Don’t Use Made-up Words

“The greater part of the world’s troubles
are due to questions of grammar.”

― Michel de Montaigne

Don’t Use Made-up Words

It Sounds Ignorant

When I was a kid, I was corrected every time I misused “I” and “me,” as in, “Mikey and me are gonna play with our Hot Wheels.” Adults quickly corrected, “Mikey and I!”

Now that I’m an adult, I seem to regularly hear people hyper-correcting themselves by using only “Mikey and I,” even when it’s grammatically incorrect, for example, “she gave bad advice to Mikey and I.” (It should be, “gave bad advice to Mikey and me.” Use I/she/he/they when it’s the subject, and use me/her/him/them when it’s an object)

About 25 years ago, everyday American language was peppered with a particular clinical, psychological, Freudian term. As much as 9 or 10 times a day you’d hear someone described as “anal-retentive” (instead of “uptight”). That slowly went out of fashion, and I don’t remember hearing it for several years.

More recently, a witch hunt ensued to eradicate “irregardless” from the vernacular (and rightly so—there is no such word!). And who remembers the lampooning of George W. Bush for making up words like “edumacate” or pronouncing nuclear as “NOO-kyoo-ler”?

But now we’re getting lax about improper speech.

“A man’s grammar, like Caesar’s wife, should
not only be pure, but above suspicion of impurity.”

― Edgar Allan Poe

Recently I’ve noticed twenty-somethings (mostly) trying to sound proper or educated by using incorrect, made-up conjugations of common, everyday words. I fear this practice is leading to adding new words to the dictionary, not because the word is needed for more specific expression, but from simple ignorant usage.

I now cringe each time I hear any of three specific non-words, and the frequency of their usage is rising, predominantly among the younger graduate students I teach.

Listen up, people! The following are NOT words:


If you aren’t laughing and/or cringing right now, pay close attention.

These are not words!

I hear, “But it’s right here in the Oxford English dictionary!” That’s only a further sign that ignorance is shaping the vernacular. And to call them neologisms is a sign that laziness, apathy, and ignorance are shaping the culture.

And that saddens me.

“A synonym is a word you use
when you can’t spell the other one.”

― Baltasar Gracián

When you find yourself saying “orientate,” correct yourself and say “orient” instead.

If you hear “uncomfortability” (and sometimes even “comfortability”!), know that the speaker means “discomfort” (or “comfort”). Why must he make it longer than it needs to be? Can he really think he sounds smart by making up a word with more letters?

Should you think of saying “conversate,” please pause and say “converse” (or just “talk”) instead. I assure you, the way you “talk” influences what people think of you.

Sure, some of our most commonly-accepted words were invented by one man. Shakespeare coined such words as “courtship,” “generous,” “jaded,” “neglect,” and “resolve.”

These words were born of creativity, not ignorance.

Contrast those with words like or “apologin” (invented by Kanye West because he couldn’t think of a real rhyme), “fitty” (poorly-spelled “fifty”), “disrespect” (as a verb!), “conversate” (converse), “uncomfortability” (discomfort), or “orientate” (orient).

These words were born of ignorance, not creativity.

Are we simply giving up on proper language? When we give credence to uneducated gang culture by normalizing their non-words, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“Forming grammatically correct sentences is for the normal individual
the prerequisite for any submission to social laws. No one is
supposed to be ignorant of grammaticality; those
who are belong in special institutions.
The unity of language is
fundamentally political.”

― Gilles Deleuze

My Next Blog Topic

I might rant next about judgmentally insisting that our personal pet peeves be escalated to the level of societal rules. Self-regulated rules, of course.

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