Language problems

Yes there are lots of language problems these days – and I am not talking about foreign languages but good old English. Seems that over the years popular phrases and expressions get “adopted” into the mainstream which are totally incorrect but because we hear it so often it begins to sound correct and has wiggled its way into our vocabulary. For English teachers this must be maddening.

What brought this to mind was a course I read about which is being offered by The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate (CTA) program. The module in question is called Business Writing. Sounds simple enough, but then I started reading some of the words that people get wrong …. these are some examples from an outline of the course published in Insider Travel –

Advice, advise: Advice means a recommendation on what to do (I have some advice on navigating the subway). Advise means to suggest or guide (I advise you to avoid driving in England).

Affect, effect: Affect is a verb meaning to change or influence (how will the COVID policy affect the itinerary?). Effect as a verb means to bring about, and, as a noun, it means result or outcome (the policy will have an interesting effect).

Complement, compliment: Complement means to complete (the shore excursion complements the cruise). Compliment means to flatter or praise (the passenger complimented the captain on such a fine cruise).

Well those are pretty straightforward and I think we have probably all fallen into that pit from one time or another. But further down the list we get this –

Could’ve, could of: Could’ve means could have (I could’ve been a contender). Could of is not proper, since a preposition cannot serve as a verb.

Aaargh – that just is annoying. It reminds me of that phrase which I think is more popular in the US than here, when people say “off of” as in “get your feet off of the couch”. Google it – I dare you. There are loads of references to this but basically the language experts say that “it makes no sense to have a preposition (off) before another preposition (of).” (as quoted on ontariotraining.net).

Here’s another one that drives me SCATTY! When I hear it on the news I shout at the TV, much to the irritation of my husband. When you hear them say “in connection to an incident that took place”. It is in connection WITH. Have a google of that one too ….

When asked the question online as to which is correct this English teacher said – “I would go for ‘connection with’ as in: What I am saying has no connection with what the previous speaker has said.

‘Connection to’ strikes me as more physical/technical as in: Do you have a connection to broadband on your computer?”

Anyway, it is all academic right now because we now have a whole new Internet language. You probably use that yourself as in IMO meaning “in my opinion” and TBH meaning “to be honest”. I totally get that as we do spend a lot of time on that tiny digital keyboard on our phones and for an “old school” person like me that is really hard. Sit me down at a keyboard and I can zoom along at 100 words per minute without looking at the keys. But I was really stumped the other day when I was reading a community post on facebook and someone used the term BTS. What the heck did that mean. I tried several options including bullshit story – but then suddenly the penny dropped. Back To School. Oh my goodness – this is hard!

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

4 comments

  1. Lesley, there are so many English errors that are creeping in. I know one that gets me distracted from a sermon or presentation by someone who is born in Canada to educated English speaking parents and is university educated and a trained public speaker is the use of ‘I’ instead of ‘me’ as the object. Example: as in ‘they gave it to my wife and I.’ Would they say ‘they gave it to I’? Where did the use of ‘myself’ instead of ‘me’ start? Apostrophes in written situations are often misused or overlooked: it’s / its; your / you’re. Spell check can give some interesting results, particularly when it auto fills or corrects. Then English / Canadian spelling versus US English which drops the ‘u’ in odour etc particularly noticeable doing crosswords in the paper. At my university, the Chemical Engineering professor insisted that his students had to take 1st year English and pass as he stated that Engineers would be producing public reports and must be able to use English correctly. But that was a long time ago in a city far away.
    We have so many immigrants here for whom English is their second language, that I just accept their mangled English in casual business dealings provided it gets the message across in most situations. On the other side of the coin, when I travel to European countries, I do a quick on-line review of their language, nouns and numbers particularly and polite words, and just go for it. In small towns, the shop keepers or B&B owners often don’t speak English or speak it very poorly and are reluctant to use it but when I start with their language, mangling it, they often smile and work with my efforts. Once in Dordogne, France I was asking for a couple of drinks at a bar in French and after clarifying what I wanted, the bar tender thanked me, in English, for my French effort and pointed at the woman beside him and said she was the owner and was English. We laughed. These days though, the young people just pull out their smart phones, talk into it and it translates and speaks in the other language.
    Due to COVID, I really miss our trips overseas to experience the different cultures and to BC for family.

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    1. Hugh I always love reading your comments. You raise some very good points and I love the phrase “that was a long time ago in a city fare away”. It is a reflection of our changing world. Yes I do also miss my trips overseas and BC for those short breaks. Hopefully if we all behave life will slowly get back on its feet and we can enjoy these things that we took for granted. stay well! Lesley

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  2. Lesley & Hugh, I concur! You have covered most of them, would of / should of , I/me,etc.
    It is especially irritating to find these errors in journalism as I would expect that they learned the rules in school. The other one that gets to me is different to, different than, different from.
    We are waiting & almost desperate to get back to Europe for a vacation. Soon?

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    1. Yes I feel the same way – I will never take travel for granted again once things open up. I love Europe so much – the history – the culture. I especially love the WW1 and WW2 sites and have a list of places I still want to visit. My trip to Ypres was so moving, the highlight being the nightly Last Post at the Menin Gate. Makes one feel very humble and thankful for the sacrifices so many made for us.

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