Wednesday, November 9, 2011


“Start a tradition.”

This is a phrase I hear from time to time. It irritates the hell out of me.

Admittedly, I can be a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to careless use of language. I concede that.

But, not without reason. As Frederick Barthelme observed, words have meanings.

My dictionary defines "tradition" as 1) the transmission of beliefs from generation to generation, or 2) a long-established custom or belief.

So you can't really start a new tradition. You can start something and hope it turns into a tradition – Wednesday night is spaghetti night! – but you can't make it happen.

I see the careless use of language all the time, and it really rankles me.

I once started a list of particularly irritating examples of the careless use of language. I didn't get very far with it. About the only one I remember is using the word film (as a verb, to film) when you mean videotape.

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