The decline and fall of the English Language

I wanted to share a list of recent assaults on the English language published by BuzzFeed and headlined, “23 Spelling Mistakes That Are So, So Dumb But So, So Funny”.

While I agree they are indeed so, so funny, I also find them so, so sad. 

It’s a sadness I’ve witnessed firsthand over the years as I’ve read blatant assault & battery crimes on spelling and word usage from past employees, recruits, vendors and, yes, even clients.

Here are just a few that made me laugh and cry at the same moment:

  • “Let’s stop going back-and-forth with the lawyers and end this rigor morale.” Happily, I caught this horrendous mistake before it reached the client. Our self-proclaimed “writer as a hobby” account supervisor (who left long ago) had butchered the word rigmarole and turned it into two words that, due to spell check, were readily accepted. I quickly called this would-be Hemingway aside, explained her mistake and stressed the need to first research words and phrases that were foreign to her. God knows if she listened or is causing even more rigor morale wherever she is today.
  • “I broke my teeth on media training!” A bold, if painful, response blurted out by a top executive to a prospect who had asked about our media training credentials. While the executive in question may have taken an inadvertent fall during a prior training session and dislodged some front teeth, methinks she was actually looking for the phrase, “I cut my teeth on media training.”
  • “Our proprietary system takes the grey matter out of measurement.” One can only think the synapses in this man’s grey matter weren’t firing correctly the day he uttered this abomination. Otherwise, minus grey matter, how could one even create a proprietary measurement system in the first place?

Sadly, I’ve read many other truly painful misspellings and abuses of the English language. And, it just seems to get worse with each passing year.

Many blame Twitter and texting as the root cause. I blame the toxic combination of individual laziness and a primary and secondary school system that no longer stresses the importance of mastering spelling or writing skills.

None of this would matter if one were, say, applying for a minimum wage job at Wal-Mart. But committing such atrocities in the PR/marketing world is a sure-fire way to limit one’s career path.

Or is my blog just another example of rigor morale?

Btw, PLEASE post any examples you can add to the list. I’m planning to write a book with the working title, “The Decline and Fall of The English Language” and need all the help I can get. Truth be told, I’d rather not break my teeth looking for content.


10 thoughts on “The decline and fall of the English Language

  1. Great piece, Steve. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve come across a lot of smart young people who can barely write. And many of those who have some handle on grammar and spelling have more trouble finding a news hook than a large mouth bass.

    I will keep an eye out for examples and email them to you. Good luck with your book!


  2. Steve, I once had a colleague tell me that if the candidate we were interviewing “passes mustard” we should hire them. Talk about a condiment catastrophe…

  3. Dr. Barrett should be fast-tracked to sainthood for his selfless attempts to preserve the sanctity of the written word. Thx for sharing, Jim.

    • That was unnecessary, Sir Clayton. You’ll now be paying for the appetizers and desert tomorrow night. No one disses the Don’s writing and lives to talk about it.

    • I’ve seen that on one too many occasions, Gerry. Here’s another one used far too many times by one of our former executives: “I’m just talking out loud here so let me finish.” Begs the question: Where were these miscreants when basic fifth and sixth grade speaking and grammar were being taught? Judging PR Week award submissions?

  4. I once received an email that said “[reporter] has agreed to review the materials under embargo, much to my chagrin!!” I had to explain to the person who sent the email that “much to my chagrin” really just means that you’re feeling annoyed and disappointed. Ah, PR. Gotta love it :).

  5. A few years ago, I read an obit for a management professor in my alumni magazine, and it jarred loose a memory of his method for trying to get business students to use language correctly. This was back in the early 1980s, so way before texting and even email. I wrote about it on LinkedIn, and one of the reactions came from the man’s daughter, who was somehow connected to my network. She said she was honored that someone recognized her father for this teaching method, which apparently was famous in the family. I was honored that she forwarded the article to the rest of her family.