Monday, November 30, 2009

Concerted effort

"I've been slacking off at exercising recently, but I decided to make a concerted effort to be more active."
"I'm making a concerted effort to be nicer to my roommate."
"I'm behind in my classes, but I'm making a concerted effort to catch up."
Concerted effort is a popular phrase to misuse these days. Concerted means "involving the joint activity of two or more", so the idea of a single person making a concerted effort doesn't really make sense.

Compare:
  • concerted: coordinated, combined, joint (opposite of separate, uncoordinated)
  • concentrated: intense (opposite of mild, moderate)

The next time you're about to say concerted, think about whether concentrated might be a better choice.

(Although it's widely regarded as incorrect today, my guess is that in 20 or 30 years this use will become accepted, much like "I could care less" is becoming today.)

8 comments:

jacob said...

Good point. I will enjoin all my physical and mental capacities to make a concerted effort to get this more correct more often.

M. Cardgage said...

Dear sir,

My dictionary actually lists "strenuously carried out; done with great effort" as a definition for concerted.

Also, I have always understood the phrase "I could care less" to be sarcastic much like "big deal."

Bruce said...

I'm curious which dictionary you're looking at. All of the several definitions at dictionary.com (as well as Merriam-Webster's definition) imply the idea of a group working together. However, maybe your dictionary is proving my closing prediction true sooner than I expected. :) In any case, my reading of concerted's etymology (specifically its con- prefix) strongly implies the idea of joining together.

(one thing I miss about being a college student is free access to the OED...)

I think that this page does a pretty good job arguing that "I could care less" is not ironic. If you wanted to be ironic, saying "I couldn't care more" would be much more effective than "I could care less".

amanda and dave said...

My teacher was always like...

if you could care less, then why don't you...!!

Nice post. I've never heard that word but I will be on the look out now that I know it doesn't make sense usually. Like most words. What are your thoughts on irregardless?

My 8th grade english teacher taught until her dying breath that it is not a word, but I know you can find it online and my dad even says it is.

I read today actually that it's a combo of "regardless" and "irrefutable"? (or something with an ir). I just think it doesn't make any sense. irregardless and regardless mean the same thing....and the ir- sounds stupid to me. Thoughts?

Bruce said...

Thanks to to magic of language change, irregardless is definitely an accepted (although nonstandard) word at this point, but I prefer regardless. I usually prefer simpler words to complex ones (e.g. I prefer use over utilize).

kt said...

I'm all for us making a concerted effort to support Bruce in his aspirations to use vocabulary properly :)

cindy said...

If your blog had a "like" button, I would use it for this post.

"Irregardless" should never be used.

"I could care less" is a ridiculous phrase and should be struck from the face of the planet.

I hate that our language has become so fluid that phrases or words that make absolutely no sense are integrated into our vernacular simply because people are too lazy to use correct grammar. I know that language has to be fluid to be able to adapt to changing cultures, but there should be a limit.

I'm done with my rant. Thanks.

Erica said...
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