The Real Word Butchers

When I first started blogging almost four years ago, I soon became aware of the term “word butchers” that many used to apply to IndyCar bloggers. Then I saw the term altered to “word butcherers”. I suppose the use of a non-word like butcherer was meant to imply a further degree to which we bloggers will butcher the English language.

The thing is – most of the bloggers that I follow are articulate and seldom have misused or misspelled words in their posts, other than the occasional typo that is nothing worse than a letter left off of a sentence. I am certainly not the king of correct grammar, and thank God that my brother is one of the first to read my posts each day (Happy Birthday, by the way). He’ll send me an e-mail at 5:30am with a list of typos that I hastily correct before most people start reading the site.

I have always maintained that most IndyCar bloggers are not journalists. We are fans who do this simply out of passion for the sport we love. I have great respect for the real longtime journalists who have earned their credibility (and living) over the years covering various subjects. In the IndyCar world, we have Curt Cavin, Robin Miller, Marshall Pruett, Jenna Fryer, Gordon Kirby, John Oreovicz and several others who do excellent work. They dedicate their lives to their craft and don’t get enough credit for what they do. This is not aimed at them.

Instead, this rant is aimed at some of the up and coming would-be journalists that either didn’t pay attention during English class, or they simply don’t take pride in their work – or both.

Being the crusty old goat that I’ve become, I often groan about our local newspaper in Nashville – The Tennessean. I understand that newspapers are going the way of the powdered wig, but other than the old-school columnists – it seems they have dragged the bottom of the river to hire their current pool of reporters. These aren’t sports reporters, mind you. These are the ones found on the front section of your daily paper. The sports reporters are actually the cream of the crop when it comes to proper grammar.

This is the first generation of reporters to completely grow up with SpellCheck and I suppose that they have grown to rely on it. Unfortunately, the built-in software isn’t idiot-proof to prevent someone from using one spelling for a word sounding similar to what they are trying to say. The worst of it is that some of these young guns apparently are not even utilizing SpellCheck, because they are coming up with words that are nowhere to be found in the dictionary.

I have complained about this to some of the few twenty-somethings I know – OK, my son and a 21 year-old I work with. They both say the same thing, which is essentially “…Dude, get over it. You know what they’re trying to say. It doesn’t matter”. Well – I’m sorry, but I think it does matter. Correct spelling and not using made-up words are still important for communication skills.

Give me some examples, you ask? OK – these are just some of the flubs I’ve recently spotted in our local paper…

Till: Yes this a real word, but not in the sense it was used. The reporter was not describing a box to keep money in, nor was he discussing the act of plowing a field. Instead, he was phonetically using the contraction for until, which is ‘til. In an article about the Governor, I’m not sure the use of a contraction would be appropriate anyway. “The bill will not become law till it is signed by the Governor”. Please.

Your/You’re: I walk on shaky ground here, because I’ve done this one on this site myself – by accident. But I’ve read entire articles with the consistent use of “your” where “you’re” would be required. Mine was a single mistake that SpellCheck wouldn’t catch. It came from typing fast and being careless. It happens. Consistent use though, tells me that the author has no idea that there is actually a contraction for “you are”.

Must of: Again, we see another example that the use of contractions was apparently omitted from the most recent journalism programs. Obviously, the author meant to be using the contraction “must’ve” for “must have” when he said that “…the City Council must of thought that no one was paying attention”. Huh?

Could of: See above. “Metro schools could of closed schools yesterday, but opted not to. [sigh]

But at least these were real words being misused for other real words. In my opinion, the most egregious offense in the journalism world is the making up of non-words that would never exist in SpellCheck. Some recent examples I’ve seen are…

Irregardless: This is not a word, nor does it even sound like one. The word is “regardless”. It already means you’re discounting something from the conversation. There is no need to put “ir” in front of it.

Rampid: “The flood waters were rampid”. I can only assume the author meant either “rapid" or "rampant”. There is no such word as rampid.

Undoubtably: “Mayor Dean is undoubtably upset over what the City Council is proposing”. Um…the word is undoubtedly.

Flustrated: This is my favorite. To be fair, this one I’ve only heard verbally and have not seen it print, but I’m sure it’s coming. You are either “frustrated” or "flustered", but you are not "flustrated".

So when you attach the non-word term of “word butcherer” on someone, don’t put it on the IndyCar blogging community or IndyCar journalists. They are doing just fine, thank you. It is in the upcoming crop of mainstream journalists that deserve that unforgiving moniker. I am not naïve enough to think that this creative vocabulary is limited to Nashville or the south. More than likely, it is everywhere.

Ignorance can run rampid anywhere. Irregardless, I undoubtably become very flustrated when I think of what might of been in what your reading. Till next time…

George Phillips


23 Responses to “The Real Word Butchers”

  1. George, one that pops up occasionally that just makes me cringe is apparently a new conjugation of the verb “to go”. I constantly hear young people (and some older ones who should know better) saying “I should have went” there. Of course, when they write it, they probably say “should of went”. Seems I remember the correct conjugation is “go, went, gone”.

    As Mark Twain (who wrote a hilarious essay on “Simplified Spelling” said, Thank God for the fools! If it weren’t for them, the rest of us could not succeed.

  2. How about the growing trend of ending a sentence (or question) in a preposition? “Where is it AT?” is becoming more accepted all the time, yet it is so wrong. How about just “Where is it?” An ice cream place claiming there are “31 Flavors to choose from” also needs to go back to school.

    Of course, many people will read this and ask “What’s a preposition?”

    • Leigh O'Gorman Says:

      Technically “where is it?” and “where is it at?” can mean two completely different things.
      It all depends how the “it” in the latter question is defined.

  3. I will size someone up on the internet by how well he spells and using decent grammar. I won’t correct them but I can pretty much guess at the education level of the person whose message I am reading.

  4. I can’t help but think of the generations of English Composition teachers spinning in their graves. I’ve seen all of the mistakes you mention, not only in regional newspapers that have presumably reduced their editing staff and hired interns to handle the news, but also in AP and Reuters articles. Nothing makes my inner crustiness rise to the surface like abysmal journalism.


    There, now I feel better.

  5. 我們將放置廣告的自助午餐,字形繪製像結腸清洗。拼寫錯誤的誤區。糟糕的業務 !

  6. The other that makes me nuts is “hike” as in “price/rate/tax hike”. I can still hear my news writing professor at Ball State railing, “A hike is a long walk.”

  7. Mike Silver Says:

    Another thing that annoys me is tv newscasters who say, “John Smith, he went to court today.” Going missing and went missing? Isn’t someone just missing. Going missing means you planned to do it. Gotta run. Ten minutes till I half to bee somewheres.

    • Thaks for mentioning this one. It drives me nuts! Please, someone tell me what ever happened to the word “disappeared?” It seems to have “gone missing” from the English language.

  8. billytheskink Says:

    I have it on good authority that “must of” is correct, as in “I must of got lost on the way to Indianapolis.”

    I, at least, consider the J. Geils Band to be good authority.

  9. George,
    My personal crusade it the mis-use of the apostrophe. As in vcr’s, what in the hell does the vcr possess? I had a very heated email exchange with a New York Times editor about this subject a couple of years ago. Apparently NYT thinks this is appropriate usage (it’s in their style book). My final reply to him was that if you make up your own rules you can do anything you want.

    The other thing I discovered on moving to North East Ohio was that they don’t require infinitives here. Everyone says “needs fixed”. AARRGH! It has even started showing up in our local paper.

  10. Ballyhoo Says:

    I am not alone in my disgust with the lack of copy editing in newspapers. I want to take out my red pen and assist the writers. The apostrophes are annoying. The British Invasion was really in the 1960s. And when did cannot become two words?

    I feel better now. Thank you, George.

  11. I’m actually okay,with “flustrated.” It’s a reasonably clear portmanteau of “frustrated” and “flustered,” as you noted, and could be fun in the right (albeit quirky) context. In journalism, it should probably be reserved for the lifestyle pages, but there’s nothing wrong with new words if they have a use! (Sorry prescriptivists, but all language is made up. It changes. Get over it.)

    The others are just unfortunate. Or eggcorns. Which is why we have editors.

    PS: Just checked, “flusterated” is in the OED, first recorded early 18th century. So there’s definitely some history behind it.

  12. The beautiful thing about language is that it evolves. Ye Olde curmudgeon!!

  13. Evolution of a language needs not be equated with corruption, abuse, and misuse.
    I understand why George had written earlier that he had wanted to cancel his subscription to the Nashville fish-wrapper.
    I read mangled grammar, syntax errors, and factual errors from my local birdcage-liner’s writers and from Associated Press writers.
    I hadn’t known that anyone else had noticed the misuse of till in speech and writing when persons should say or write “until,” or, if they must, in literature, write “’til.”
    Incidentally, George, enclose your periods within quotation marks.
    And don’t insert ‘greengrocer apostrophes’ into Andrettis, Unsers, and the like (Corvettes, Vipers, Mustangs, etc.).

  14. Grammer, readin n writin is fer people who failed math, calculus and differential equations in school!

  15. The grammer isn’t anywhere near as bad as the poor questions they ask.

  16. Dear George, you have clearly hit a home run with me (sorry if that metaphor sounds odd, but I’m not a native speaker) with this posting today, like when your blog first attracted my attention with the post “The Scowl VS the Smile” which I found to be so great I became a regular reader.

    Little have I known that the decline in traditional journalism has been going on so rapidly across the pond. Having learned the English language as my 2nd language at school, we students would never have gotten away with writing such things like the examples you pointed out. Those neologisms, relatively new word creations consisting of parts of other words, would be funny if they weren’t actually presented in a paper. It’s things like that which might allow for the more and the less educated guesses about the future of journalism in the internet age: the one where it’s a mere hobby of people to write about stuff (bloggers) and where it might be near impossible to do investigative journalism because whistle-blowers are too easy to be found out with the help of your everyday spying tools such as f*c*book.

    But neologisms have become fashionable even in politics in the not so distant past, so it should not be too much of a surprise they appear in print now, too.

    Then again, good blogs like yours reveal to the reader a difference between themselves and those kind of papers currently in print which seek to stir up emotions in the reader with every paragraph they write, just for the sake of selling more papers, even if the reader would benefit more from a more levelheaded attitude about a certain subject.

    The current era clearly requires a different kind of media competence from people living in it than the pre-internet era.
    And by that I don’t mean understanding words which are not words but being able to tell apart valid and new information from non-issues and manipulation attempts.
    And now here’s a compliment: Yours is one of the best blogs I have come across so far. And I consider IndyCar quite lucky to have you around as a voluntary journalist.

    I hope I have not been a word butcherer in this post, but if some kind of mistake (is that called a “word butcher” now?) slipped by me, I’d like to apologize.

    All the best

  17. did anyone google translate that? hahahaha

  18. Awesome issues here. I’m very glad to see your article.
    Thanks a lot and I am having a look forward to contact you.
    Will you kindly drop me a mail?

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