In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

It was inevitable. In the gradual dumbing down of our society, sooner or later the misuse of words follows – those precious articles that, when formed together, create our means of communication -now becoming confused in public, even in the recent political harangues over our governmental shutdown, used cunningly but without regard to their honest or sincere meanings.

We, as well, are innocently misusing words, often guided by accepting what we hear on the boob tube or movie screen as acceptable English.

For example, ever since “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” became accepted (the verb actually is “shrink, shrank, HAVE SHRUNK”), we and the rest of our society went along with it.

Also, we have long accepted the misuse of “as” with “like,” going all the way back to the cigarette ads that touted “A (blank) tastes good like a cigarette should” instead of the conjunction “AS a cigarette” now as the way everyone but grammarians use it? Next, slowly but surely, we are eliminating the “ly” part of any word used as an adverb: “Go slow(LY).” “Fits nice(LY).” Adverbs bite the dust.

Most erroneously is the problem involving the use of pronouns. I, he, she should be used as the subject in a sentence, while me, her, his are used only as objects. Never: “Me and my friend ran” (“MY FRIEND AND I”); “It’s for John and I” (“… FOR JOHN AND ME”). Of course, if a person has never been taught the parts of speech, such errors will continue to infuriate persons who were correctly taught.

Wrongly referring to something as being in “close proximity,” when the word “proximity” already means a nearness in time, space or relationship, is rampant. (Yet is oft repeated in an advertisement on Chicago’s WBBM to remind us over and over that a new subdivision has the advantage of being “in close proximity to O’Hare Airport.”)

So – of late, we start an opening statement with “so,” a valuable adverb that, among other uses, usually refers back to something previously mentioned, but unfortunately now is used even when there is no previously mentioned reference. It becomes a “buzz” word – a word (or phrase) that is so overused it weakens and gradually becomes meaningless in any context. So the use of buzz words “so” or “like,” inserted where not needed, as in “So – I’m getting, like, tired,” is a no-no.

Falling into the “buzz” word category is the unnecessary response to a query: “That’s a good question!” perhaps biding time to think of a response – especially when followed by a sprinkling of stumbling buzz words: “Uh,” “um,” “well…” etc. (Remember speech classes that insisted on eliminating those irritating hesitancies?) Even broadcast professionals, supposedly experienced in clear talk, stumble along with “ums” and “uhs” like rank amateurs. And when they feel the need to punctuate, they start a sentence with, “You know?” or “I mean.” Repeated over and over, such buzz words are meaningless.

Akin is the repeated use of “I see,” stated without conviction as if the responder doesn’t see at all but interjects it from time to time to conceal – what – ignorance? Or the inability to follow a discourse that flows over his/her head?

Politicians are fond of new buzz words and use them endlessly (“transperancy” is the latest one). Remember former President Bush’s clever invention as he spoke of the “American people,” when “Americans” simply says the same thing but doesn’t sound as impressive ‘- now touted as a “buzz” phrase by nearly every politician in the country. Just this week, Sarah Palin was heard saying “The American people won’t stand for a shutdown.” )

Speaking of politicians, how often do we hear the phrase-lumbered “at this point in time,” when “today” or “now” would do equally well or better?

Of late there have been many examples of adjective redundancy – two similar meaning words joined together like Siamese twins: “It’s just a small little house,” “…a huge big wart on his chin,” “…a nice pretty addition to the house,” etc.

How often do you hear the word “basically” used too frequently and incorrectly, not only in daily conversation, but even among professional writers and speakers? “Basically” means fundamentally or at the basis of something – correct to say, “Our Caravan is not just a family car; it’s now basically a truck for carrying just about anything” or “Basically, kids are really little humans just treading water before they grow up.” But never, “I thought I’d basically pick up the kids after school” or “Basically, we have three children in our family.”

Alas, what would Shakespeare, the bard of eloquence, think of us, who are steadily eroding the English language? He and other fine past writers must be rolling in their graves – So, like, y’know what I mean?

Note: The Finlandia Student Physical Therapist Assistant Club hosts the annual “Soup for Sneakers” buffet and silent auction on Saturday, October 26, 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Heritage Center, Hancock. It’s to provide shoes for needy children. For more info: contact Geri Hawley at 487-7377.

Rotten Tomatoes average: “Captain Phillips,” A-