An Agent’s Curmudgeonly Rant

Sometimes I just have to rant. You understand, don’t you?

Maybe it comes with age, and you’re not yet old enough to understand. Or grumpy enough. Or OCD enough.

Nevertheless, I hope you’ll allow me to vent for today’s post. And I should say that I’m not asking you to agree with me, though my regard will certainly increase if you do. It’s just that there are some things that get on my nerves as I read things—not only proposals submitted to me, but all kinds of stuff. Here’s a short list:

1. “One of the only.” I know that it’s accepted usage to say something such as, “he’s one of the only people who still do that.” But every single time I see or hear it, I cringe, and wish the writer or speaker had used “one of the few” instead. I may be the only one, but “only” to me connotes “singular,” rather than “a small number.” Or maybe I’m one of the few.  

2. The Oxford comma. Yes, I’m one of the few who recognizes the clarifying power of the Oxford comma. But you know who agrees with me? My siblings, William Zinsser and God.

3. Psalm/Psalms. It’s not incorrect to reference a Bible quote as coming from “Psalms 23:1.” It is “The Book of Psalms,” after all. But it’s always a “bump” for me. I always use “Psalm 23:1.” Because I’m referencing one among many psalms. I know, it’s a trivial matter; but it does get “all my bones … out of joint” (Psalm 22:14 NIV).

4. “Beg the question.” I see this phrase used incorrectly by otherwise erudite and articulate people. But to beg the question is a phrase from Aristotelian logic that means to assume as true the thing that is being argued. So please, take my word for it, that when you’re tempted to say “begs the question,” you almost certainly mean “prompts the question,” not “begs the question.”

5. The placement of the words only and almost. Where you place the word only (or almost) in a sentence can change the meaning of the sentence. For example, a recent news story reported, “Almost found exclusively in people who were born female, this condition affects about 11 percent of women worldwide.” Unless the condition wasn’t found, which would make no sense, the writer intended us to understand that the condition is “found almost exclusively …” See what I mean? Or to say, “I only want a sandwich” (which is a common construction) technically means I don’t demand a sandwich; I only want it. Usually, however, what the speaker or writer means is, “I want only a sandwich.” Which is also different from “Only I want a sandwich.” Yeah, I know: only a small difference. But I’m allowed to have my quibbles.

6. “I could care less.” I know there are those who insist this phrase means the opposite of what it says, but I couldn’t care less. If you could care less, you care some, right? But most people who say, “I could care less” use it to mean “I couldn’t care less.” Which I admit I care way too much about.

I thought I would feel better after my rant. But doggone it, I fear I’m only one of the only ones who only feels worse after expressing myself. If only.

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