Saturday, August 06, 2011


so-called (sōˈkôldˈ)
  1. Commonly called: “new buildings … in so-called modern style” (Graham Greene).
  2. Incorrectly or falsely termed: My so-called friends were gossiping about me again.
Usage Note: Quotation marks are not used to set off descriptions that follow expressions such as so-called and self-styled, which themselves relieve the writer of responsibility for the attribution: his so-called foolproof method (not “foolproof method”).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
So, you think you've heard it all?  Try again.  There's always more.  This morning I went to inform a certain cleric that his indiscriminate use of the phrasal adjective "so-called" qualifying a doctrinal reality is an unacceptable oxymoron.  It is a speech pattern that he has developed over the years, thinking that by qualifying impressive truths with the adjective so-called he made them more beautiful and more poetic.  I told him that it is just the opposite.  In English usage when a reality is qualified by the adjective so-called it is diminished, not enhanced.  His response was that he meant to enhance the reality and not diminish it and that if people would only talk to him about it he would explain his intention.  After all, he persisted, English isn't his mother tongue and so he speaks it the way he feels is within his capability.  He doesn't mean to mislead anybody, it's just not his first language.  He really got cranked up when I told him that language means what it means and there comes a time when you have to make yourself a slave to it.  BOOM!  "I don't make myself a slave to anything."  
Oh well, he wasn't listening to me anyway, so now that I've really lost him, this session is over.
I suggested that he didn't have to trust me alone, that he should ask around and satisfy himself that what I was saying is, in fact, correct.  I told him that he should look into changing his speech pattern.  It won't be easy, but the result will be gratifying.  He just insisted that it is very hard.
Besides the invincible ignorance of his position, what really got to me was that he denied remembering that I had made this very point to him in front of his superior two years ago.  Just goes to show that this guy is tuned out from reality.  The arrogance of it all is that he imposes his view of reality on the world without expecting that the world is going to push back.  This part of the world pushes back.  
I grew up bi-lingual.  I am accustomed to being told, "That's not how you say this in English [or in ... xxx].  Some 51+ years ago I was put into a situation where I began to live in a country away from my two major languages.  So, I often heard, "That's not how we say it."  Along the way I have picked up four more languages besides that first extra one and I NEVER had the reaction, "If they want to ask me what I mean, let them ask me." HUH?  
It is time for this "missionary" to go back to where he can speak a language that he knows.  He has overstayed his welcome.  If he doesn't want to speak the language of this country, then he doesn't deserve to participate in the offering plate that is fed by the very people who have to ask him to clarify his intentions when he arrogantly persists in using anti-idiomatic expressions.
BTW, I sent him a copy of the definition that appears at the beginning of this article.