I Talk Purty One Day
With apologies and a nod to David Sedaris
It’s been a while since I got up on my soapbox but I had a recent heart tune-up and the resultant increase in cerebral blood flow has once again enlivened me.
As a writer, I take a certain amount of liberty with language and syntax and how words look on a page, feel in the mouth, and sound through the ear. That being said, I have a major quibble……no gripe…..no ISSUE with the way public speakers, most vividly newsreaders (and I use that term loosely), and I suppose the writers who dictate the copy for those on air personalities, butcher simple, declarative, English, sentences.
Would it not make sense for the Human Resource departments at CNN, NBC, ABC, and the like to vet, even slightly, their employees ability to construct a sentence without violating the simplest of syntactic rules? Do they even ask them for writing samples? Did they ever have to answer essay questions in school? And who graded these? Teachers? Professors? Where does the freight train of syntax destruction stop?
Brooke Baldwin, CNN, I’m talking to you. If I hear you say “exact same” one more time I just might smash my TV.
I went on a quest to find some back up for my position, ie: the correct phraseology should be exact; same; or exactly THE same but not “exact same”. One of the first sites on “English Language & Usage”, the header being scripted in a vague replica of Olde English fontique, stated:
“Exact same” represents a grammatical practice that is particularly prevalent in American English; the use of an adjective for an adverb. In this phrase “exact” modifies “same” and is functioning as and adverb.”
Anyone want to take a crack at the obvious? A purported “language and usage” site using the phrase “functioning as AND adverb” immediately negates their ability to reinforce any point I may have. They go on to justify the use of “exact same” with a detailed description of two Hugo Boss shirts with differing collar sizes. Really?
There is one word that puts the lie to the use of the sociologically prevalent phrase; redundant. “Exact Same” is redundant hence unnecessary and truly ugly to the ear.
Exactly like “end result”, “basic fundamentals”, and “unexpected surprise” are redundant, so is “exact same”. These Siamese-twinned phrases, and other two word hookups, are saying and meaning exactly the same thing (see how easy that was?).
I realize that, as Americans, we tend to short-cut a lot of things, the great traditions of the English language among the first to feel the pinch of our rush to get through everything we do with the greatest of haste and economy. But if we examine the “exact same” phenomenon closely, we are really missing a perfectly simple and expeditious shortcut. Drop the double-meaning words. Case closed. Mission accomplished. Boring, wordy, language-bloated sentences averted. How very American.
Not to mention that we would all sound a little more civilized and a lot less ignorant in the process. Garner’s Modern American Usage, for example, says “exact same” is merely “a lazy truncation of exactly the same. Although the exact same is acceptable in informal speech, it’s not an expression for polished prose.”
I couldn’t disagree more. (this sentence, readers, is the subject of another column)
Shouldn’t our hired professionals, both the ones who actually ask the questions of world leaders and communicate the import of world issues to us, as well as those who write their copy for them, be held to a greater standard? We would all be elevated by adhering to a slightly better than average format than that which is “good enough for informal speech”. Shouldn’t polished prose be the norm for what we expect of our worldwide news coverage. I would hope that by setting a better example, the rest of the writer’s rooms, and copy editors, and home bloggers around the globe would begin to see, and hear, the difference. Or is all hope gone for the Americanized version of our shared language? Do we, as my mother is fond of saying, come from “the college of that’s good enough”?
No less an authority than Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition) agrees with me. It doesn’t list “exact” as an adverb. It can only be an adjective (or a verb, with a different meaning). The adverb form is “exactly”. So if you take Webster as an authority, you should say, “She was wearing exactly the same outfit” instead of “the exact same outfit”.
Most accountings today reference the “idiomatic” usage of this phrase as justification for its continued prevalence (and their continued lazy use of it) in every day speech. I would say another “idio-“ phrase is more succinct and to the point.