The good, the bad, and the ugly

Since there is no “good” part, let’s call it The Bad, The Ugly, and The Abominable.

The Bad: Being roused out of a nice sleep at around midnight by an almost unbearable pain on one side of your mouth—the same side in which the dentist found a budding cavity a couple of weeks ago, the cavity scheduled to be filled upon returning from your vacation.

The Ugly: Making an unscheduled visit to said dentist late Monday morning (though thankful that he could fit you in on such short notice). Having the dentist start to drill out the old filling in the tooth where the cavity sits, then having him mutter “uh-oh” a short while later. Chomping down on a roof-of-the-mouth-scraping bitewing for an X-ray to verify the cause of said “uh-oh”. Listening to those ugly words: “decay” (as in what’s attacking the tooth)…”underneath the filling” (as in to where the decay has apparently spread)… “mush” (as in to what the inside of the tooth has turned). Then hearing the ugliest of the ugly words: root canal. Walking out of the dentist’s office three hours later with a mouth still partially shot up with anesthetic. Wishing the anesthetic was still there an hour after that, as the lack of numbness alerts you to the fact that your mouth, assaulted as it was for three hours, now really, really hurts.

The Abominable: Celine Dion’s cover of the Etta James classic, “At Last”, especially when you’re forced to listen to it while trapped in a dentist’s chair in the middle of a root canal. They gave me Novacaine for the root canal; the least they could have done was offer me earplugs for the Celine…

Word nerds of the world, unite!

I’m not one of those pedantic fiends who goes around forcibly correcting every little grammatical error or slip of the tongue, but I’m enough of a word nerd to wince (sometimes quite literally) when people butcher the English language. Whether the butchering is due to their own stupidity (“for all intensive purposes”) or simply from a lack of comprehension (“irregardless”, “literally” instead of “figuratively”), I don’t know, but it bothers me all the same.

And I’m not alone. Bill Walsh is a copy editor with The Washington Post, and his site The Slot has been a favorite of mine for a long time. There, he oftentimes bemoans the state of the press and the people who pay attention to them. See, for example, his take on the Bush camp’s coining of the phrase “homicide bombers”:

Add “homicide bombers” to the “moronic politicization of the language” file. President Bush and his spokesman assert that “suicide bombers” ignores the main intention of the bombings: to kill other people. As if anyone would read “bomber” and think of someone using dynamite to build a tunnel. If you’re buying this crap, you’d better start saying “homicide assassins” and “homicide gunmen” and “homicide hit men,” too. Heck, why not “homicide killers who kill homicidally with intent to commit murder in a not-at-all-friendly fashion”?

Yes, Mr. President, we know that the bombers are very, very bad people. Perhaps we should call them “dumb stupidhead buttface bombers” to do justice to our ire. But we call them suicide bombers to differentiate them from the equally bad bombers who, like most homicidal types, prefer to live. The suicide part is what’s distinctive about their actions.