language pet peeves

there are a few phrases that people are constantly saying that are just plain wrong, and apparently the people themselves just refuse to listen when i try to explain the errors.

1. “it was all downhill (or uphill) from there.”

the reason people get this phrase wrong is because they are mixing up what it is referring to. people are under the false impression that this has to do with a growth chart or line graph, in which a line going “up” is a good thing, line going “down” is a bad thing. however, what it really refers to is riding a bicycle either “uphill” or “downhill.” on a growth chart, down is bad. but on a bicycle, down is good. so when we believe that things are progressing smoothly and easily, we are supposed to be saying that “it was all DOWNhill.” and when things are difficult, we should be saying that the conditions were “UPhill.” please get it right.

2. “i could care less.”

ouch. let’s examine the stupidity at work. when one uses this phrase, the intent is to express that one does NOT care at all. complete lack and/or void of caring is taking place. however, if one says that one “could care less,” then that means that while you do NOT care, there is still room for care beneath that level of not caring. in other words, “i don’t care, but it’s possible that i could care even less than i already do.” what one really should be saying is that one “could NOT care less.” that means that you have such absolute zero care that it’s not possible for you to care any less than your current non-caring level.

3. “irregardless”

this one i’ve only heard in south jersey. however, keep in mind that at one point south jersey almost became a separate state from north jersey. i can only speak for all of bergen county when i say we would have been very pleased.

“regardless” means that you are totally without regard, meaning you are going to progress without being influenced by certain things or conditions. for example, “regardless of the rain, i walked to the store.” it means that i ignored the rain and walked anyway. but when i say “IRregardless,” then i’m saying that i was lacking the condition of not regarding. it’s like a double negative. the prefix “ir” means not or without. so, “irregardless of the rain” means that i was without the condition of NOT being influenced by the rain, which means i was influenced by the rain.

4. “people that…

too many times i hear this from teachers, principals, radio announcers, and just about anyone with a voice. if i need a pronoun to refer to people, then it must be “who” or “whom.” the word “that” is used for things or animals. so i will constantly hear someone say, “i saw a lot of people that were tired.” no no no. it should be “people who were tired.” people are not things or animals, so they get the blessing of being a “who” or “whom.”

when i think of more, i’ll add them.

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