23 January 2012

Gangway For Usage Mondays!

Thanks to Tracy Morgan and the rest of the Word Guys over at 30 Rock, "nonplussed" had the night of its life last Thursday. Living it up Hollywood style, just the way it is, in all its natural & definition-based glory. Looks like our ship has finally come in, nonplussed!!!!!!!!!! HONNNNNK HONNNNNK!

Since it is now perfectly clear that my blog has the power TO CHANGE THE VERY GRAMMATICAL TEMPERATURE OF TELEVISION, I realize I have no choice. The people have spoken, and the people want usage errors! Introducing

To kick things off (and to keep me modest), I'm taking a long, hard look at "highfalutin."

"Highfalutin" describes someone who is putting on airs, or otherwise acting extremely self-important and proper (e.g. this blog post). In The American Language, H.L. Mencken states that the word was coined in an 1840s political speech and was but one of several words invented during the early 19th century. Since there is no distinct definition of "faluting" (and we're never "low-faluting" or "mid-faluting"), we are left to assume that it's one of those funny American made-up orphan words, and we are obliged to treat it as it is and not how we believe it should be. 

According to the 2000 edition The Oxford Usage Dictionary by Bryan Garner, "highfalutin" IS a word whereas "highfaluting" is NOT SO MUCH. And furthermore:
"The best course is to do two things: spell the word highfalutin, and avoid being what it denotes."


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