It is with great shame that I must report that I have to write about one of my own language failings. When it was bitterly cold the other morning, I reported that I’ve never been that cold before.
While I thought it was an honest statement, with the slightest bit of research (I am a meteorologist, by the way), I quickly was able to prove that this was not the case. The temperature was 7 degrees with a wind chill of -14. It was, indeed, horrendously cold. I have, however, been exposed to much colder conditions at various times in my life, most notably when I was paperboy some 30 years ago and when we had a -17-degree day about 13 years ago.
Those details don’t matter, of course; the point is that saying I’ve never been that cold before tells the listener nothing of importance–unless the listener knows me well enough to make a judgment based on my past experiences. If he knew that I was from Miami, then he would understand the statement; if he knew that I was an Arctic explorer, then he’d be impressed with the statement. Otherwise, the person to whom I’m speaking would have no way to put my experiences into his perspective in order to understand how cold it was.
It would be much more effective to communicate in a way that the other person understands, which means taking the personalization out of it. For example, I could talk about how the biting wind made it feel as if there were ice cubes where my eyes used to be or that it was so cold that I wanted to eat ice cream so that I could feel the warmth going down my throat—all much better and much more descriptive than I’ve never been that cold before.
Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever
dude, you’re a scream.
no, ain’t gonna dress dat one up different.
‘s already wearin’ a suit.
the one it got for it’s birthday.
thanks for writin’
reply from Paul: Thanks——-I think. :-))
How about “I’ve never been so cold?” If you’ve never been that cold before, I’d like to know what you mean by “before.” Before what? Before the Arctic Circle melted? Before dinner? Are you still cold?
Reply from Paul: No, I’m much warmer now–thanks for asking.
Typo: I meant to type ‘famously.’ Although I’m sorry and ashamed,I have not yet been shamed.
(Notice above punctuation incurring inside parentheses–where it belongs.) By the way, Russell Baker once ended an entire essay in the New York about with the word “re:”. Only exception to the rule I know.
Re: “Typo: I meant to type ‘famously.’ Although I’m sorry and ashamed,I have not yet been shamed.
(Notice above punctuation incurring inside parentheses–where it belongs.) ”
I know we (UK and USA) are oft quoted as “being divided by a common language”, but ‘…’ are quote marks and (…) are parentheses where I come from! That’s London, England, by the way. Also, […] are brackets, not parentheses.
yours pedantically, Annette.
Oh, and, Bob, I’ve just re-read your comment and don’t know how I missed, first time round, “incurring inside parentheses” ! You are incurring my ire with these typos that are occurring in your comment.
BTW (don’t you just hate these textisms?) I have arthritis too, but I do try to proof-read before hitting the send/submit button…
yours as ever,
Pedantic of London.
Typo. I’ve done it again. However, my grammar is much better than my typing because I have arthriris. Also,I have other ailments. Or, do I have other ailments also? (I do.)
Another pet peeve: “Too, I have other ailments. Starting a sentence with ‘too’ seems twisted.
Favorite line from Strunk & White: “Do not affect a breezy manner.”
Did it again. This is my first time on this site. Perhaps I have writer’s fright. I promise to do better, and to talk to a shrink.