February 2, 2014
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What are you – five?

five year oldThis is about childish expressions, and that title is an example of one. Many childish phrases are argumentative and confrontational, so we’ll just avoid those. I’m assuming if you’re old enough to read this, you no longer engage in such playground banter as, “Sez who?” “Oh yeah?” and “None of your beeswax.”

But even if you do, there’s a difference between using these words playfully in speech and using them in writing or in a business context. Thank goodness, many companies still prefer to hire grownups who talk like grownups.

The one that makes my teeth ache is “on accident.” Most children were corrected by their elementary school teachers and taught to say, “by accident” instead. But a few people (maybe they were absent that day) failed to retain this lesson beyond second grade.

I’m not sure when this one crept into adult conversation, but when I hear “for realz,” I wonder if the speaker is secretly that Internet cat who luvz him some cheezburgers. And what about referring to everyone, regardless of gender, as “you guys?” I once dated a guy who, when a beverage server perked, “Hi guys! What can I get for you guys?” replied mock-conspiratorially, “One of us is not a guy… but bring us a Chardonnay for the lady, and I’ll have a Sam Adams.”

Lest you think I’m singling out young people again, I continue to see emails and texts from senior citizens who, though they are to be commended for embracing technology, have picked up the bad spelling habits of texters and tweeters. I refuse to take seriously any message containing the word “cuz” for “because.” If used as an affectionate nickname for one’s cousin, that’s different.

I understand why, at lunch or in a meeting, someone would not want to announce, “I have to use the toilet.” Or the equally offensive, “I need a bio break.” Crude. But, really, do we have to say, “I’m going to the little boys’ (or little girls’) room?” I always picture a nursery school restroom with teeny-tiny facilities. What’s wrong with just, “Excuse me?”

Different situations call for different communication styles. And successful communication demands good judgment about the style you choose. If you were considering someone for a business promotion, how would you feel if she sent you this email:

“Sorry I was late for the lunch meeting you guys. My bad. I overslept on accident cuz I felt really yucky and had to run to the little girls’ room all nite. Then my car wouldn’t start cuz I let the battery run down. For realz! I hope you guys didn’t wait a long time. Anyways, lunch was really nummy even tho veggies aren’t my faves!”

Would I give this person serious consideration for a promotion? Nuh-uh. And if you think I’m being too critical, well… you’re not the boss of me!

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  1. Jonathan

    I agree. When I read some emails, I do wonder about the maturity level of the author. it’s a shock when I meet the author face to face and find myself staring at a full-grown adult. I imagine that they are trying to cultivate the illusion of youth. Unfortunately, it conveys simple-mindedness or carelessness when you discover the person’s age.

    I should add to this something that I have noticed occasionally: “I would of written this correctly had I thought about it for two seconds.”

    Obviously, I meant “I would have…”

    I have seen this “would of,” “could of” “should of” type phrase with alarming frequency. Something must be done!

    1. admin

      That’s another one that sets my teeth on edge. Errors like this one would not happen if people understood sentence diagramming. It might be an archaic practice that’s not taught anymore, but it clearly demonstrates each part of speech and how it functions in a sentence. OK, now I sound like my grandmother …