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Jewish World Review
Sept. 28, 2011
/ 29 Elul, 5771
Taking Issue with Popular Speech
Do you have issues with your co-workers? Do you have issues with your teenage daughter? Do you have issues with your used car? Do you have issues with your weight? We have issues at our house, too. I have issues of National Geographic Magazine; my wife has issues of Town and Country Magazine. All of our issues are piled on the bookshelf. We have problems with things from time to time, but our issues are limited to magazines.
It irritates me to hear people using the word "issue" when what they really mean is "problem." Just say you've got some problems with your car, is that so hard? "We have a few minor problems with our teenager." Problem is the perfect word to use to describe….well, a problem. Save "issue" for an important topic for debate or resolution. The issue at hand. An issue of law. An issue of fact. At issue under discussion. Issue is the perfect word for something that is distributed for use. "I was issued a new driver's license," or "he was issued an army uniform."
How about this for a sentence? "The issue at hand, is that the driver's license I was issued is incorrect, so now I've got issues with the DMV."
Using issue for problem as in, "I've got to learn to deal with my issues," is one of those psycho-babble, feely/touchy, new-age phrases like "I feel your pain." Hearing the word issue used that way gives ME a pain, if you know what I mean.
I don't think they teach grammar in school anymore. Elementary school used to be called grammar school because that's where you went to learn grammar. Actually I just made that up, but it sounds good doesn't it? The point is, speech is getting worse and worse with each succeeding generation. We have more ways today to communicate and our communication skills stink on ice.
Another completely irritating speech habit that more and more young people are picking up on is the over-use of the word "basically." As in, "I was basically going down to the mall to see if any of my friends were there. They were there, so we basically just hung out." Another lovely turn of phrase is the incorrect addition of the word "had." "I had used some lip gloss this morning." "We had went to the show last night." "He had came over to the house."
Then there is the ever popular made-up word, "boughten." "Her and I had boughten some stuff at the mall." Don't laugh; I have actually heard this being used by upper-middle class teens and college students. That's right folks, really bad English is not just for the foreigners and hillbillies anymore, it's now available and in common use by all.
There are some less educated among us who, for one reason or another, have never quite gotten the hang of using possessives in their speech. They drop the "s" off their words as if it to use it would be just too difficult. "I'm goin' to my mother house." "I'm gonna borrow my father car tonight." What is disturbing is that this way of speaking seems to be gaining in popularity by many young people who should know better. They just drop the possessive "s" in their sentences. Why anyone would purposely want to sound ignorant is baffling to me.
Okay, I have one more gripe and then I'll let you go. My last annoyance is not the misuse of a word, but the over-use of a gesture. Have you noticed when someone refers to using the telephone, they automatically put their hand up to their ear with the thumb and pinkie extended as if they are holding a phone? It's as if they are speaking to a person who doesn't understand what the words "call on the phone" means. This is a new thing and a lot of people are doing it now.
You never see anyone pantomiming closing a door or lifting up a window or driving a car, but when they say "I'll call you tomorrow," they pantomime an invisible telephone in their hand. I don't get it and it irritates me. That's right; you might say I have a real issue with that, basically.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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