Pedantry in High Dudgeon

D City Rock: Detail of frame from "Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt", 'Help! We Are Angels', by TeddyLoin featuring Debra Zeer.

“In a press release Thursday, the committee accused the Pentagon of not being upfront about what it knew:”

Amanda Terkel

This is a pet peeve.

Look: “Upfront” is not a word.

Once upon a time I lost the strangest of internet arguments. There is a word we use, sometimes, derived from some semblance of Italian, that is intended as a powerful question: “Do you understand?” or “You get it?”

I’ve seen the word variously rendered over the years. And while I find “kapeeesh” a useless, lazy, utterly stupid adaptation suited only to the lowest of intellects, to this very day I still cannot figure out how I am supposed to get “capiche” from “koppish”.

You know, one of those internet things. Self-righteous ignorance is a thing, you know.

To the one, apparently I am a Luddite. To the other, I never understood why this is an insult; human society, these two hundred years later, has yet to catch up to them.

That we pretend Luddites are somehow backwards is no particular comfort; there really is a larger problem here than abusing the guy with a turnip for a head.

I lost the argument because, hey, “language evolves”, and while I always knew that someday I would automatically make the transition from liberal to conservative, I did not expect functional illiteracy to be the cause. That is to say, apparently I am an old conservative because I believe the appropriate pronunciation for “koppish” sounds like “copper”, except with “-ish” on the end instead of “-er”.

You see, language evolves.

And so did the dodo.

Remember, evolution is evolution, regardless of the outcome; thus, extinction is as much a part of evolution as death a part of life.

Still, though, “evolution” in such a context can represent progress, such as better adaptation to challenging circumstances, or effective regression, whether actual or merely the result of ossification or stasis. That is, remaining the same is not evolving, but we can certainly “evolve” regressively.

While it is true that language is dynamic and evolutionary, it seems well enough to point out that there is no future in evolving the way of the dodo. Specifically, when language evolves progressively, communication improves, becomes easier and more accurate. Erasing the rules of literacy, that this letter means this according to that circumstance, is not progressive. To wit, there would be no reason why “phleorg” should not be pronounced “cheese”, which in turn would pretty much wreck the purpose of the written word.

Evolution, my sphincter.

Which brings us back to the point: “Up front” is two words.

Call Amanda Terkel’s gaffe the revenge of a generation against teachers who marked us down for writing “alot”, “coffeecup”, and “hotdog”.

Evolution is one thing. Ignorance is quite another. And sloth is the business model.

Language evolves; that much is clear. And, in truth, I’m just fine with writing a check instead of a cheque. And while treasurer is a really stupid word, I’m willing to bet most Americans would do a double-take if we suddenly started calling this office exchequer. But neither are we going to spell the word trazerr.

We’ve already invented the verb fundraise. Are we really going to (ahem!) optimize, or maybe economize, to upfront?

And, you know, fine. But it just seems really stupid that what drives the evolution of the language should be the business model. Really, we’re changing the language not because it improves communication, but because we’re too stupid and lazy to not.


Terkel, Amanda. “Benghazi Committee Finally Interviews The Mysterious ‘John From Iowa'”. The Huffington Post. 10 June 2016.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s