Thursday, October 25, 2007

Annoying Vernacular

I understand that in many ways, the English language is an ever-evolving thing, but sometimes the direction of its evolution bothers me. Sometime in the past year, I started noticing that every cashier I have spoken to starts our conversation with "Can I help who's next?" This makes me cringe every time I hear it. Did "May I help you?" suddenly become too direct and clear? I start to wonder if every one of them started reading the same training manual. For the record, it is "May I help you?" One request to help the person you're looking at, who obviously wants to buy something, since it's in her hand. You can help her, if you're the cashier, since you have the training to do it. Whether you may help her is up to her. And "who's next" should be obvious. Using "you" seems to have become taboo in favor of this indirectness. Are people afraid to single others out even in a question these days? And don't feel the need to cram two questions into one. (May I help you? Who's next in line? Maybe it's another attempt at shortcutting communication. Ugh.)

While we're on the subject, "in regards to" is another one that makes me wince. I don't know whether people are trying to sound extra smart, or what, but just plain "regarding" suffices.

My college roommate always had issues with the phrase "I wish I was ..." Its proper use is "I wish I were ..." Steph, I hear ya.

There you have it. My one-woman crusade to keep the clarity in our language. Write on, fellow authors. But clearly. :-D

1 comment:

  1. Another one: "How's yous folks doin'?" This is a favorite with waitresses. Like nails on the chalk board!

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