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Archive for the ‘Parts of speech’ Category

I’m bloody tired of the question posed in the title. Every time I speak with a customer service representate, a nurse, a Nigerian prince, or similar, I get asked that.

The question is really asking for my social security number, but it’s failing. “Social” in this context is an adjective. Without a noun, it means nothing. In days gone by, a social was a party, but people don’t have socials much any more. Now, they gather in the virtual world.

This may sound like the carping of someone clinging to English as it once was, but there is a point here that’s deeper. A social security number is supposed to be only the number used by the Social Security Administration. The fact that it has become a number for general identification and has done so to the extent that many don’t even use its full name any more ought to worry us. “What’s your social?” is a sign of inane acceptance.

Language matters. It’s our way of thinking and of transmitting our thoughts. If we take the time to express ourselves fully, we’ll notice more when our thoughts have gang agley.

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