Speak easy: A slippery slope of English


“Thanks in part to the overuse of “literally,” Merriam-Webster says the word can now mean the exact opposite. Literally, of course, means something that is actually true. But people increasingly use “literally” to give extreme emphasis to a statement that cannot be true, as in: “My head literally exploded when I read Merriam-Webster, among others, is now sanctioning the use of literally to mean just the opposite,” as written in Salon.

A little part of me just died inside. Figuratively, of course.

Grammar nerd

There has been a move afoot for some time to relax (see also: dumb down) the English language. As someone who has based entire budding relationships on grammar (you had me at the proper use of “too”), I know that my unbridled nerdlike love of the English language is not shared by all.

To be fair, I actually employ a relaxed “train of thought” standard in my own writing to better emulate scattered thoughts, spoken language and the fact that I’m basically lazy. I get wanting to shorten things up and tighten up a text, k?

In my own life I am also pretty relaxed. I somehow adopted “y’all” as an actual thing I say despite living north of the Mason-Dixon Line my entire life. I choose to find it charming.

Added impact

I also freely admit I almost always use the word “impact” in place of “affect” because I’m iffy and second guess myself on “affect” versus “effect” and impact takes care of that quite nicely for the most part. Try it, you’ll see.

Raising the bar

Nonetheless I do have my standards. Over on the Internet, where written word is still the primary form of communication, people have completely lost the ability to differentiate “to” and “too” and “loose” and “lose.” You are hurting my heart, people.

Do not even get me started on the rampant misuse of “I could care less” when what the speaker really means is “I COULDN’T care less.” The former implies that you could, in fact, find less interest in the subject at hand, meaning you do care at least a little. The latter means you could not possibly find one more whit of concern. Ever.
By this point in my rant, my listener’s eyes have glazed over and what they really couldn’t care less about is me.

Now if you want to go changing mathematics to make it easier for the likes of me I’m all about THAT. I say we remove all the letters from algebra (Why Y?) I’m also on board with picking one system — metric? Regular? Pick one! (If only because I’m tired of Mr. Wonderful always needing the exact opposite type of wrenches to whatever he owns. That one may be part of a giant wrench industry conspiracy. I don’t know).

Slippery slop(e)

That aside, I fear that the day is upon us when our own sloppy standards — perfectly fine for a quick text, post or tweet — are sneaking into the actual dictionary.
It was a slippery slope the day the ability to say “ain’t isn’t a word” slipped through our fingers and from our tongues.

Merriam-Webster (not to be trusted) now says that “ain’t is defined as “am not, are not, is not, have not, has not, do not, does not, did not.”

No. Just. No. In my day what it “was not” was a word.

Figuratively, and perhaps literally, I could faint. Say it ain’t so Merriam-Webster?


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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree, but keep working on “effect” vs. “affect”.
    As you indicate, “impact” is usually a sign of mental laziness.

    Usage such as “pore/pour” and “lose/loose” saves me a
    lot of time while reading internet forums. When I see such
    I skip the whole article, as I assume that the writer is too
    ignorant to write anything worth reading. Exceptions are
    gladly made for foreigners.


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