statements.

Interestingly, I think many (or most) public statements reverse this through the subterfuge of false humility. I suspect Trump would say, "I resonate with the public," to claim that "I am a man of the people. I do only what the people demand of me. I speak the voice of the people." Musicians do much the same: no one likes a musician with a swollen ego. But to be successful as a politician or a musician, you must force the people to resonate with you, if only for a single election or concert.

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author

Love this very much, thank you!!!

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Thank you for bringing the science :) I think you're totally spot on and also that most people using the expression just think it sounds cool and are not analyzing the directionality of the energy.

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Thank you! This is a much more eloquent version of the comment I was going to write.

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That's very eloquently expressed, but I've always interpreted the conventional expression "that resonates with me" as "that resonates *within* me," positioning me the *receptor* of energy that then vibrates within me, or "strikes a chord," as they say (which I actually think of as striking a "cord", e.g., a violin string)...

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A good, and very natural, alternative. :-)

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Thank you for this explanation and putting into words where I couldn't. I didn't actually have a quibble with this phrase and possibly it's because having a musical/engineering background but I wasn't able to articulate why it made sense to me.

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Yes yes yes, thank you so much for capturing this! I was also musing my way through this, to me it feels like “I resonate with [X]” is just another way of saying “I’m moved by [X]” or “[X] has made me feel/think/etc.”

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Well explained, thank you. I feel the same (perhaps because I'm also a musician?) but couldn't put it into words.

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I used the phrase (descriptor?) ‘low key’ (I was low-key frustrated… or something along those lines) and my Gen Z son stopped short, looked thoughtful and then bemused, and then told me it was a Gen Z thing, ‘low key’, where had I read it (picked it up)? LOL. I said, oh honey, Gen Z didn’t invent ‘low key’. 😊

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I've got two teens and "low key" is on heavy rotation in our house : )

Another one I had to re-learn is "out of pocket", which apparently now means "out of nowhere" rather than unreachable 😆

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I also have a teen who says “out of pocket” to mean totally unexpected. I love it, but the minute I start saying it in her presence she’ll stop, so I try to reserve that move for her most annoying phrases lol

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So interesting bc in my circles out of pocket means out of line or acting badly.

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founding

I think of out of pocket expenses!

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I'm a college literature professor. And elder-adjacent, into the bargain. The grammatical phrase "she could of gotten there on time..." Which is how students write out "could've" (or would've or etc). They stare at me in utter confusion when they start to answer analytic questions with "I feel that..." and I say "nope, sorry, what is it that you *think* ... b/c apparently no one has explained to them that think & feel are not, in fact, synonyms)...? There's more, so much more, all of which I try to be compassionate about and patient and etc etc ... But the one that takes the cake was one of my college roommates who said "oh that doesn't qualm me" or "I'm not qualmed about that..." NO NO NO HOLLY YOU CANNOT SAY THAT.

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Awww… this is cute! We’re yelling at the clouds! My Gen Z son and his peers do not use any capitalization or punctuation on text or online. None! I had to learn to treat their text as an oral form as a result. As he said to me, “If your brain is working, you don’t need the punctuation.” (His text probably looked more like “if you got a working brain you don’t need it”). It was a fun thing to be told and made to ponder, actually. Really productive, as is often the case when we have those cross-generation chats. Because universal grammar—the rules of talk that are deep in the brain, as opposed to the more superficial normative stuff we obsess about, is all about efficiency and consistency in real life. It favors orality in a way. Creole languages are similar in this, as is baby talk, when they say, for example one foot and two foot, not “feet,” because the consistent and efficient thing is to make the plural by adding a quantity indicator, not changing the word. So it is interesting to me when language forms gesture towards what’s efficient, what’s actually real in the world. I digress but my point is, to “do language” is partly to keep and partly to break language rules. It’s just that we have investments in when we like the process versus when we don’t. “I resonate with” is actually full of internet speech, to me. It sounds, more than anything, like a caption to a meme, or the text of in quoted tweet. It is fascinating to see these language artifacts from social media make their way in the real world. No less because a lot of them originate in vernacular forms, in humor, in the speech of would be marginalized people, etc. It’s an interesting and unexpected development of “the digital.”

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Interesting facts about Creole languages. I've recently been trying to learn Ukrainian and Slavic languages index the other direction with a different modifier for small quantities and large quantities - so one foot, two feet, ten f**t with a third noun form to indicate, generally "a lot". At first it seemed so extra to me, but it does eliminate the need for extra descriptors to differentiate between a few and a bunch.

I love to think about language and learning new languages has really changed the way I think about English and what is "correct" in terms of grammar. I studied Spanish in college (as a minor, not my main thing) and I was really struck by the ways that words and idioms from other languages and cultures were absorbed into the language, and it's completely true of English too, but we don't think about it much as native speakers.

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OMG, I love the working brain thing, YES sooo Gen Z! One of my favorite phrases my Gen Z step-baby added to our family vocabulary is "it's not that deep" (when being defensive or overanalyzing something unnecessarily) and that seems to be the same vibe as "you got a working brain," lmao.

And also YES to orality and the internet of it all! Gen Z just really cannot be bothered to be serious or professional in their language presentation if there's truly not a need. Bless 'em!

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lol at your opener. 📣☁️☁️

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The physics teacher at my school was telling me about a student who spends hours to fiddle with a specific math typography so the equations all look perfect for their online homework, but then submits the explanation without punctuation and capitalization. It's so interesting to contemplate why and how that happened.

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Oh wow! Doing it at school is such a choice.

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Apr 17·edited Apr 17

Here's the kicker. I have the same student in my English class and they have faultless precise writing for my class. Discipline specific slacking?

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Yes! I like this very much.

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

haha as someone who teaches the psychology of emotion and motivation I am very much trying to teach the difference between thoughts and feelings (and judgments). And between wants and needs.

I wouldn’t say these things register as pet peeves for me but there are consistent inconsistencies between what these words mean and how they are used in practice which is often interesting!

Consider “I feel hurt” vs “I feel that you are being unkind/an ass.”. Functionally we often use the words “I feel” to soften a blow but here it’s interesting to me that in the latter we’re trying to soften our judgment (prevent blowback) while we might be disinclined to say the former because it’s too vulnerable. And the more vulnerable disclosure is often more interpersonally effective depending on the target/goals.

Anyhow! My students sometimes say I feel because they confuse opinions with facts (which is a whole other conversation) or when they aren’t sure they are right.

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Agree that the 'I feel that' language (I too see this a lot with students!) is about softening judgment--I think it's a way of testing the waters because they're so leery of having the wrong answer. It doesn't bother me excessively--I use it in conversation a lot too!--but I do try to nudge them beyond it, to help us find some evidence to correspond with their feels. (We can *start* with vibes-based literary analysis but we can't end there!)

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Yes! Sometimes the pathway to thinking is feeling. Maybe students need to ask why a book/article evokes particular feelings.

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I wonder if the use of "feel" in this way is related to the mental health discourse that is happening in younger generations?

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It's a lot. I point out that if they're "feeling" then we can't really discuss it b/c...that's how they feel. But if they are thinking something, then we can begin to analyze and discuss the topic at hand. They can get an emotional feeling from what we read but... it's the thinking bit that I'm more interested in. And do not let me even start with "I could relate..." (or more frequently, "I just couldn't, like, relate, you know?"

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The demand to relate to everything drives me insane. A BOOK IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A MIRROR. IT'S A DOOR.

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I LOVE this phrase and think this applies to so many situations where people expect something to reflect what they want or their experiences, but that thing (a book or many kinds of experiences) are meant to be doors into a world created by the writer or creator of that experience!

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It's Fran Leibowitz!

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Ohhh thank you!

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I came here to bring up this question of relatability, which I think is related (ha) to resonance. It also puts the speaker in the central position rather than the work itself.

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that is a fascinating point - yes, I feel that it does (ha, again) ... I notice too that my students seem quite irked when they can't relate, as if somehow the author has deliberately ignored them or something.

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Such a distinction made between “feel” and “think.”

I like it.

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Oh I love this! We are very imprecise with this phrasing and as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that I have felt very little and thought far too much. I love the idea of language as a way to become more clear about our own experience and to become more deliberate about who we are being in the world.

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And we may use "think" to express feelings. Consider "I think X is an ass". What we probably mean is "I feel hurt by something X did". Then there is the declarative "X is an ass", which is still an expression of hurt feelings. So complicated!

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Thank you for not saying “Anywho!”

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lol. I have been known to change subjects by saying "Anywhosawhat."

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this one is interesting to me! My elementary school was very big on nonviolent communication, one of the main lessons of which is expressing yourself using "I feel" statements. You were mostly meant to use the "I feel hurt" vs "I feel you were being unkind," but there was certainly some flexibility there, and you could say something like, "I felt like you didn't care." The purpose of that in nonviolent communication is to not assume that you know what someone else was feeling or what their intent was, as you can only speak to your experience and feeling of it. But the "I feel like you're a jerk" statements were definitely from kids trying to game the communication system lol. So I personally come to the "I feel" statements from a different place!

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What?!?!??? Qualm as a verb?! I was going to chime in with something else but "qualmed" knocked it out of me.

Oh, yeah. When I taught high school English essay writing, I tried to break the kids of the habit of writing "I think" or "I feel"--we know you think that, that's why you're writing it. I still got some blank stares on that one.

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Thank you for your sympathy! Holly just never, ever understood. And it qualmed me to no end. The "think/feel" thing...we'll be having a discussion in class and students say "well I feel that Jane Eyre should...." BLERGH.

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“Qualmed” is growing on me. Hee.

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Same! New use: the opposite of "calmed."

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Qualmers of the world unite...🙂

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I'm in my late 20s now and still hear my HS english teachers in my head gently correcting me on this, which I appreciate. You're sowing deep seeds <3

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Thank you for this comment! I hope those seeds are sprouting. I had to stop teaching due to health reasons, and I miss it a lot. Specifically the students and the actual teaching part. Not the grading or administrative part. I give so much credit to people who are teaching now, especially during and post-COVID.

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I am unqualmed. I agree that there is something about speaking that allows for "I think" and "I feel" to soften what is being said. Do you notice a difference in the gender of who is saying "I think" and "I feel"? My guess would be more women, but I have no evidence except personal memory (which is unreliable at best.)

But in writing, especially an essay or opinion piece, omit needless words.

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Oh my God. "Qualm" me. That's run-in-the-other-direction awful.

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I like it! I just used "qualmed" and my husband was horrified. Maybe I'll adopt "qualmy" for things that are disturbing. Oh the hackles I could raise hehe!

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Love it! Like touching something icky: "No, don't ask me to touch that jellyfish, it makes me qualmy."

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The qualm revolution starts here 😊

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The visceral reaction I had that it! It works!

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I taught college writing for almost 20 years and would start classes by telling them my biggest pet peeve is “could of,” and then launching into why—it makes no sense, it’s actually a contraction and not two separate words, we’re lazy speakers and so “could of” is what it sounds like so then it’s what we say, etc etc etc. So I get why we do it, but that doesn’t make it okay and I will definitely keep telling them until it gets better. (why yes, I was the most fun professor in the department why do you ask? 😂)

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Meanwhile I’m a tail-end Gen Xer and I say “I feel” instead of “I think” because I had a professor who would tell us that it was obvious that we were thinking it because it was coming out of our mouths. Take that and add years of corporate communication and I rarely use the phrase.

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That is fascinating! And I take the professor's point - that if we're speaking, then we don't need to announce that fact, but then again...it's also curious to me that in a corporate context, "I feel" would be used (seems so non-corporate?) ...

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Super interesting! I use "I feel" to signify that while whatever I'm about to say feels to me like it could be true, I'm open to hearing what other people think and to having my mind changed. It feels (!) like much more of an invitation and an open door than "I think." And I think (notice--not feel!) that really the whole point of communication is to be understood, not to be correct. Using "qualmed" in that way only gives me pause because it seems like a very individual usage and highly likely to be misunderstood or confusing to the listener.

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I've often pondered if the now common use of "I feel that ..." has been a subtle cause or a subtle effect of how terribly we (royal we) interact with one another nowadays. Has our nasty discourse caused us to feel more defensive about our thoughts, and so we feel our thoughts more deeply and take any reactions to them personally? Or did using "I feel that ..." cause us to get more defensive, thus causing our discourse to disintegrate? I wish I knew, but I can't pinpoint when the change in use of "I feel that ..." started happening.

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Maybe we'll be qualmed one day. 😊

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Keep fighting the good fight!!!

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Don't know the CS Lewis description; I'll look for it, thanks. It's interesting to think about "feel" being "opinion" ... I'm not entirely sure they're synonymous, though, are they?

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Apr 17·edited Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I have teen/tween daughters and (like every generation) they have co-opted words to mean something different. "Preppy" is the main thing. Sephora is preppy. Lululemon is preppy. Stanley Cups are preppy. "Aesthetic" to them just means it looks nice. Another is "coquette". To them it means anything with a bow on it. There are several others but I am guessing anyone in the orbit of a person this age might be nodding their head right about now....

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Aesthetic is the one that really drives me crazy!

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Oh that's funny, because I feel the opposite. New usage is wonderful, I'm here for it! It's one in particular that I absorbed the new meaning of really seamlessly from my teen and her friends. Others I need explained to me, but that one clicked very easily.

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I get so annoyed by this cause I always interpret it as a kind of "personal brand" thing. "This is my aesthetic". Apprently that's not only how ppl are using it!

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Mindlessly scrolling through tiktok, I noticed every other video misused "aesthetic" (or used with a totally imprecise meaning) + mispronouces it as "ass-TET-icks". I'm not a stickler for precise usage OR pronunciation, but the medium of tiktok makes it feel like the blind leading the blind on this one in particular. It hits the ear like Tai's line from Clueless, "I hope not sporadically!" after Cher teaches her the word. It's very "something to do with appearance, but I'm not sure what." I'd be interested if someone could trace this particular phenomenon of the misusage spreading via social media.

On that note, this book is great! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9314886-which-aesthetics-do-you-mean

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ooh aesthetic I really don't like! like, that's a word with a specific, useful meaning--that isn't just a kind of beige nothingness!

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Most language evolution doesn't bother me, but the preppy and aesthetic thing. I just can't. Apparently aesthetic doesn't even mean nice anymore, it just means beige now?

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If you got some small dutch ovens with bows on them, you'd have coquette cocottes.

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There are so many weird ones with teenage girls! including mine. It's a vibe. Like the fit? Don't forget low-key and slay. Everything slays. Slaps. Hits. (why all the somewhat violent words? hummm)

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“That’s vibes” is another one … I guess that’s kind of the point, to annoy us lolol

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Things being “aesthetic” is nails on a chalkboard. I know I need to get over it. But it gives me the ick!! It feels so thin and shallow. Maybe that’s the point?

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Sephora is preppy? Wow. Ok.

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Another one: "suss" from my 9-year-old, which I think mostly means not good. What we teenagers in the '90's might have called "lame" or "bunk". Maybe? It's still not totally clear.

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it's short for suspicious or suspect, i feel like it replaced the colloquial teen use of "shady"

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Apr 19·edited Apr 19

and shady replaced "sketchy/sketch" I feel

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yes lol i am on the sketchy/shady cusp

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This must a YouTube phenomenon. My kids also use the word “preppie” this way and it drives me a bit batty. I own an original copy of “The Preppie Handbook” that I bought secondhand as a kid. But as I remind myself, the word punk has evolved over time.

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I was looking for a copy of this to show them! But I don't think it would mean anything even if they saw it. One of the best things about being young is not giving a rat's ass what older people think, am I right? :)

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Oh yes I can co-sign all of the above. Here’s another one, that I personally can’t stand. My teen punctuates her little rants with the word “chat.” Like as though she is addressing an online audience as well as me or whoever is physically there in the room. Brutal.

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I am learning so much from this thread. My kids also do this and I thought it was just a local thing!

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Omg yes aesthetic really gets me right now. How did it become the only way to say “that looks nice to me”??

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anything with a bow on it -- which frankly makes a lot of sense!

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Haha.

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re: preppy, another one is apparently "bro"? My tween niece described my (extremely nerdy and unathletic) fiancé as a "bro" and then explained that it's because in The Sims, one of the personalities for men is the "bro" and they're all just very chill and happy.

I, for one, am happy to see "bro" reclaimed as good personality instead of the representing the dickish high school athletes and frat boys of my adolescence.

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Yup. Pronounced “Aass-thetic” and I’m guffawing each time…

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Coquette!! ??

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wait, but aren't those things preppy? maybe less Sephora, but the other two? (fwiw, I'm from the x/millennial cusp and I sort of love how many of these gen z things are recycled from our era--I didn't use capitals or punctuation in any of my emails until I started needing to be professional in graduate school, for example)

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I'm technically a millennial and I grew up thinking Ralph Lauren was preppy. Anything that shows curves (Lululemon) wouldn't have been. Preppy was like, old money.

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yeah, I think that's the thing--preppy to me wasn't about being baggy or not so much as it was about what prep school/prep school aspirational people would wear, and lulu definitely dings that category for me, or at least it did. it is possibly a little too easy to get these days for it to still be there. Lulu was for rich white lady yoga pretty exclusively for a while and that's why it hits that box for me. less so wearing lululemon leggings to the grocery store, you know? but fancy leggings, the crossbody Lulu fanny pack, and a stanley water cup? seems like the duck head and chinos preppy of today--not quite at the Ralph Lauren exclusivity, but definitely in the same vein

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I used to be really annoyed by other people’s mistakes (even though I didn’t recognize a lot of mistakes you mentioned in the article). I read about how correcting grammar is part of the white supremacy and needing to be in control. This opened my mind and helped me be less judgmental.

https://www.msudenver.edu/writing-center/faculty-resources/linguistic-white-supremacy/

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I read something in recent years that said just because someone mispronounces a word doesn't mean they don't know the word, they just haven't heard it. They can still know the definition and use it properly and that stuck with me. I used to rush to judgement when I heard a word mispronounced, and now I remember that lesson and withhold that judgement.

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I love this - I was (and still am) a voracious reader as a kid, so I read a LOT of big words that I never heard pronounced.

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Hahaha yes. One of my junior high school friends and I still laugh about my early use of the word banal. Which I thought MUST be pronounced BAY-nahl. Apparently it is not.

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I remain irritated about how when I did a reading test for entry into a private school for fourth grade (we were living somewhere different that year) they only put me at an eighth grade reading level because I mispronounced menagerie. I knew what it meant!

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Yes. “Treacly” still haunts me.

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melon-CHOLLY ... and I thought there was a disease called ammonia (which was also a floor soap) and then this thing called PEENEWMOANUH (pneumonia)

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I’m the same. I was a voracious reader growing up and I tend to know what most things mean in my native language, but I can’t pronounce many words even though I can spell them.

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And more of the same!

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same same same!

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Absolutely! I had no idea how to pronounce "chaos" when I first read it. Before I saw that word, "ch" never sounded like a "k".

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I can't remember where I heard this story, but somebody talked about being at a lecture by Jacques Derrida where Derrida kept talking about "cows." And the listener was *baffled*. Couldn't figure out what cows had to do with anything. But, after all, it was Derrida, so the listener figured they were just missing something. Then there was a little break between the lecture and the Q&A, and Derrida had a conversation with somebody during the break and started the Q&A by noting, "I am informed that, in English, the word is pronounced 'chaos.'" And suddenly a whole lot more things made sense! Now I always think of this story when I hear about chaos (and am not really surprised that Derrida caused some...).

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You've reminded me of the time I was corrected about this as a kid because I pronounced it "chu-ah-oh-us"

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Right! And sometimes you've heard the word but have not seen it so you don't make the connection quickly enough. I was reading to my primary 2 (maybe grade 2 in the US) class when I had the misfortune of encountering the words "island" and "aisle". I said something like "is land" and "high sleigh". My teacher thought I was being silly and I got a timeout. It took me a while to match the spelling to the pronunciation and understand my teacher's reaction.

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Yes! Teaching two kids to read has also shown me how many wonky ways we spell things in English. It feels like for every rule there are multiple exceptions.

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I've recently been helping a 2nd grader learn to read English as a second language and his absolute *outrage* at how English words are spelled and pronounced is so on point. Any word that starts with a silent 'k' is a personal attack on him. The inconsistency of the letter 'c' is a legitimate cause for revolution. The day I told him that "bouquet" is pronounced like that because it's actually a French word... Complete meltdown. Like, are we pranking him? DOES HE ALSO HAVE TO LEARN FRENCH?!?

Like, my man is correct. English sucks.

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😂😂😂😂😂 just the other day, one of my kids asked why we have the letter C and K? And I didn't have a good answer.

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Isn't it because it would sound silly to say "I don't give a fu?" 😊

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I can’t wait for him to hear about a lamb’s mother…

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"egregious" still does that to me!

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This is a big thing in my household! I typically pronounce words correctly and look up pronunciations I’m unsure of. My husband reads a good bit and has a large vocabulary. We rib each other constantly. He’s shocked when I’m stumped while doing the crossword and I’m like, “what was that word you just said???”

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I still correct mispronounced words, with the explanation that I was 35 before I found out maniacal wasn't pronounced maniac-all in an embarrassing public speaking moment. A voice-over gig a few years later taught me a few more pronunciations, and the producer gets very upset when something needs to be re-read! This has made me over-sensitive, probably.

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Oh for sure. I'll correct, but just without the judgement. :)

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This is such a good point. My work is in communications for a library and I'm more strict about grammar and "proper" writing when it comes to formal/professional and technical documents at work, but beyond that why does it really matter? Even with our work documents, there are levels to what it actually needs to be, especially if it's not a legal document. I'd rather it be understandable than perfect anyway.

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My philosophy is: know your audience. The more general and wide your audience is, the more you need to follow rules to ensure that you communicate effectively. But if you have a narrow audience (a single person, members of a subculture or profession or another limited group), then there is no need to follow the grammatical rules--you talk the way they can understand you.

So the way I write when I'm talking on certain internet sites is completely different than the way I write for work; the way I talk to my sister is completely different than the way I would give a presentation. Context is everything!

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100% agree!

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For me, it’s the “I” and “Me” mixups! I’m not a grammar nerd/policeman and I occasionally have to correct myself (mentally saying “is it me or I here?”) but the other day I heard a published writer say “Steve and I’s” and my jaw hit the floor!

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Similarly, people use "myself" a lot in a way that makes me crazy but also I completely understand their meaning so I try to not let it distract me. As in "Steve and myself attended the conference".

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Yes! This bugs me (and myself)

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100000000%

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Right there with you.

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This drives me so crazy. So many people get it wrong, regardless of their education (I heard Barack Obama say it wrong!). It really seems to have become common usage to completely avoid any form of "... and I" , perhaps due to overcorrection, which puts me in a conundrum: say it correctly at the risk of sounding wrong, or go along with this against my better judgement. I am not a native speaker, perhaps my primary language makes the distinction easier.

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I see published authors caption photos things like “my husband and I” all the time!!! I try not to let it get to me because I’m sure I make grammatical errors all the time, but I really don’t get this they have gotten as far as publishing a book without this mistake being corrected.

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On that one, I don’t think I ever learned the “right” way, and never thought much about it or cared, until years ago my mother told me that she could not *stand* to hear it used incorrectly. And how “dumb” it sounded used incorrectly. :/

Since then every time I write it, I get anxious and fret. Ultimately the “right” way sounds so foreign to me that I just do it my way.

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The way I remember it, is what would you say if it were singular. Ex: "I went to the grocery store", so it would be "Bob and I went to the grocery store". But, if you would say, "she took a photo of me" it would be "she took a photo of Bob and me".

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My understanding is that this is exactly how the useage is determined!

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

As a (now-retired) corporate communications professional, I have so many pets peeves from editing the work of less-experienced writers. My biggest one right now (ask me again tomorrow —it might change!) is the use of "disinterested" when the writer means "uninterested." I am realistic enough to know that those words may be undergoing a "literally" shift, but damn—we need "disinterested " to remain objective. Disinterested should have no skin in the game. We should trust disinterested to remain above the fray, while still paying attention. Current example: The Trump jurors should be disinterested but definitely *not* uninterested. 😄

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I no longer get worked up about the shifting meaning of words...except when a word is so useful and precise that we can't afford to lose it. I really think that "literally" becoming an intensifier was a loss to language and I agree that "disinterested" becoming "uninterested" is too.

I guess we'll just have to come up with new words to replace those old meanings?

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My thought exactly! I have long tried to roll with the changes. And some old-school usage rules are silly. (Looking at you, "you shouldn't split an infinitive," which comes from Latin, where you *can't* split an infinitive—literally! 😄.) But some words have no replacements at this time. I like your idea of coming up with new words instead.

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I didn't take on the hyper-awareness of grammar usage until I started hearing "impactful" in the early 00's. It made my brain waves stutter - impactful? "Her contribution to the field was impactful" - not significant? Not revolutionary? Not "had impact?" I kept it in my back pocket as a pet annoyance for years, until its usage became so mainstream that dictionaries started to include it. And much like the COVID years shook long-standing ideas about formal systems of work, I just stopped caring about words - does the word clearly communicate one's thoughts? Cool. Make up all the words - they're all fucking made up at some point, why not now?

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Apr 17Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

This is *everywhere* in student writing and is one of the few things I will always flag--not just because it's an annoying misuse (people or things have an impact or make an impact) but because it's a hedge word. When they say "Historical Figure was impactful" I stop them and ask, "How so?" It's a usage that gestures toward significance or causality but doesn't at all do the work of clarifying or assessing.

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I came here to the comments to write about “impact” and “impactful.” I started my career as a scientific editor, specifically in geology, and my mentor then was a geologist who had studied meteorites— and impact craters. He was adamant that an impact was a collision, like a car wreck or a wisdom tooth. This pet peeve was passed on to me, of course, and now the word “impact” is everywhere. I’m finally softening to it because I think oftentimes people mean affect or effect, and they’re not sure which one is correct. And also because, as so many others have eloquently pointed out on this thread, language is meant to change, and no one likes a snoot.

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Yes! One of my pet peeves too. Impact is NOT A VERB!! This was EVERYWHERE in the corporate world when I was working. I don't know how many times I flagged it in documents I was proofreading/editing.

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I’m down with the idea that grammar is descriptive rather than prescriptive, enforcing “correct” grammar is a classist and racist cudgel that does the opposite of promoting mutual understanding, living languages are constantly evolving and that’s a beautiful thing…

However. I get stuck on the new-ish explosion of nouns used as verbs. It feels very rooted in late capitalist tech startup culture to me. Presenting a *thing* as an *action* perpetuates the illusion of empowerment and agency as attainable through purchasing, while actually contributing to the concentration of power among the super-wealthy and restricting the agency of everyone else.

For some reason, “gifting” is the noun-as-verb that bothers me the most. “I gifted that to her” is my fingernails on a chalkboard phrase. You can just say GAVE! I guess that doesn’t quite connote the special trappings and presentation of a gift, but those trappings are also a way to sell more stuff and generate more waste, and they’re also a domestic obligation that disproportionately falls on women.

This is definitely my crankiest take, and one I have not managed to work all the way through.

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“Gifting” is also my pet peeve! Fingernails on chalk board every time!

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The differentiation here is (IMO):

- Being gatekeepy about using 'not proper' words can be classist and racist.

- Inventing new words such as business jargon (e.g. "impactful", "target market", "drill down", "take a stab") can *also* be classist and racist and all kinds of other bad stuff.

Being the person trying to preserve the status quo of language doesn't automatically make one 'bad' -- some of the people out there trying to change and invent new language are very bad. It's the reasons and motivations for doing so that are important.

A first-principlesy tech bro who thinks he's invented the concept of "a bus" is also going to be out there inventing new words and forcing those terms on everybody else. And if the rest of us say "preserving language norms is automatically bad!" . . . well then we just culturally cede norms to tech bros forever.

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This is funny, because encountering "gifting" is like hitting a conversational speedbump , but I also really appreciate all the context that comes with it. It is heavy with the idea of obligation and performative consumption/giving beyond just "I thought you would like this so I gave it to you".

I see it used a lot in a philanthropic context, where it seems to emphasize the performance of giving - "She made a $5000 donation to the org" vs. "She gifted the org $5000". Like, same meaning, but one of them seems to emphasize the virtue of the giver and simultaneously elevates a (boring transactional) donation to the special status of (personal heartfelt) GIFT.

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Yes! This! And do we as a society really want to be moving in that direction: where voluntary charitable donations replace the obligation to contribute to the social safety net through taxation, and a gift to said charity necessitates reciprocation of some kind (like a naming gift)?

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I scrolled until I found this take. Definitely a fingernails on chalkboard phrase for me. "Gave" is right there!

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Ooh interesting. I hear "gifted" as "gave with intentional sentiment", and "gave" as "transmitted possession logistically". My experience with this gave/gifted duo stems primarily from artist-centric communities, not corporate or philanthropic.

If asked, "where is the flashlight?", then "I gave it to [X]" means something like "X is the last person I knew to have it". But if I said "I gifted it to [X]", then that flashlight now belongs to X, and isn't available under the same conditions. "Gave" leaves more ambiguity in describing ownership contextually, for me, while "gifted" means the recipient was specific, intentional, and intended to be more permanent.

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My company's founder has a grammar topic at every monthly all hands meeting and many of them do ultimately come across as pedantic. Unfortunately, some of them also feel very classist or racist, especially when we talk about pronunciation alongside grammar ("picture" being pronounced as "pitcher"). While I'm fairly precious about my own grammar and pronunciation, I have found peace with simply letting go of how others say things. As long as they are able to effectively get their point across, I try to move on and not let myself stew on it.

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In 2008 I worked next to a [racist] person who said he didn't respect Barack Obama because he used "gonna" in campaign speeches. Somehow the use of that one *extremely* *common* nonword was akin to speaking Ebonics in the Oval Office, and an untenable smear upon the unimpeachable integrity of the presidency, from which our democracy shall never recover.

Listening to that one [racist] man bitch basically revealed the inherent white supremacy of grammar policing to me in great clarity.

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