"It's rhetoric all the way down." — Steven Mailloux

Words and phrases

As a rhetorician, I am always interested in English words and phrases, especially ones that change meaning or come into or disappear from popular usage.  Pardon the bitching!

step foot” — I hear this a lot: “I knew I was in trouble before I even stepped foot in the place,” for example.  Eeek! Whatever happened to “set foot”? And what else would you do with your foot except step? Redundant!

landed up” — I don’t hear this so much, but one person I worked with used it regularly. As in, “We landed up with more beans than we could cook.” Um, how about “ended up”? We’re talking about a process, right? At least “step foot” has some kind of physical action behind it. “Landed” is something that airplanes and boats do, and neither of them lands “up.”

gauntlet,” as in “run the gauntlet.”  When I was teaching newswriting, I would go on a tear about the misuse of this word in print, which was and is common. As in, “The Tigers will have to run the gauntlet of tough SEC opponents.”  No they won’t!  It’s a gantlet they’ll have to run. A gauntlet is a kind of glove; how could anyone “run” a glove? A gantlet is a flogging ritual, but then even people — like journalists — who are supposed to know and use the language correctly — don’t know this.

More to come ….