Language Peeves – Issue 253

I just made that number up.

I’ve thrown in some pseudo-linguistic asides in a few recent posts, but we haven’t had a good language rant here in a while, have we?

Today’s rant is about the verb to miss. This verb is so improperly used that the other day I myself found myself (yes, that many myselfs) thinking–in one of my imaginary conversations I often have–“I miss not seeing you . . . ”

That would be really awesome as a subtle insult if I were trying to tell my imaginary conversational partner that I can’t stand the sight of his or her face and that when I see it, I feel a wistful longing not to. But everyone uses miss that way, and nobody means that when they say it. Or think it. I didn’t, even. Most people, in my experience, when they say they “miss not-doing” something, mean that they miss doing that thing. I don’t really understand why we talk like this. It’s like adding an extra syllable (orientate instead of simply orient) or prefixing something unnecessarily (why do people say unthaw when they mean thaw?).

When I was studying English Literature in college, I rather prided myself on being able to blab on long enough in an essay question that I could eventually actually make it sound like I knew what I was talking about. (I have no idea if the professors actually saw through this, but I did generally perform quite well on exams–particularly essay ones.) I feel like that’s what we do in English (both sides of the pond) when we talk, sometimes–it’s as if we feel like if we can utter more syllables and bigger words, we’ll sound more intelligent. So we make up nonsense words like unthaw and tell people we miss not talking to them, when what we mean is that we miss talking to them, perhaps very much indeed.

Also, as a mini-rant tagging along, there is a billboard up on the way to work these days which is advertising a wedding expo nearby. The sign boldly announces Wedding Expo in large letters, and in slightly smaller ones, it says, “Huge Gown Sale!”

I can’t really think of a more efficient way to say, “Huge sale on gowns!” but I still can’t stop thinking they’re announcing that they’re selling enormous gowns. Only enormous ones. Like wearable tents, maybe.

7 thoughts on “Language Peeves – Issue 253

  1. Guilty as charged, more in conversation than in writing. I miss you, when what I mean is, I miss seeing or talking to you. To be honest I hadn’t really given it much thought before, now it will probably drive me crazy 😀

    • I don’t mean that there’s a problem with “I miss you” or “I miss seeing you” or whatever. It’s when people stick the “not” in there for no reason that I get twitchy.

  2. I think one of the reasons it happens, at least when it happens to me, is that my brain changes its mind on what I was going to say while my mouth is still saying it, so you get half of the sentence my mind started on and half of the final version. :>

    • Yeah, that could be a reason, too I guess. I usually do that with individual words and end up making some weird hybrid that sounds like I’m drunk or something. (I’m not. Promise.)

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