Anyone who has been following the saga of my new phone and its uneasy alliance with me and my technology-challenged brain will appreciate my feelings about change. I do not, shall we say, embrace change. Embrace … ha, ha. That is a little journalistic humor. I don’t embrace change, I don’t hug it, I don’t shake its smarmy limp little hand, I don’t give it one of those fake kisses on the cheek when we meet. I keep it at arm’s length on the best of days and in an entirely different hemisphere if given the option.
The Oxford English Dictionary is not giving me an option. It is including words that, not to put too fine a point on it, formerly were simply not words. For example, blog, cyberbully, and twerk are now officially recognized. For my fellow dinosaurs, the following sentence explains what these words mean. Sally Googled how to twerk. She wrote about this in her blog and was cyberbullied. Clear? It’s merely an additional sign of the grammatic apocalypse that my spell check did not light up at any of these words. It is reported, although I have no empiric proof, that the non-word “snuck” is now included in the OED. I sort of expect this laxity from us slang-loving Americans, but the Brits? Didn’t they invent English? Or maybe just make it sound more pretentious? And to those of you who insist language is a living thing that needs to evolve right along with the rest of us, I say, “Forsooth.” If Ye Olde Englishe was good enough for Henry VIII, it’s good enough for thee. I do draw the line at his relationship skills, however.
But there is apparently an old old word with a new definition. That word is “everything.” It means, or at least used to mean “every thing.” I believe the word “everything” which means/meant, I remind you, “every thing,” is fairly difficult to misunderstand. Seems pretty straight forward to me but then I’m a straight forward kind of girl. The entity responsible for repurposing the word “everything” is a chain store represented locally. Here is the essence of the store’s usage of the word. “Everything in the store is eleven per cent off.” Eleven is quite an odd number but it’s really beside the point. “Everything in the store is eleven per cent off.” “Everything in the store is eleven per cent off.” “Everything in the store is eleven per cent off.”
It’s possible that sentence is repeated more than four times in the ads but after that many repetitions my eardrums were bleeding and I had to stop listening. In the interest of brevity, the ship of which may have sailed three eleven per cents ago, I am assuming you get the point. The point is, everything in the store is eleven per cent off.
Then, after repeatedly and loudly hammering us with the fact that (brace yourselves) everything in the store is eleven per cent off comes this disclaimer, voiced as most disclaimers are, barely above whisper, “Some exclusions apply.” To which I say, “Huh?” If everything (which means, need I remind you, every thing) in the store is indeed eleven per cent off then how can some exclusions apply? Didn’t they just tell us multiple times you-know-what?
Normally I am not a big stickler for the rules. But one rule I do believe in is to say what you mean and mean what you say. I fully realize some of the reading public would be quite happy if I would quit saying anything. Certain other people would be ecstatic if I would be struck mute during the basketball play offs. And the World Series. And the Super Bowl. Or any time the ball is in play. And during the especially funny commercials. And Sports Center.
So why not say “Almost everything” or ‘Nearly everything” or “Everything that is left over from last season and is taking up valuable space on our shelves.” ? Do they assume we would think less of them if they didn’t speak in absolutes? With apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson, is it better to have spoken in absolutes and recanted than never to have spoken in absolutes at all?
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.