Thursday, April 25, 2013


I enjoy the English language and though I do not a profess to be an expert in the language, I do enjoy proper English when I hear it and like to make a game of improving my language (though I am FAR from perfect.  Many of you like to point out my foibles and I enjoy that.)  Further, poor speaking habits, in particular, are like sins.  You get rid of one just to discover another.  Or perhaps you had a habit to which you were blind.  Or an old one comes back after you start hanging around someone who led you down the garden path in the first place.
“Yeah,” is a word that is a perpetual dandy lion in my garden of words that seems to come back seasonally.  “Are you the one who left the milk out all night?”  (With a certain amount of shame and humility and a heavy sigh,) “Yeah, it was me.”
This year’s project was to stop using the word “good” when I mean “well.”  Most people don’t care I realize, but I find the project fun.  I’ve enlisted many of the students in school to help me with this project.  Every once in a while I’ll slip after being asked how I am and upon replying “good” one of them (usually a server in the sacristy just before Mass) will say, “I know you’re good.  God made you good.  I asked you how you are today.”  I’ll admit it is difficult to say thank you when they dish back to me exactly what I dished out to them.


The new word I am trying to tame is “actually.”  Actually, “actually” is not a bad word save that it is used a tad too much in my speech.  Actually, I use it a lot.  Actually it is like when my Dad quit smoking and became hypersensitive to others smoking, I notice a lot of people around here use actually a lot.  Actually, Fr. Pfeiffer is joining me in trying to cut back on this drug of a word.
Actually, trying to root out words and correcting grammar is a lot like weeding sin out of your life.  The first step is to become aware.  “Oh, I do that?”  That is why to be a Catholic requires some amount of quiet and contemplation, reflection and examination.  It is one of the reasons that a daily examination of conscience is so important.  There needs to be the desire to rid yourself of this thing.  (Contrition.)  And most likely it won’t be instantaneous.  After all, it may be something that has been cultivated in your life for years and still done by the people around you.  So you begin by noticing it.  “I did it again didn’t I?” and then imagining how it could have been done better.
The next step is keep narrowing that gap between performing the action and the catching of yourself in the act until the actions happen almost simultaneously.  At some point they switch places, almost tripping you up as the new way of doing things is being worked out in the moment, and then, finally, with grace a perseverance, the good becomes habit.
Yeah, this actually is the method that I recommend to people for most things.  It works pretty good actually.


Anonymous said...


You used actually twice at the end. I wonder if you did that on purpose to see if we are actually paying attention.

While we are at it, is Darn a cursing word? When you say darn, do people think of the word you are trying to avoid saying?

God Bless

Anonymous said...

Great and practical analogy!

lgreen515 said...

One of my un-favorites is "to be honest with you..." What? Are you usually not honest with me?

I had a client who started every sentence with "Well..." He sounded just like Ronald Reagan and I had to get him to stop it because it was hurting him in job interviews.

Anonymous said...

I think that Father Velencheck should have a sideline occupation as a stand-up comedian


Pat said...

My language peeve involves the word "issue."

No one has any "problems" anymore. They just have "issues." They have furnace issues and car issues and health issues.

An issue is a matter of controversy or disagreement. When they say "furnace issues," I doubt they mean "controversy" with the repairman.

James Miller said...

Virtues can be included too.
"What you have found by understanding, hold by diligence and keep hold,... of the elusive virtues. Clasp their slippery forms to you in a tighter embrace until, reversing their roles, they cling to you, embrace you willingly, hold you fast without the labor of your own initiative, and permit you to neither depart very far nor to be away for very long."
- Gilbert of Hoyland 12th Century Cistercian abbot. Swineshead, Lincolnshire, England.

Jennifer Fitz said...

I'm an actually-abuser, too.

But on "good" -- if I said, "I'm doing good," that would be an error. Since good is an adjective, so it can't be used to modify a verb ("doing"), you need the adverb "well".

But to say, "I am good"? I dunno. I haven't worked up an objection to it. I guess it's like saying, "the dog is good" or the "the milk is good", and I suppose the folks inquiring after my well-being are disconcerted to see me compare myself to something that sits on command or hasn't spoiled yet.

But that's actually pretty accurate. If I'm not doing well, I probably have spoiled, and won't obey. And if I am doing well, then I'm far more likely to be good, and vice-versa.

So I maintain we're allowed to say, "I am good," in response to "how are you?"

Jen <-- Just goofing off arguing.

Anonymous said...

The combination of the words "It's" an "not" drive me bonkers because it is usually stated it snot. I prefer it be stated as "it isn't."