Top Ten Linguistic Bloopers 4-6

Decimated Nauseous Prone Aquiline Somewhat Unique State of the Art Older Laundry List Changed the Course of History, and Could Care Less

(Dedicated to the proposition that words mean something.)

aquiline

An aquiline nose is a curved nose. Aquila is Latin for eagle, and an aquiline nose is curved like an eagle’s beak. So I Google the words “straight” and “aquiline” in conjunction, and in the first ten results, there are six instances of a “straight, aquiline” nose. How can this be? It can’t. If a thing is curved, it’s not straight! If it’s straight, it’s not curved!

Anne Perry writes some interesting novels, but has a fetish for describing the nose of almost every character in those books as aquiline. In Defend and Betray, there are TEN. Three short aquiline noses, one long aquiline nose. One character has a “curious face with its aquiline nose.” Another has a “nose aquiline and yet broad.” Then there’s a child, “his nose short and already beginning to show an aquiline curve.” Another character has an “aquiline nose that looked almost as if it had been broken,” and one has a “crooked, aquiline nose.” Not content to stop at noses, she says of another character that his “face was aquiline.” Good grief.

“Curved or hooked” is the dictionary definition of aquiline. Another dictionary says “thin, curved, and pointed like an eagle’s beak.” The thinness factor would eliminate Perry’s character whose nose is “aquiline yet broad.” And pity this poor other character, the one whose nose is apparently thin, curved, pointed and crooked, all at the same time.

Memo to Ms. Perry: cool it with the aquiline noses, okay? You’re embarrassing yourself.

unique

The world would be a better place if no-one ever again said somewhat unique. Unique is unlike any other. There’s only one of it. Unique is an all-or-nothing proposition. A thing is either unique or it is not. There is no “somewhat unique,” period.

State of the art, thank Goddess, isn’t heard so often any more, but it sure went around the block enough times to get tired. Probably 15/16ths of the time when people use that phrase, they don’t have the foggiest idea what they mean by it anyway. It morphed into meaning something like the French phrase, le denier cri, the last word, the latest and greatest.

But much, much worse is beyond state of the art, a totally meaningless aggregation of words. Remember the amplifier in Spinal Tap those volume dial went up to 11? Whether you call it 11 or 10, if it’s the highest number on the dial, it’s still the loudest level. “Beyond state of the art” is only in the realm of imagination. The minute a thing is realized, that’s the state of the art, right there. Maybe something was formerly “beyond state of the art,” when it was on the drawing board, but the minute it exists, it automatically becomes the state of the art. Yeah, there are writers who might say “beyond state of the art” in a tongue-in-cheek way, facetiously, as humorous hyperbole, but people are out there using it with a straight face, as if it actually meant something.

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About Pat Hartman

Before publishing the two books "Call Someplace Paradise" and "Ghost Town: A Venice California Life", my main project was "Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics. " I wrote extensively for "Scene," a monthly arts and entertainment magazine with a circulation of 25,000. Also proofread, sold ads, put together the music calendar and, for a couple of years, served as editor. Presided over a couple issues of the local NORML newsletter, as well as being featured speaker at chapter meetings. Wrote a complete screenplay; collaborated on another one; worked on a couple of scripts (additional dialog and general brainstorming) with an indie film producer. Booked the talent for a large music festival. Wrote, designed, illustrated and produced various catalogs and brochures for small businesses. Spoke at a high school as a panelist on Women in the Professions; was a featured speaker at the 1991 Women in Libertarianism Conference; presented public programs on "Success in One Lesson" and "The Bloomsbury Group: What's It To Us?" Created the website VirtualVenice.info and wrote many politically-oriented pieces for Earthblog.net
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