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.