October Musings (Short, I Hope—for the Sake of My Overworked Proofreaders)
Like, as If …
You may feel as if you’ve been cheated because, when I went on and on last time about “feel like” (and suggested that “feel that” or simply “feel” would be correct—and enough), I didn’t mention “as if.”
When you put “feel” before something that could be an independent clause, you can also say “as if.”
I feel that I have been cheated.
I feel I have been cheated.
I feel as if I have been cheated.
Please note, however, that—in the first two sentences—you’re saying that you think you were cheated. In the third sentence, you are saying that whatever happened to you gave you the impression that you were cheated. In other words, maybe you were and maybe you weren’t.
Of course, people who “feel like” would say “I feel like I have been cheated” in both instances: a person can’t tell in which sense the speaker means it (which is yet another reason why “feel like” is often so wrong—and why it should be avoided, unless, as I indicated last time, it’s followed by a phrase, often a gerund phrase).
And I didn’t even touch on other, similar verbs and their relation to “like”: seems, looks, and so on. The same rules apply.
Seems like old times.
The bridge is out, so it seems that we’re staying for the night.
You said the maniac would never escape. It seems you were wrong.
It looks like rain.
It looks as if you’re fixing for a fight because you want to say “looks like” here, right?
Getting “Ahead” of Ourselves, Multiple Times
I have complained before about the use of “ahead” for “before.” This usage seems to be prevalent in newspaper headlines and stories. “Voters are lining up ahead of the midterm elections.” “Trump cancels trip ahead of the G7 summit.” And so on.
What is the matter with before (which is one syllable shorter than “ahead of”)? I realize that we have an expression “ahead of time” (as in “He turned in his column to Editor Ptacek ahead of time”—as if that ever happens!). But, really, the only time (except for a phrase like “ahead of time”) when it’s appropriate to use “ahead of” is when people are moving. “He ran the marathon ahead of the others.” “We got into Tempe ahead of the 3:10 to Yuma.” (I have no idea if this is geographically correct. I’ll leave that to a grumpy geographer.)
It perplexes me that many Americans, besides using the wrong word in place of the right one, use a word or phrase that is longer than the right one. I mean, time is apparently so precious to my fellow countrymen that they can’t waste it by saying “the President of the United States” but must use the stupid acronym POTUS. (Ditto for the Supreme Court and the First Lady.) Now, actually, since articles like “the” and “a/an” and short prepositions like “of” are often ignored in acronyms, the acronym for President of the United States should be PUS, not POTUS. Why don’t they say that? It’s one syllable instead of two.
But people will persist in “referencing” things (four syllables) instead of “referring to” (same number of syllables) or—as my older daughter has pointed out—“citing” (which is half as long). And they can’t help but spout the cliché “24/7” (five syllables if you speak it) instead of something like “all [of] the time” (three [or four] syllables).
So I don’t get it.
Just as I don’t get why “multiple” is suddenly such a popular word in the media and among speakers.
Once upon a time, “multiple” meant “a whole lot,” “many.” Now, it seems that “multiple” is used for anything more than three. What is the matter with “several” (same amount of syllables) or “a few” (one syllable fewer)? Or—here’s an idea—why not be accurate and use an exact number? “He was shot four times” instead of “He was shot multiple times.”
Working Out (Is That “Exercising” or “Coming to a Fortuitous Conclusion”?)
Last thing: from The Washington Post, August 29, 2019: “President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at Fox News … ‘We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!’”
When you write, it’s best to avoid phrases that could be wrongly interpreted. Somebody says, “Let’s eat first and then go to the movie,” and you say, “[It] works for me!” Okay—you’re saying that the plan is workable, that it meets with your approval. Somebody asks, “Where’s Bill in Accounting,” and you say, “He doesn’t work for me anymore”; in other words, he’s no longer employed by the company. If someone tweets that someone or something isn’t working for us anymore (especially in the context that Donald Trump used it in his tweet), it gives the distinct impression that that person or group is now off the payroll—and that’s not the impression that the commander-in-chief wants to be giving, is it?
Thank you, and good day.
Anthony Ambrogio, firstname.lastname@example.org