Thursday, August 25, 2011

Taking the pet peeve for a walk

One of my pet peeves has been washed and brushed and is ready to come out in public. Heel! Good peeve.

Here we go: With all sorts of loose talk about earthquakes and hurricanes these days, it's time to assess the damage on the language.* I have noted a disturbing trend in disasters, to wit, professional chatterers going on about the "damages." "There are no damages to the area reported. Back to you, Tiffany."

When did "damage" become "damages"? Did the whirlwind or storm surge pick up loose plurals and scatter them about? The word is damage, from Latin damnum for loss or hurt. Yep, the same source that gave us Rhett Butler's famous flip-off of Scarlett. "Damages" is the legal term for the compensation awarded in a successful lawsuit. You get damages for damage, but they aren't the same thing.

This trend needs nipping in the bud. Otherwise it will reach full flower, as did its elder relative, "savings." Nobody even blinks nowadays when a pitchman screams "That's a 40 percent savings off the manufacturer's price." No. No, it isn't. It's a "saving." "Savings" are what I hope you all have in the bank, or, considering current interest rates, preferably in metal buried in the back yard.

There, that wasn't so bad. Good peeve. Now back to the dungeon.

*On an uncharacteristically positive note, I see that hurricane season brings back that wonderful weather phrase "cone of uncertainty." Sounds like a chin-puller of a novel, and a pretty good description of life.

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