If Words Aren't Important, Why Don't You Make Up New Ones Instead of Using Others to Say What You Mean and Not What They Are Supposed To?
Okay, longest title ever. And that's an answer to something I've heard (stupid) people say when I pointed out that I misunderstood them because of words they used wrongly. (So again, continuing on that theme: would you understand what I mean if I said "gobblygook wrokic majon linow"? "But they are just nonsense words!" "Exactly.")
One of the most annoying grammatical mistakes I come across is the use of "would" for "will". Yes, do you remember "will"? We all learnt it in school, didn't we? No, "I would go to work" does not mean the same as "I will go to work." In fact, it doesn't mean much, because I'm still waiting for you to complete your sentence and tell me what's stopping you from going to work!
The Guy told me a funny story from work. An Indian colleague was in a meeting with an American colleague, and the Indian asked for advice about a work situation. The American suggested, "I would do ABC." The next day, the American colleague asked if the Indian had, in fact, done ABC. The Indian, of course, was flabbergasted, because hadn't the other said yesterday that he would do it?
And what's this about using words like "propose" and "affair" to mean something they don't mean? You don't propose to someone when you say "I love you". You propose if you ask a question, such as, "Why don't we kill your boyfriend so that I can move in with you?" or "Will you marry me?"
One day I'm chatting to a senior at work and he says, "When I was having an affair..." And I'm trying really hard to not show shock while thinking, "He cheated on his wife? WHY is he telling me? What am I supposed to say?" Thankfully, I am quite good at keeping a poker face, and only let out a smile when I finally realised that he was referring to when he was dating his now-wife.
What else bugs me? This one isn't grammatical as much as it is political. It's men (yeah usually men in my experience, though women might do it too) referring to a person in the abstract (usually a customer - internal or external, or an employee, or some other abstract figure), and using, every single time, the pronoun "he".
I am a woman. In office. Is this fact so difficult to grasp? Look around you. I bet quite a few of your colleagues are women too. Yet saying "she" is so much more difficult, is it? (Now picture me with my face close to yours, saying in my soft dangerous voice, "IS IT?")
Another story from the Guy, this not so funny: he sat in a meeting with a couple of men from his office, and some client contacts. The employee who was presenting went on referring to the user of the product they were discussing as 'he'. But three of the four client contacts were women. Do you want to tell me they didn't notice?
Are you telling me it's so difficult to say "he or she" instead of "he"? Why not use "their"? Oh, it's not grammatical, is it? Come on, language evolves with changing times, and Enid Blyton used this seventy years ago. If you are such a stickler, why not just use 'she' once in a while, and 'he' the rest of the time? (This is my favourite approach.) But you're not a stickler, are you? You're just stupid. If you were a stickler, you wouldn't make the error of saying what you don't mean in the first place. (Of course you don't mean only men can be your clients/employees/whatever. Do you? DO YOU?)