I have a lot of linguistic pet peeves—terms or expressions that annoy me for various reasons. I thought I’d share a few of them here so that I can have some company in my annoyance.
Let me begin with a term that now actually appears in some dictionaries: “incentivize.” In recent years this verbification of the noun “incentive” has become so common that it seems now to be as popular as the term it replaces: “motivate.” But the question is, why use “incentivize” instead of “motivate” when the latter is actually easier to speak and write? It seems to me that if you’re going to prefer a word with an extra syllable then it should be clearer or more descriptive than a standard synonym. But neither is the case with “incentivize.” So what’s the deal? Probably the term emerged in the business world, and this verbal virus spread from there. Ugh.
Another one that drives me crazy is the way many people add an “n” to the word “other” when using it after the word “whole,” as in “that’s a whole nother matter.” I have even heard well-educated people do this, and I really have to fight my inclination to lower my opinion of them. This is another deviation from correct form which actually increases the difficulty of the phrase. It is easier, after all, to say “other” than “nother.” Yet many people use the latter, even though it’s not a word. I just don’t get it.
Perhaps the most annoying to me, however, is the phrase “past history.” Sadly, this expression is often used in formal contexts, even by scholars like the author of this statement: “Past history of major depression is more common in smokers than in non-smokers” (from the abstract of an essay in a scholarly journal). Since this was a published paper, it must have been approved not only by the author but also the journal’s main editor and at least one referee! The problem, of course, is that when one refers to the history of anything, we can assume that s/he is talking about the past. So use of the word “past” to modify “history” is simply redundant. Again, I don’t get it.
Thank you for allowing me to vent about these things. I hope you share my annoyance. If you don’t or, heaven forbid, you are guilty of using one or more of these expressions, then I urge you to repent. I trust you’ll clean up your act and make the world a better place from a linguistic standpoint. Or you might be guilty but refuse to change, such as if you are one of those sad individuals who doesn’t really care about proper use of the English language. If so, then I have other ways to motivate you. But, alas, that’s a whole other issue.