Word nerds: What makes your skin crawl?

Larry Ragan takes issue with misused language.

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Sitting on a panel discussion with him, I was glad that question was not asked of me, for I’m not sure that on short notice I could have come up with anything better. But poor old hopefully, battered lo these many years by word commentators across the country, is a pitiable candidate for such sorry awards.

Surely we can do better. It’s time we began to renew the attack on parameters, on expertise, on impact used as a verb, or input, used almost in any fashion.

On the plane home, I thought about what would be worthy candidates for a just man’s ire on the current status of the language. I’m afraid my own candidates are equally unimaginative. Perhaps readers will be willing to add to the list.

Aggravates. All sensitive, humane, civilized human beings recognize that aggravates means to make something worse, as when I explain how my tight collar aggravates the boil on the back of my neck. Nobody uses the word in that sense anymore. Everybody prefers it to mean annoys. Too bad. It once was a good word.

Disinterest. At the same meeting, when PICA editors met in Honolulu, newsman Harrison Salisbury used disinterest to mean lack of interest. Hearing him commit this outrage spoiled my whole morning.

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