How many times have you been in a conversation with otherwise educated, sensible people and you hear something along the lines of “In this pacific case, I think we should…” You wince internally and just figure they made a mistake because they’re in a hurry, or they’re trying to make a point and their mouth got ahead of their brain or whatever–generally giving them the benefit of the doubt. However, it seems that this often isn’t a one-time occurrence. Funnily enough, none of the 6 entries on dictionary.com for pacific seem to mention that it’s an appropriate replacement for specific.
Another one of these sorts of language abuses that I have heard more than once recently when a number of things need to be considered before one is decided goes like this: “We need to make sure this gets trashed out before we have the next meeting.” Normally, one would use thrashed in this situation, but it occurs more often than you might imagine.
When I started this post this morning, I didn’t have an example which backed up what I’m saying, but, thanks to Slashdot, this timely article from the New York Times about appalling writing skills in corporate America seems to fit the bill. As one Slashdot reader pointed out, the examples are pretty bad. I would be lying to say that I never make mistakes, or that I didn’t get my tongue tied in knots occasionally, but stuff like “there” instead of “they’re” is just basic English everyone should’ve learned in grade school. Makes me think back to how the CS students groaned about the campus-wide initiative to require a minimum amount of writing in all classes. Methinks it was not stressed enough.
I only hope that the amount of writing required for students at UMR has increased rather than decreased. No matter how intelligent you are, if you can’t communicate orally or in written form, people will think you’re an idiot–even if you aren’t.