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Words, Nov. 20



Ken Parker writes:

“I get upset over the misuse of words. In the Nov. 6 issue of Arkansas Times, an editorial says ‘[H]e sneered at stockholders' suggestions that top executives forego bonuses.' Unless the editor meant that the offenders go (somewhere else) before bonuses are passed out, the word should have been ‘forgo.' ”

I took the matter up with the editor in question and he said that editorial writers are above the rules, and that, with all due respect, I had better get back to work and stop bothering him. I bit my tongue, but privately I agree with Mr. Parker — it should have been forgo. (Though some dictionaries nowadays list forego as a variant spelling.)  


A reader has sent an article about a book, “Damp Squid” by Jeremy Butterfield, that includes a list of what the author calls “the top 10 most irritating phrases” currently in use. Apparently the list was compiled with the help of Oxford University researchers who studied the frequency of use, but somebody still had to make an executive decision on relative irritability, it seems to me. Anyway, here's the list:

1. At the end of the day

2. Fairly unique

3. I personally

4. At this moment in time

5. With all due respect

6. Absolutely

7. It's a nightmare

8. Shouldn't of (for “shouldn't have”)

9. 24/7

10. It's not rocket science [Formerly “It's not brain surgery” – DS]

Max Brantley says his list would include “I have to tell you” and “It is what it is.” I'd make room for “I'm sorry, but” when it's followed by “You're completely wrong” or a similar statement the speaker is not at all sorry to make. Ah, so many irritating phrases, so little space to list them.  


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