Thursday, March 01, 2007

Book Store is Closed for the Evening

Too much snow, so the store closed and I don't have to work tonight. That's a good thing, because my brain is exploding with ideas for my screenplay, and it takes a while for me to get them out.

One thing's been bothering me for days, and it shouldn't. It's petty and pointless, but my mind won't let it go. Last week a co-worker was telling a story about her weekend, and she said, ". . . all of the sudden, I was laying on my back."

Now, normally I'll laugh pretty hard about somebody falling down, but her misuse of the phrase "all of a sudden" irked me. It's not something that's generally noticeable when spoken, since "alluvasudden" and alluthesudden" sound too close to call most of the time. But it irked me.

It irks me for a lot of reasons. First, it's an archaic construction that people use without even thinking about it. "Of a sudden" is just a wordy version of "suddenly," and if there's one way to make an adverb even worse, it's to make a phrase out of it.

And then there's the "all" element. When people say "I'm all about that," or "he was all, like, 'What's your problem?'" I have to resist the urge to put my fingers in their eyes and push until they're all, like, all about being in agony. The word "all" has only a few sensible uses, and these are not them. (When Strongbad says "All up ons," however, this is hilarious.)

But there's also the identity of the sudden that has to be addressed. In the correct usage (all of a sudden), any sudden will do. Which sudden? I don't know. A sudden. When people bastardize this phrase, we suddenly have to pick which sudden this situation is all of. Is it this sudden? How about the sudden over there? I don't know which sudden is the sudden, and this is critical to understanding the phrase.

But if I demand that my co-worker identify of which sudden she was all while falling down, she'll look at me as though I've gone all pedantic, and I'm all about not being all pedantic.

I also hate when people write (or sometimes say) "should of" instead of "should have." I understand "should've" sounds like "should of," but it's not that. If you've never seen "should've" in print, you need to start reading beyond Dick and Jane. If you've seen should've and somehow failed to make that connection, I have no suggestions. You should of read more as a child. Then you'd be all about speaking English competently. Or "all of a competence."

9 comments:

Jerry said...

True dat! I was all like thinkin' like all of the sudden like that youse is so c'rect. Youse is my new like hero 'n stuff. =)

Mike said...

Wow..all of a sudden I feel a bit inferior...and a little attacked. You...You...You english major you!!

Sean said...

I think where you lose me is that the particular sudden is not necessary to the story, because the sudden they realized they were on their back was suddens after the time they should of been all about realizing they were about to be on their back. The important part is that the whole sudden was used in determining this fact.

It's funny... you quoted StrongBad.

Jason said...

Jerry: You need no heroes. You're all about self-heroization.

Mike: Sorry you feel all attacked. I've never noticed you abusing the language in these ways. I'm sure I'd remember that.

Sean: I realized later that I had a problem with the suddens. I like your theory, though I don't think it works any better than mine.

Here's the problem I found: "All of the sudden" is actually more specific than "all of a sudden," since it asserts the existence of only one sudden. The sudden. "All of a sudden" indicates that there are many suddens, and any one will do. So now I have to go revise my theory. Suddenly.

Nathan said...

Inasmuch as I agree with your point about your coworkers lack of grammar skills (and she works in a bookstore?) usage, I think you're missing the real interesting part of your coworker's story . . . why was she on her back? That sounds like the start of a story I would very much like to hear.

Mike said...

Actually...come to think of it the use of "all of a sudden" does bother the hell outta me...not for all the philosophical theories stated here, just for the fact that it sounds stupid. However I would like to state for the record that I hate it when people use the word like four thousand times in a sentence. It is like nails across a chalk board.

Jerry said...

Self-heroization?? I think my dear brother that we may need to have a chat. Perhaps you are seeing something that I have missed.

dchmielewski said...

"Self-heroization" is that like "Narcissism" but all-make-up and stuff-like-that?

Jerry said...

now why do I feel like I was just thrown under the bus?