Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A few words about locutional nincompoops: even when they go missing they make me think to myself that I’m like, so…like, well, like, whateverrrr.

Okay, I have to confess first. My beautiful girlfriend got me wound up to write this one.

It started when, for the umpteenth time, she heard someone on a television news show use the phrase “gone missing” – meaning, one could deduce from the surrounding blather, that somebody had disappeared. Or vanished. Or had been kidnapped. Or had been murdered, her remains disposed in some secret place. Or had eloped with a pimply guy wearing a motorcycle jacket who never held down a job for more than two days.

“Gone missing”: clear,
unaffected language

“Gone Missing” is a ridiculous phrase. “Is missing” would do the job, at least until the awful final fate of the victim in question is determined. Or even until a haplessly lost person has the good fortune to be found again, alive and well.

But no. The airhead network newsreaders and the nincompoops who write their scripts for them…(Are you listening, Katie Couric? Because this might explain part of your problem.)…all of these fools are using an awkwardly inappropriate phrase that blames the victim for his or her plight.

A kidnapped child doesn’t “go” missing. Listen, you lame brained news writer (or should I call you a news ritur?) If you say a child has "gone" missing, you’ve implied that the child has deliberately taken the action that makes her missing. It’s somehow all her own fault that she has gone and purposely gotten kidnapped. Or murdered. Or crammed into a newsritur’s bottom desk drawer and held there against her will along with the newsritur’s books on correct English language usage and a rubber corset. That applies to you, too, you imbecilic network newsreadur.

Where it all started

Mind you, the Crank’s beautiful girlfriend isn’t the first person to begin seething over this vile misuse of the simple verb “to go.” Back in 2004 the writer – definitely not a ritur – Ben Yagoda traced the source of the “go missing” abomination straight to the press. He revealed, in part:

Along with variants "went missing" and "gone missing," it [the phrase “go missing”] appeared in The New York Times not at all in 1983, and only twice in 1993. In 2001, however, the formulation was employed 24 times. The reason was a major national story about a person who went missing: Chandra Levy. And that year was the tipping point. In 2003, the Times had precisely 50 "go missings," and today even writers for USA Today and People use it with a straight face.
Hey, New York Times. Hey print media. Hey, network news. Maybe there’s a reason your educated audience is going missing, too. And here I’m using the phrase somewhat more appropriately. They aren’t getting kidnapped. They’re simply getting fed up and furiously going away – or going missing from your newspaper subscription lists and the viewership of your program, if you will.

Reflexive redundancy
runs ridiculously rampant

If you think misuse of the phrase “going missing” is bad, at least don’t think it to yourself. “I thought to myself” is another phrase that gets the Crank’s beautiful girlfriend’s goat.

It’s an outrageous redundancy, she points out. Simply saying “I thought,” would do the job. You can’t think to anybody else except yourself – unless you’re telepathic, or unless evil secret agents are tapping your brain waves to spy on you.

The beautiful girlfriend has most certainly met some of those folks. She’s a psychiatrist and she knows a mental case when she hears one thinking to itself. So I’d better warn you that if you tell her that you’re thinking things to other people via some involuntary high-tech brain suck, she’s likely to have you committed.

Therefore, whatever you do, don’t show up on her couch wearing your tinfoil hat when you tell her what you thought to yourself.

That most especially goes for your other self.

Valley of the Valley Girls

While I’m on the subject of turns of speech that nearly make my own superego “go missing,” I’d like to say an unkind word or two hundred about those Valley Girl locutions that are gradually infesting speech among the general population, as if they were locutionary kudzu.

Here are a few of them:
“He, like, seemed very nice.”
The word “like” says nothing that the same sentence without “like” wouldn’t say. Using, like, the word “like” will only, like, slow down your listeners and readers and, like, get them irritated or, like, turn them off. Like get it?

More recently, “like” and “go” have been conscripted by idiots to serve as verbs replacing the completely appropriate, “said.”

Example (including more than one inappropriate way to use“like”):
He suddenly, like, lets go of my hand and walks up to this other girl. So I’m like, “You’ve got to be, like, kidding me!” And he’s like, “Sorry babe, this is my wife.”
Another example:
So I go, “What are you doing Saturday night?” So she goes, “Whatever I’m doing, it won’t be with you, Bozo.” Like, I can’t believe what I heard!
If it’s not a question, dumbkopf,
then don’t say it like a question

Still another example has to do with what you might call the "interrogatory declarative sentence." Once upon a time only valley girls and people who had spent too much time visiting their weird cousins in California used it. Now it’s as common as germs on public toilets. It’s a way of ending each sentence with a slight rise in intonation, turning a declarative sentence into something that sounds almost as if it's a question.
So I’m, like, not believing my ears? I mean, she was talking to me like I’m an uneducated idiot? And I think I know why? I mean, like, it’s probably because she’s my teacher?
What’s that? You don’t agree with any of this rant?



Steve Kaufmann said...

For a somewhat different perspective you can see my response to your comment on my blog athttp://thelinguist.blogs.com/how_to_learn_english_and/2008/06/our-language-sk.html

Joseph M. Hochstein said...

Isn't "gone missing" a Britishism? I have been hearing it and reading it in British media for decades---long before its appearance in the colonies.

All the best,
Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

OMMAG said...

While you're at it ... could you please remind some people that "Gonna" is NOT a word???

pat houseworth said...

Love it...someone with a more foul or is it fowl?, mood than I.

babs said...

My favorite is "turned up missing." I use it all the time because it is so silly...