Going to put a little disclaimer here: I am about to write as if I am a terrible person who thinks he is better than everyone else. I don’t actually think these are problems, but it’s fun to pretend. Language exists to allow thoughts to be put into a form that others understand, and as long as others understand, there is no inherent issue. I am not bugged by these things that people say. I’m totally fine.
Okay, so: there are a few things that many people say that are particularly annoying, often because they highlight the ambiguity of the English language, but also because these people have verbal tics of sorts that make no sense when you think about them. I have nothing against the people who say things like this because most people probably don’t care. I am not most people. (To be most people, I would have to be roundabout 7,600,000,000 people* and frankly, I’m not really feeling up to that today.) So here are some things in speech that I have problems with.
I begin with one I have been guilty of saying in the past: “Yeah, no.” This one shows up in speech all the time, and the annoying thing about it is that it makes no sense. If you are agreeing with me, (yeah) why are you disagreeing (no). This is used to agree with somebody. The ‘no’ seems to indicate that the speaker is going to add some of what he or she thinks to the conversation. Why this is used this way, I have no idea. (Anastrophe!) “Yeah, no” does not always take this form, though. I’ve seen others simply say ‘no,’ omitting the usually preceding ‘yeah.’ Sometimes, it’s used not as a response, but as an opening.
Another annoying thing is when somebody gives an opinion and somebody else agrees, having the same opinion himself. The problem is that people will use the word ‘yes’ to do so. This is dumb because if somebody says “I think the Dorian mode is the best mode,” and somebody says “yes,” they are saying that the person does indeed like the Dorian mode. In practice, though, we use it to mean “Yes, I also think that the Dorian mode is the best mode,” which is both a more precise response and one that indicates that the speaker has excellent taste.
Next is “you know.” No, I don’t know. When “you know” actually means the same thing as the words that comprise it, that’s okay. If somebody is bringing up something about which I know, or asking me if I know about something, then I, of course, have no problem with them saying “you know,” or even “y’know.” It’s just one of the stranger tics of speech in my opinion. Also, it can sound super pretentious.
This one’s pretty general. It’s a problem when people know how a phrase sounds and what a phrase means, but do not know the words in the phrase. Examples of this include “as supposed to,” “blessing in the skies,” “for all intensive purposes,” and “ek cetera.” While a listener likely knows what the speaker means to say, the speaker is not saying what the speaker means to say, and that is bothersome. “Ek cetera” is the least understandable of these, as it appears often in writing, and the entire word ‘et’ is spelled out in ‘etc.’
I’m not okay with people saying “from whence.” ‘Whence’ means ‘from where,’ so the use of ‘from’ in conjunction with ‘whence’ is redundant and ruins the excellent word saving properties of ‘whence.’ ‘Whence’ is a great word unless it is used incorrectly. Then, you would be better off using ‘where.’
This last one is less annoying than it is confusing. Why, I ask, do we apply the following sentence structure: “Just because he lives in a big house doesn’t mean he’s rich”? While the meaning of the sentence is clear, the syntax is mind-boggling. What exactly is the reasoning behind this sentence? I have used this structure in papers before because nobody cares that it makes no sense. It’s just a really clunky way of making a simple statement. You can just say: “Though he lives in a big house, he is not rich.” That is far less confusing and far more concise.
I therefore propose:
Let’s just throw the dictionary away because nobody gives a crap.
* Right now, the non-me population is 7,599,999,999, so if I were 7,600,000,000 people, there would be 15,199,999,999 people in the world, and half of that is 7,599,999,999.5, and that is less than 7,600,000,000, therefore making me most people.