Slang/Vocabulary 101

I’ve always struggled with vocabulary.  I have a limited one.  “Big” words do not come naturally to me.  I have fought the words and thoughts spoken to me all my life, some of you know the ones,  the ones that tell you that you are stupid and the ones that you bought into so well that you believe it – even when you took all those vocabulary “tests” in the Reader’s Digest and scored well.  Negative words can do us such damage if we believe them.

I bring this up because I have a pet peeve.  Well, I have more than one, but today I want to talk about the english language.  I am not going to turn my nose up and sound like a great scholar, I use a lot of slang.  However, I can read and I do speak my fair share of slang, but I’m noticing more and more the mis-use of common words.

I pick one word today because I hear it used improperly often in TV and movies.  The word is promise.  Here is the definition of promise:

prom·ise
noun
noun: promise; plural noun: promises
  1. 1.
    a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.
    “what happened to all those firm promises of support?”
    • the quality of potential excellence.
      “he showed great promise even as a junior officer”
    • an indication that something specified is expected or likely to occur.
      “the promise of peace”
verb
verb: promise; 3rd person present: promises; past tense: promised; past participle:promised; gerund or present participle: promising
  1. 1.
    assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen.
    “he promised to forward my mail”
    • archaic
      pledge (someone, esp. a woman) to marry someone else; betroth.
      “I’ve been promised to him for years”
  2. 2.
    give good grounds for expecting (a particular occurrence or situation).
    “forthcoming concerts promise a feast of music from around the world”
    • (of a person, publication, institution, etc.) announce (something) as being expected to happen.
      “in its pre-Christmas trading statement it promised record results”
The way I read these definitions tells me that a promise is for a future event.  Not the past.  Here is a made up example of what is happening:
Mom:  Did you drink all the milk son?
Son:  No.
Mom:  Are you sure?  I know I had at least a half gallon left.
Son:  It wasn’t me, I promise!
Say what?  (slang for – what are you saying?)  Did son promise to do something?  But what is his promise?  He could have said:  It wasn’t me, I swear!” (don’t swear)  Or, It wasn’t me, it was your daughter or your other son!  Or, OK, you caught me, I did drink all the milk, but I promise to never do it again.
See what I’m saying?  Deep breath.  I guess it’s not a big deal in the  larger view of life.  However, for those from others lands trying hard to learn American English to fit in or communicate clearly with us (or interpret their language into instructions on a product we by, sigh) we should learn how to use our own language.  For me, OK, if not for those learning.
Please know that I am light hearted about this post.  I can laugh at my own mistakes and typos and misuse of my language.  I am a true follower of slang – it’s cool, I get it.  But it is one of my pet peeves, and we all have those.
Enjoy this video about slang – it’s quite humorous – but I understood every word!
cate b
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9 Replies to “Slang/Vocabulary 101”

  1. lololol…I’m so glad you posted this!!! that word has been annoying me terribly!!! I thought it was my misunderstanding the proper use of the word!! wouldn’t dare ask the person/people misusing it, thinking the problem was on my end…lol…beautifully said Cate! thanks for clearing that one up 🙂

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