Word Rant

I love words.  I spent many, many years studying them for spelling bees.  I understand diacritical markings.  Besides being an English major, in college I took linguistics and Latin as electives for fun!  In grad school I took American English, Old English, and the History of the English Language.  My bookshelves are full of books about words and language.  One of my most prized possessions is my enormous Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, which is literally falling to pieces from use.  You know those books of frequently misused words?  I read those for fun.
So misused words are a constant source of irritation to me.  No, I am not going to talk about Sarah Palin and “refudiate” which reminds me of a great word coined my my husband’s mother: “Flustrated.”  I could talk about lots of words–and now that I have this blog to rant in I probably frequently will–but today I want to talk about “troops.”
Almost every day I read about American troops dying in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Whether it is for the sake of saving space or for fear of giving offense that newspaper editors have unilaterally decided to replace the correct term, soldier, with troop, but IT IS WRONG.  Why am I the only one who notices this?  Here are some definitions of troop from dictionary.com:

an assemblage of persons or things; company; band.


a great number or multitude: A whole troop of children swarmed through the museum.
Military . an armored cavalry or cavalry unit consisting of two or more platoons and a headquarters group.
troops, a body of soldiers, police, etc.: Mounted troops quelled the riot.
a unit of Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts usually having a maximum of 32 members under the guidance of an adult leader.
a herd, flock, or swarm.
Archaic . a band or troupe of actors.
You can read more definitions here, but I can guarantee you (because I already read them all) that they all share one crucial element:  a troop is a group!  It is not one person, not EVER, and this substandard and yet nearly universal usage has yet to be added to the dictionary.
It will, though, because what a lot of people do not realize is that dictionaries are more descriptive than prescriptive, and if enough idiots keep saying troop when they mean soldier, they will change the language.  For the worse.

0 thoughts on “Word Rant

  1. Tara

    My pet peeve is the erroneous use of apostrophes, especially with the letter s. For some reason, it has become common practice to use ‘s to denote the plural of an item (e.g., saw an awful sign at a new hair salon “Hair 2day is excepting new customer’s!”). Maybe it was just that Sr. Mary Martha drilled us on the use of apostrophes for contractions, to inidicate possessive status, and the correct usage of its & it’s. Of course texting has added to the devaluation of language. I’m guilty of this myself when I text to my kids: C U @ 5pm. I also find it ironic that the people yelling the loudest about “English only” can not properly use English themselves.

    1. I cannot fathom that people don’t get someone reliable to proofread signs for their businesses–I have seen too many like you describe to count! I always imagine the sign painter laughing evilly at the stupidity of his customer–although chances are he doesn’t know how to spell correctly either! As far as texting, it probably will lead to punctuation and spelling changes eventually unless we move to some other form of electronic communication before it has a chance to. I’m with you on the “English only” crowd. Let’s make “correct English only” a law and see what happens!

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