There oughtta be a word

| I read a lot of library books — the old fashioned kind printed with ink on paper and pages that you actually turn. And it seems rare that I can make it all the way through a book without finding an annotation correcting a presumably egregious error in the book. To wit:

Keys to the Kingdom: A novel of suspense, by (former) Senator Bob Graham

What is it with these folks? They deface public property to point out a supposed violation of pure, "correct" English. The urge to be right is apparently so strong that they cannot pass by "LA" without writing in "L.A.", as if everyone else is helpless to divine the meaning of that text without their help. And I'm sure they would find fault with my rendition of "L.A." and insist that it must be represented as "L. A." (with a space between the first period and the A).

Life must be very difficult for these people, forced to exist in a world that does not meet their standard of perfection. Just waking up must be traumatic.

We all know some of these people. They are absolutely convinced that certain things are "right" and other things are "wrong" and ne'er the twain shall intermingle. There is no gray in their spectrum.

Here's the pity: we don't have a good word for these people. The term "usage Nazi" gets at the idea, and, in fact, it is common to use the construction "____ Nazi" for anyone with an extremely rigid and intolerant view of how something ought to be. But the Nazi trope is over-used and tends, thereby, to minimize the evil of the real Nazis.

We have an adjective, officious, that is very apt for people who go about volunteering their services and opinions whether they are asked for or needed. But I think we need a noun. Instead of having to say "that officious little man" did thus and such, I want to be able to say "that little man is a(n) ________".

One can act officiously, one can display officiousness, but there's no noun for the class of people. It's a serious deficiency.

And by the way, Keys to the Kingdom is a fine page-turner.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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