Words That Drive Me Nutty

I have somewhat of a reputation among my long-standing colleagues of being picky about proper English usage. One colleague, with whom I have worked for many years, has a noted tendency to make up words. It’s all in fun, and sometimes I will make up a word just so he can catch me on it.

But there are some mis-used words that drive me absolutely crazy.


The improper usage of the transitive verb “orient” (to acquaint with the existing situation or environment) is a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard one for me. I had a former boss who would say she had “orientated” someone or something. This appalling usage comes out of Britain around 1950 and pollutes a French verb that had been around since the 1740s. The correct usage: “oriented” as in “I oriented the compass to point north.”


English is nothing if not inconsistent, particularly with the plurals of nouns. After all, mouse-mice, louse-lice, house-houses? The plural of person is one such inconsistency. Person-people. Not person-persons.

He/She and They

English, for the most part, does not have gender on words. One notable exception are the pronouns of he, she and it. However, while it is clumsy to say “he or she”, it is improper tense to substitute in “they”. For instance, “He or she must have emptied the trash” is not “They must have emptied the trash,” but rather “One of them must have emptied the trash.”


Ah, French words. I love them. Especially all the nice little accents that are used. What’s that? English doesn’t have accented letters? You’re right!

Which is why resume is a verb meaning to re-start something, and résumé is the document you send to potential employers. If you want to avoid the accents altogether, use CV or curriculum vitae.


I don’t even know how to spell this last atrocity. Go, going, gone. I go, I’m going, I went. Not I go, I’m going, I go-ed. I hear this so often where I live I almost want to have a bumper sticker made. One of my foreign national friends (who speaks 3 other languages fluently), was puzzled by this one and asked me. I assured her she had her tenses correct.


One thought on “Words That Drive Me Nutty

  1. Yeah, I understand. I used to work someone who used/misused the orientate thing so bad it made me cringe every time I heard it. Yet I have no problem listening to people from Upnort’ speaking with ehh’s and der’s, and ya’s.
    “Ya der, da bar’s over dat vay ehh. Lesgo git a samich and a brew ehh…” (my spell-check is having fits right now… LOL)

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