Lexical entropy: Will meaning prevail? (Hopefully)

Only a year ago the forces of tradition prevailed (click on image):



Now the AP Stylebook has reversed its position. And in the streets there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth as right-thinking editors everywhere protest the onslaught of lexical entropy to the point, some fear, we’ll be left to describe human experience with nothing but “whatever” and “huh!”

In breaking news, Shakespeare has been disinterred by a team of archaeologists and mediums in search of authoritative opinion on this matter. All he had to say, reportedly, was, “Whatever, eh? I’m dead, and I don’t give a damn.” This has already inspired nearly a score of PhD dissertations aiming to determine the extent to which Shakespeare was Canadian, and how this could be.

Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes Bookstore

While I’m waxing reactionary, can anyone tell me why all the world has sunk into using “in excess of” (three words) when “more than” (two words) or “greater than” has sufficed for generations? Does “in excess of” carry extra heft, some perhaps only spurious authority, because of its relative complexity and Latinate pretention, excesses of which characterize both bureaucratese and bad academese?

Or am I missing a genuine semantic distinction? Would Shakespeare care, if we woke him up again and asked?


5 thoughts on “Lexical entropy: Will meaning prevail? (Hopefully)”

  1. Shakespeare couldn’t have been Canadian because Canada hadn’t been invented when he was alive. With regard it excessive wording, I’ve always been bothered by the use of “prior to” when “before” will do just as well. You can always spot somebody who has a history in politics, government, the military, or just plain pomposity if he writes “prior to my departure” when he means “before I leave.” There is also the Britishism “in two years’ time” when “in two years” would suffice. I mean, two years is a period of time, right? “Time” is redundant, I should think.

  2. Quick. Tell all those doctoral candidates before they get any deeper into their researches.
    Your comment speaks to the problem of “excessive wording.” But I fancy I’ve seen “in excess of” spring to life as a klutzification of the language only recently and then spread like a vicious rumor.
    Here’s an incidental issue, and maybe you can help me with it. I’ve long used the expression “amp up,” as in “increase.” But another lexical fashion that’s been spreading–at least I seem to find it everywhere–is the expression “ramp up,” which appears to be used in the same sense. My question: Did I always just have it wrong, or have their always been two such expressions or, as usual, is the whole rest of the world wrong, and “amp up” is the way God intended it in the beginning?

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