Monday, June 21, 2010

Some Pedantry about Language (updated)

I will try hard not to make this a regular feature.

As a practicing English major I will confess to being a fussbudget over certain things. I refuse to allow the use of "impact" as a verb. I follow the Strunk & White dictum about the placement of "however" in a sentence, based on its usage. I insist that "enormity" must be used to refer not merely to the bigness of something, but the bigness and bad-ness of that thing. So Muffy wouldn't come back from Bloomington, MN, extolling "the enormity" of The Mall of America, but her anarchist ex-boyfriend would use just that word to explain why it should be blown up.

And when I hear the word "orientated" I absolutely cringe. It's oriented, damn it! "Orientated" is merely a bastard back-locution derived from "orientation."

(Yet I have seen references to the English preferring "orientated." I don't consider them [the references, not the English] authoritative, so the jury is out on that as far as I'm concerned.)

But until recently I haven't thought about the parallel "obliged" and "obligated." Lately, though, considering the "oriented/orientated" dichotomy, I have begun to think that "obligated" may result from the same sort of word inflation as "orientated." I've seen some comments to support that point of view, but again, nothing definitive.



Well, I did indeed check out the site Joel refers to (not references, thank you!) in the comments [], and here is what they say about oriented vs. orientated. (You'll have to scroll down the page to see it in context.):

In times like these we turn to the excellent H.W. Fowler's The New Fowler's Modern English Usage (third edition, edited by R. W. Burchfield) for a decision. He examines the words' etymologies (they both derive from the French desorienter, as Will Wagner points out). They both followed the same path to their present-day meanings, which are identical. In the end, Fowler says that the two words are equally interchangeable. One may find that orient is more common in the U.S., while orientate appears more frequently in the U.K., but they are still equal in meaning and correctness.

Perhaps so, but in my opinion "orientated" is still an Abomination Unto The Lord.

Nothing on Obliged vs. Obligated, however.


  1. I have some pets with technical terms- for example, "turbo" doesn't mean "powerful", it means the device has a turbine! There are normally aspirated engines as powerful as turbos.

    As to the "obliged/obligated" issue, I suggest you submit it to this site for an opinion: Be warned- that site is EXTREMELY addictive!

  2. Please feel free to chastise me I use words, or placement of said words, incorrectly. I won't mind. I like to learn. :)

  3. Oh good grief!

    That should read "if I use words..."

    Sigh. Chastise away.

  4. Kay, I think you've guaranteed yourself immunity from such chastisement :-). Nothing would make me feel more churlish after reading your comments!

  5. LOL! That was not my intention, but still, I'll take the immunity. :)

  6. I've just found your site, and this post delights me. As an actively pedantic English major from a few decades ago, I understand your angst.

    I beg to differ with you on "enormity". I think Muffy was correct in her assessment. That much stuff (mostly superfluous) in one place has badness of a sort. Perhaps I'm just not a shopper...

    Thanks for your comments on my language conundrum, although I doubt that's the route I'll take to a solution.

  7. findingmygrounduu:

    Ah, but you see, Muffy didn't use the term because she didn't bring the value judgment you did -- she was thinking that the Mall was pretty cool and amazing! (Which is why her anarchist ex broke up with her.) So you are right to use the word if you see in it (as the ex did) a badness, indeed not just of a sort but a monumental badness!


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