Hi, I’m the Petty Grammarian and I’m here to help you.
Actually I’m neither. But with Ross being out of town this week, I thought I’d step up to the plate with some serious fluff. Here goes.
Some time about three or four years ago, if I remember correctly, every waitron in every mid-level restaurant in America got a memo that instructed them to inquire about the satisfaction of their customers’ meals with the words, “How’s everything tasting?”
Without getting into the details of gerund abuse or misplaced modifiers or what have you, which I’d probably mess up anyway since I’ve long forgotten how to diagram sentences, can we please address this? When I’m enjoying my meal I don’t want to be confused by being asked to consider whether the items on my plate have taste buds, or how they feel about the meal. (This is especially disconcerting to carnivores.)
This bugged me so much I actually started recording the places I encountered it, because I wondered if it was just a local/midwestern thing. Alas, no. I’ve also heard it in Chicago, New York, Vancouver, Charleston, Nashville, Phoenix, and Los Angeles, and numerous places in-between.
So, what gives? Why did this happen? Where was the tipping point? Is it too late to reverse the course? Who sent that first memo, and how do we get that person flogged with a number-two pencil?
This is relevant to Northfield because it’s well known that a large percentage of people serving as wait staff are college students, or high school graduates who ought to have at least a passing familiarity with their mother tongue. Every restaurant here is guilty of employing wait staff who routinely use this inane phrase. Teachers and professors, only you have the power to correct this egregious error. A mere blog entry cannot do it, the task is too great. Will you help save my sanity and rise to the challenge?
I’m not a purist looking for formality; “Is everything okay?” or “How is everything?” would do me just fine. But please, no more “How’s everything tasting?”
I’m all for it, if you can get rid of signage and trackage and irregardless and “I could care less.”
Thanks for a topic to lighten the mood!
OK, so I’m feeling peevish today. These are not grammar problems, but annoy me none-the-less. These days, whenever I say “thank you” to someone, the reply is “not a problem” or “no problem”. Of course it is “not a problem”–you’re doing your damn job. I think it bugs me because “thank you” is gracious. “You’re welcome” would be the old fashioned gracious reply. “No problem” is obnoxious.
From the world of restaurants, after the meal has been consumed, the waitperson asks “did you leave room for pie?”–instead of “would you like to see the desert menu?” I’m not sure why this irritates me, but it does and it must be eliminated.
Tracy and Anne, is it too late to add your phrases and mine to the list of issues to be investigated by the State Auditor?
Curt- Now that’s a novel approach! I wasn’t aware the auditor’s office had so many uses! What a wonderful way to put our tax dollars to work.
Now, there are a lot of words and phrases used contemporarily that had an entirely different meaning in my youth. For instance- flip-flops and the other unmentionable word used to refer to a specific item of intimate apparel. Did I say this politically correct enough?
While we’re on it, who on earth came up with the concept of “politically correct” speech? Don’t we have enough political involvement in our lives as it is? Must politics define how I communicate, also? Just another soap box of mine.
I think it is an indication of good mental and emotional health when we can step back and laugh at ourselves. Tracy, thanks for starting this blog!
While I’m out of town
and not taking care of my fluff responsibilities,
how’s everything going?
I hear you Tracy and Anne…Johnnie, you’re so pc I don’t know what you are talking about and I don’t think I need to know, either, smile.
Really, as long as they quit saying “HI, GUYS!”, I feel a lot better about dining in restaurants. I lobbied for that one actively.
Ross, it would be really pc and downtown of you if you would include everyone in your postings.
Sorry, Curt, I forgot to say that I agree with you wholeheartedly,
but I confess I have long given up on expecting graciousness from
just about anyone these days.
Forgive me, if you, dear reader, are one who is always gracious, or even occassionally strives for it. And, if you do see me, please feel free to send any of that lovely quality that you may wish to express directly to me. I shall appreciate it in the most gracious way.
The real culprits here are of two sorts: those who do have alterior motives, little talent, and charming ways, who used grace and polite manners to win over the populace only to stab them in the back later, and as a result, turned people off to phoney displays of niceties. The other sort are those who just cannot find the time or and/or energy to wax eloquently.
By your leave,
Hey, John: Your comment about our need to be “politically correct” stood out to me. I never thought of it as politics invading speech. Good thought. The other phrase–“inclusive language”–travels in the same category. It is probably politically correct to use inclusive language in our society. However, is the word “thong” now politically incorrect too? I suppose that, if we wanted to, we could make that “exclusive language” too. Maybe instead of a “thong” we should always refer it as “thongs.” They do usually come in pairs, I believe, unless you only have one foot. 🙂
Cristine- So do briefs, or at least the last “pair” I purchased.
Slightly OT, but Forbes had a nice article on dining for singles.
One great idea was a singles table, so that four single strangers could sit together and chat. Another idea was to have the waitstaff
make the single person feel so welcome and chatted up that they wouldn’t feel alone. Another restaurant provided magazines and other reading material. Another notion was to avoid giving the single person the odd table back by the restrooms or swinging kitchen doors.
There is maybe only a couple of places I would feel comfortable as a single in Northfield, and as a result I often stay home when I really want to eat at a restaurant. So how about it, Northfield restaurant owners? or am I just too shy to go anywhere alone?
Ha ha… Very witty, John! Yet again, maybe I should fear the you are one of those Bright (#6) mentioned “… who do have alterior motives, little talent, and charming ways, who used grace and polite manners to win over the populace only to stab them in the back later, and as a result, turned people off to phoney displays of niceties!”
Oh my! I am glad I have not become that paranoid! You are not one of the nice “prayer ladies” are you? I sure hope not. Then I would have to worry that you might stab me in the back! I have heard the people can “kill you with niceness.” Oh wait, that’s right; Christian’s believe in the 10 Commandments. One of which is “Thou shalt not kill.” Thank Goodness!!!
John is indeed a wonderful man with a faith that stands the test of time and a sense of humor that tests all who stand within earshot. I had the honor of working with him — and the relief of being on a different shift so I only had to listen to the jokes part of the time.
I am glad we have the shelter of this humorous thread to hide from the storm blowing so many ill winds around the site today. Even I got caught up in them for a bit. The challenge, it seems, isn’t to keep trying to get other people to think like you, but to learn to appreciate the way others think…
John, this last bit isn’t a joke, but a quote I found that would be a good motto for the town, given all the stress of late.
If you were arrested for kindness, would there be enough evidence to convict you? -Unknown.
Christine- Glad you picked up on that. I will confess, I am a consumate punster, just ask anyone who knows me (Anne Bretts). The English language gives us so many opportunities for that. I will say, I do not like the unclean or offensive references. One of my friends is always quoting that line from Mary Poppins, “…there is nothing like a good joke, and let me assure you, that was nothing like a good joke.” As far as what I am, what you see is what you get. I don’t have a good enough memory to lie to people, so I am stuck with telling the truth. Sorry.
As far as Bright’s comment about phony niceties, I think there has been too much of this in our society. People have gotten so cynical that they have a hard time believing someone could actually be genuinely nice. Burnt once is learn’t twice. It seems that everyone is looking for the hidden agenda to come out. Too many of the pyramid marketing programs encourage people to only have friends who will “line their pockets”, so to speak. I really respect teenager’s opinions of people on this point. They have an accurate way of cutting through all the falsehood.
A far as being one of the prayer ladies, (and please don’t be offended by my answer) if I am, I’ve been using the wrong public restrooms all my life.
As far as commandments go, loving my neighbor as I love myself is the only one I try to follow. I have found that to be a lifelong endeavor, and I will confess that I certainly do not have it mastered, but I keep pressing on.
As far as “thong” goes, I was just trying to make a big deal out of it as an example of PC language. When my kids were still home, it was sometimes embarassing to me to learn how some terms common to my teen years had been twisted around to mean something else.
This brings up another peeve of mine- the whole idea of “revisionism” in respect to historical events.
Anne- Great quote, indeed! And thanks for standing up for me. I have really enjoyed the winds of reason you have been blowing around this site.
(#12) John says, “… loving my neighbor as I love myself is the only [commandment] I try to follow.”
John: Does that mean that I still have to worry about you trying to “kill” me?
(#13) Also, John, did you know that in Brittan the word “wind” can mean the expelled gasses of the human body?
(#12) John said, “It seems that everyone is looking for the hidden agenda to come out. Too many of the pyramid marketing programs encourage people to only have friends who will “line their pockets”, so to speak.”
On a serious note, did any one see the CNN special “God Warroirs” last night? I only saw part of it, but I wished I had made it a point to watch the whole thing. Last night was on Islam and tonight is on Christianity.
One of the points made was how some young Muslims are becomming more devout in their practices as a way to rebel against the competitive spirit of the American economy. In other words, they see that our capitalistic economy does not promote a peaceful lifestyle of human co-existance.
In the past, I think that our moral convictions helped to balance out America’s economic structure. It seems that, today, we have lost some of that balance.
I believe that it says “In God We Trust” on much of our currency. If we no longer trust in God, in whom or what do we put our trust?
I hope that CNN re-airs this series. Regretfully, I will not be able to see tonight’s presentation.
(Sorry this has strayed so far from the topic of our corruptions of the English language.)
Christine- Re.: post #14, it would be a very hard stretch of Situation Ethics to justify killing someone as the most “loving” thing you could do for them, especially with “niceness”. No, I don’t go around killing people, and I don’t run with boys that do. I might choose to lay down my own life for someone, though.
As far as passing “wind”, yes, I am aware of that use. And I might opine that there has been some of that in other streams on this sight. But Anne is not guilty of that. I was refering back to her “ill winds” reference in post #11. I’m sure she got what I was meaning.
You said in your post #15, “…they see that our capitalistic economy does not promote a peaceful lifestyle of human co-existance.
In the past, I think that our moral convictions helped to balance out America’s economic structure. It seems that, today, we have lost some of that balance.”
You really hit the nail on the head with that observation! Many years ago, a philosopher by the name of Francis Schaeffer stated that the greatest problem facing the world is the compassionate distribution of accumulated wealth. That is a fancy way of saying that a few people have most of the money and they don’t share it. Unfortunately, greed and consumerism has become our god. I think this has been a common state for affluent societies through the ages. The only way out of this that I see is the concept of giving and receiving.
That was a good stream to canoe on, but back to the corruption of the English language. Or is it the battle against the corruption of the English language?
Back to the fun here, people.
We are not alone in our frustration…our friends across the Atlantic are just as annoyed, it seems. Here are a couple of entries from an online discussion at the Daily Telegraph. More than 3,000 people jumped in, so we’ve barely scratched the surface here. And if you google ‘annoying phrase’ you’ll find dozens of similar disucssions on grammar, spelling, use of cliches, etc.
There are a lot of angry people out there…
Most on the Telegraph had whole lists of annoyances, like this person:
Leverage (as a verb)
Forward planning (has anyone ever come across backward planning? – we all probably have – don’t answer)
Borrow, when people mean lend (‘borrow me a fiver’ presumably means ‘will you borrow a fiver from someone else, on my behalf?’)
I hear what you say (but I’m not going to take any notice of it)
Downsize (cut?, shrink?) – and I’ve also heard ‘upsize’!
Some posters created their own clever compilations of phrases, taking annoying to a whole new level, so to speak:
Hi, Dave! Long time no see. Driving a desk these days. Busy, busy 24/7. Always having issues around policy.Boss is all mouth and trousers- a sandwich short of a picnic, doesn,t know his arse from his elbow. Bottom line is i give 200%, and have a whole raft of ideas, but i do like a level playing fieldand he keeps moving the goalposts. Won,t be down to me if we go belly up, Oh i hear you Dave!
Its all water under the bridge at the end of the day.
Coffee-no, i,m alright, thanks, i,ll pass on that one. Do a show? Whatever. Put it on hold-I,ll get back to you soonest or you could come back to mine-have a KFC and a bevvy. No sweat, bear with me. I,ll give you a bell when I have a window.Cool, Take care. See you later! Ciao
So funny, Anne! Thanks for the major chuckle.
Let’s meet at 8am in the morning.
Cut out those two and “Hi, Guys!” and I will be a happy woman.
Thanks, Bright. Thought we needed to bring out a little sunshine here. I was beginning to think we’d have to revise the city motto to ‘Cows, colleges and curmudgeons.’
I suggest a humor break, with sarcasm and condecension tabled for a few hours — at least on this thread. Curmudgeons are, of course, free to exercise their right to annoy each other elsewhere. (This is a joke, lest it be over-contextualized. I respect all opinions and would not presume to describe any posters as curmudgeons. I leave that to the readers.)
Seriously, I just received photos from the orphanage in Ecuador, where I will be volunteering in October, and it is heartbreaking to see how the children live, even though adults are trying their best to help. It certainly puts all our small annoyances, disagreements and inconveniences in perspective.
We are such a lucky/blessed community…
When I was teaching, one of the classes I had was on Native American customs. I taught the children how to build their own teepees, we built table top models, and live off the land to some degree…how to find water, how to find food, make traps from natural found materials, and how to sew basic clothing, and even toys.
They had a new level of confidence, knowing they could survive on their own…these were fourth graders. We also learned how to share bread in ritual style and the importance of eating together. I wonder if this kind of knowledge couldn’t help Ecuadorian children and others…or have they all been torn away from nature completely?
Sorry, Bright, I led you astray…let’s talk about the Ecuadoran children another time and stick to the word games for a bit. Thanks.
Too late, and besides, I lead myself there, instead of thanking you for the two second respite, I chose to go with the flow.
Oh, you know, “tipping point”, is starting to get to me, too.
Maybe it’s because I listened to the audio book and the point
could have been made in about fifteen minutes, if that.
Returning to the fracturing of the English language. I lived in another state for some time, and in the area I lived, people kept mixing up bring and take. For instance, if you were standing by the counter across the kitchen from me, and there was a glass on the counter next to you, I would say, “Would you please take mne the glass?” It took me a couple months of working for my boss to figure out what he wanted.
Then, there are the people who use alot a lot. Others seem to use a lot alot! This really bugs me, especially when it is my own daughter, for whom I spent thousands of dollars on a college to get a degree in English!
The other seemingly interchangable terms are sensual and sensuous. Does someone dress sensuously or sensually? And can they be both at the same time? Madening, I say!
The one that tops all my experiences, though, is a friend of mine from a small town in Iowa. He was talking to me just after he had returned from vacation. Someone had stolen his 4-wheeler out of his garage. This is what he told me, “I went out to my garage, and there sat my 4-wheeler, GONE!”
Here are a couple more “isms” that keep cropping up in conversations. When you tell someone a serious story (as opposed to a joke) and they respond, “Shut up!” or “Get out of here!” Seems a strange way to respond to someone. Also, the response, “You’re joking!” Well, actually I wasn’t joking, but if you think it is funny, then enjoy the laugh. I worked with a person many years ago who would respond to anything you told him with, “Is that right?” Once, I told him, “No, that wasn’t right. I was just making it up.” It really got his attention.
The other response, which is about as Minnesota nice and non-commital as they come is, “That’s interesting!”
Another awsomely overused word is “awsome”. Awsome this! Awsome that! In fact, some days I think awsome is awful.
Awe shucks! Hope I didn’t step on someones toes!
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