Have you noticed that use of the word "organic," which once was confined to gnarly but expensive vegetables, now is all the rage? It has replaced paradigm and synergy as the word du jour for the pseudo-savants, and, frankly, we're loath to use it. But there is something organic about Page Three. The "Random Acts" of kindness feature grew out of responses to one reader's contribution. Someone's counterpoint to a random act drew a flood of reaction that grew into the "What Bugs Me" feature. Now a "What Bugs Me" piece on Monday, by Gordin Loftin of Annapolis, has sparked a lively response that gives birth to "Wordplay."
Mr. Loftin misses the mark with his criticism of "12 a.m." and "12 p.m." Writers must remember that meridian means "middle of the day," or noon. The term a.m. means "ante meridian," or "before noon." The abbreviation p.m. means "post meridian," or "after noon." See? It's really easy.
-- Gary Jacobsen, Woodbridge
(Thanks to Rick Ripley of Silver Spring, Susanne Lazanov of Fredericksburg and Dorothy Flood of Vienna, all of whom wrote in to make the same point about noon and midnight that Gary Jacobsen presents above.)
What bugs me: Using the term "over" when "more than" is the correct term. "Over" is a spatial-relations term. "More than" is used to express in excess of. He was "over" 90 years of age is incorrect. He was "more than" 90 years of age is correct.
Saying he/she "went" or "goes" instead of he/she "said." For example, the judge "went one more outburst and I'll consider you in contempt of court" is incorrect. He "said one more outburst and I'll consider you in contempt" is correct.
-- Judy Eichner, Leesburg
I'd like to add to the list of misuses of the English language:
"Waiting on" instead of "waiting for," especially when it is used in an article about our national symbol that "waits on a balky bureaucracy" as explained by David Fahrenthold on Page 1 of the Metro section.
Use of "should" in place of "if." An example of this usage is, "Should it rain, I will get wet." "Should" isn't even a synonym of "if."
Use of "very unique." Unique is one-of-a-kind and cannot be modified by very. Users of this term usually mean "very unusual."
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. (Where did that phrase come from, anyway?)
-- Richard Holtz, Alexandria
Meg Smith, Washington Post researcher, spent a good while trying to answer your question, Mr. Holtz, but she's not very satisfied with the results.
"According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word 'chest' has been used to mean 'the seat of emotions and passions' since at least 1590. In some literary journals, people are linking 'getting something off one's chest' to the Latin word and meaning for 'expectorate.' Which is just gross, but intriguing."
Not to worry, somebody out there has the answer, and we bet you can read it right here next week.