Monday, October 24, 2011

Do not abuse the term "access to"

Abusing the term access to has become a mania. The term has its proper uses, of course, as for example in, “I can’t get access to my email right now.” But most of the instances we see today are pompous abuses.

For example, the man who installed my wood stove said, “I don’t just do installations; I can also service your chimney, because I (pause) have access (pause) to brushes.”

Meaning that he had a brush in his truck. Whoop-de-doo. I had access to a brush, too; it was in my barn. Any doofus who has $50 in his pocket and can find his way to a hardware store has access to a brush.

When people habitually abuse access to in this pompous way, and see others abuse it in this way, they eventually begin to think that having access – any kind of access – makes a person more significant.*

Even professional writers make that mistake. For example, in Jeffery Deaver’s novel The Burning Wire, criminologist Lincoln Rhyme places significance on the fact that one suspect is “a former soldier… who might have access to weapons like a nineteen eleven Colt army forty-five.”

In fact, millions of Americans who were never in the army “have access to” such a .45, simply because they own one. And more than two hundred million more Americans “have access to” one because they can buy one by taking a few hundred dollars and a photo ID to the nearest gun shop.

The Takeaway: Don’t use the term access to in a pompous way. It will make you sound ignorant and foolish.

See disclaimer.

*As George Orwell explained, “the English language… becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

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