Ranting Again!

Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed that more and more often people waiting on customers ask a bizarre question… or is it a statement… I’m not really sure what it is!Aug 030

Over the past few days, I’ve been in fast food places, gas stations, convenience stores and motels, and in all of them I hear this same… whatever it is…

“I can help who’s next.”

or is it “Whose next…?”

Either way it makes no sense whatsoever!

Since “who’s” is a contraction for “who is” wouldn’t it actually be a question?  But then if it is a question, what does it mean?

I can’t stand it any more!!

Has the state of education in these United States fallen so low that nobody cares that what they are saying in public is effectively meaningless?  I heard a quote one time, credited to Rose Kennedy, in which she is supposed to have said, “Effective people speak effectively.”  If she was right, and I think she was, then people waiting on customers in America are, for the most part, not effective people!

When I was in school, I was taught that we think the way we speak.  If our speech is meaningless or sloppy, so will our thinking be sloppy. If you look around and listen to what people say, there is an awful lot of sloppiness going on out there.  Is that how the politicians are so easily able to fool us?  Is that why we are so ready to fall for double talk and lies from public officials and corporate representatives… and don’t even get me started on the legal profession…

The saddest part is that there is also an awful lot of sloppy language in preaching these days.  Could it be that this has contributed to the decline of the church in America?  Could this be one of the reasons that so much modern theology is so cluttered with nonsense and so short on clear and honest Truth?


OK, I have a nasty habit of listening to what people say rather than just for what they mean; I’m most likely a victim of my training somewhere along the line, and to be honest, I catch myself speaking like that from time to time.  Maybe I’m just too critical; some think so. Maybe we should be more careful to say what we mean and go back to using words more effectively, words that convey the actual meaning of what we are trying to communicate.

I know, it’s a radical notion; forget it.  Sorry for ranting.

I can help who’s next…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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31 Responses to Ranting Again!

  1. novusanima says:

    Unfortunately, you make some excellent points, and I have to say that I agree with your rant, it’s one I am quite familiar with as having thought (more than once) about the things you’ve written here! The destruction of proper manners and speech (among other things, but I’m naming these two for now) mirror the reflection of a declining society. It is sad, but it’s true, and we are seeing it all around us, in varying forms, every single day.
    I’ll end my little rant with this: Thank God for the mind of Christ

  2. cathyjo1958 says:

    I know that having known Don – has helped me a great deal with my sloppy language. To be effective we need to speak effectively. Reading and writing are what should be taught in school, then everything else is icing on the cake. If we can read – we can learn anything, if we can write we can teach others.

  3. gwennonr says:

    Dear Sir,

    I completely agree with your statements here. Sloppy language often allows — and even encourages — sloppiness to overflow into other areas of our lives.

    Good writing!

    Best Regards,


    P.S. The correct usage is “I can help who’s [WHO IS] next.”

  4. novusanima says:

    The really funny thing is that I am in my 30’s and I already sound like ‘an old English teacher’ So you’re not alone there! And cathyjo, you are quite right in your statement.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Amused! I thought I was the only one these little annoyances bothered. Yes Don, I am laughing! What an attitude I detect. 🙂

  6. gpcox says:

    I don’t think you want to know the state of our education! Heck, the kids can’t even sign their own names half the time because they don’t teach script writing anymore. Computer work, texting, e-mails, everything is printed.

  7. Marc Kuhn says:

    Don…first of all, thanks for stopping by my blog today. Next, maybe because I’m lying around after a stay in the hospital and I’m not supposed to be doing much, your “Ranting Again” piece has made me wanting to rant. Don’t take that offensively. A friend of mine, a real wordsmith, and I have had some never-ending debates over the years about various words and grammar rules. We are both retired journalist, hence know-it-alls. So, your blog about “Who’s Next” was an easy target in my current state. Okay, all that said, I am not sure I understand your point. Yes, “who’s” is a contraction for “who is” but it is neither a statement nor a question. It hangs isolated, waiting for partnerships with other words. Indeed, “who” by itself could be considered a question, just as “Where,” “When” and “Why” could. If I am waiting on people who are in a line, what do you suggest would be the most natural formula of words for me to yell out in order to determine which person is the one who is next to be served? I see nothing wrong with “Who’s next?” Or should it be, “I can help whomever’s next”…no I don’t think that works exactly the way it should either. “Who’s next?” is a completed question, grammatically correct and easily understood. I don’t understand your point or this prescription I’m on is making my loony. Meanwhile, I do not think the decay in the quality of preaching is isolated to the church. Technology is great, but since it usually replaces human thinking, said human thinking, as we know it, is bound to change–you and I see this as “decay.” Younger folks never have much regard for tradition and loyalty. I have always thought out of both sides of my brain when it comes to language use. Language, I think, evolves and, therefore, so must the rules and configurations that accompany it. But, damn, I am annoyed when something is blatantly incorrect. At the same time, how tightly should we hold onto structure if it is not needed to effectively communicate words transpiring from person A to person B? I am rambling…or was it ranting I started out with? Whatever….if not who, what’s next?

    • Don Merritt says:

      Hey Marc, that was a great rant! Isn’t it fun just rant sometimes?

      I think you pretty much made my point. It strikes me that the phrase in question can be taken so many ways that it is simply poor communication, not to mention sloppy thinking. Once upon a time when I was in customer service training, we were taught to say, “I can help the next person in line.” Simple, direct and precise: pithy.

      I completely agree with you on the points you’ve made by the way, but I must admit to a certain concern for the younger folks who don’t always learn to express themselves as clearly as they might like. OK, now I’m falling victim to my training!

      Thanks for your comments, I hope you have a very speedy recovery!

  8. amandalannon says:

    Love a good rant and enjoyed yours. Some folk are legalistic about grammar, but if you can make yourself understood, surely that is all that matters? It is like accents.. my father raised me to speak the Queen’s English, it gave me the potential to become a snob, any English person who spoke with an accent was not “brung up proper, like” , rendering them unworthy of attention. Fortunately (most of) my snobbery fell off me as I walked out into the big wide world. Accent’s, grammar, political leanings, religions and so forth…. BTW how do you hold your knife and fork? As for the “whose and who’s” why not just call “next” or “can I help you”?

    • Don Merritt says:

      Ranting isa lot of fun some times, I must confess. My whole point, to the extent that there was a point at all, was simply that people aren’t always clear in what they say and don’t communicate as effectively as they should. Snobbery of course is simply irritating, although I’ve never met an American who doesn’t love the sound of a person speaking the Queen’s English; it seems to make even the dumbest remark sound brilliant!

      • amandalannon says:

        In the UK, a Queen’s English accent is something to hide unless you live in the upper classes, being working class and mixing with “allsorts” people’s backs are put up the minute you open your mouth…I am used to it now and try to soften the blow. Would prefer to speak with an accent and have perfect grammar.

        • Don Merritt says:

          That’s too funny! In the US a “Boston Brahman” has the same problem! Lucky for me, I have a plain old California accent. In all cases, decent grammar is a big plus!

      • larryjben says:

        Had a young friend from the U.S. that went to London for the summer during college break. He worked in a restaurant and told us he was the most popular waiter because they all wanted to hear his American accent. Jolly what or should i say jolly that?

  9. larryjben says:

    Years ago in freshman composition 101 i was chastised for using a sentence fragment in a paper i had turned in. I told the instructor “Well that’s how we talk” She replied “Well that is not how we write.”

  10. It’s true what you’re saying. But customer service can be overwhelming and most workers are underpaid and just want to get through the day. Hope I explained myself effectively. 🙂

  11. rbeike says:

    Your ranting seems reasonable…but who’s to say for sure. I will try to watch my language. You never know whose(?) next in line.

  12. I know what you mean. I cringe every time I visit a grocery store that has a “10 items or less” sign near a cashier , when it should be 10 items or fewer. Don’t get me started on the disappearance of “ly” on most adverbs and no longer using “an” in front of a word starting with “h”. Add that they are no longer teaching cursive handwriting to children, foretelling of a future where all handwritten history will be lost, and it makes me sad. I’ve never been a proponent of France’s militancy for protecting their language; but I’m beginning to see how much we are losing because we are less than diligent with ours.

    On a happier note, thank you so much for following my blog. I am now following yours and look forward to viewing it on a regular basis.

  13. paulfpavao says:

    I always want to know how to speak correctly. I enjoy being corrected for my grammar or vocabulary. However …

    You asked a question that I’ll rephrase so I know the answer to it. Do Americans not care anymore about their grammar, spelling, etc. once they are adults, even in public? My experience is that they don’t. There’s very few circumstances where someone will say, “Thank you for correcting my spelling” or “I’ll try to remember that it’s ‘well’ rather than ‘good.'” Instead, most reckon that being done with school, they are under no obligation to learn to speak gooder.

    Your question actually asked whether people cared whether what they are saying is meaningless. The proliferation of “I could care less,” which means connotatively exactly the opposite of what the words say.

    I don’t think most people believe what they are saying is meaningless. What’s frightening, though, is that most folks around here don’t care that they sound uneducated. They never wonder if a bit of effort in their speech and learning to write like a professional might gain them raises or get them better jobs.

    Shoot, young people don’t even spruce up their clothes for interviews anymore. Why would they go through much more effort to spruce up their English skills?

    • Don Merritt says:

      I think you’ve made a great point. Here’s something I drive people batty with, you might enjoy giving it a try. I often respond to what people say, rather than to what I know they mean… it’s hilarious when they realize what they’ve said. Of course there are always those who become annoyed… even more hilarious!

  14. vwoods1212 says:

    There is a scripture in the bible “everyone did what was right in their own sight”; conforming to scripture is not acceptable anymore, but for the scripture to conform to us….What is Jesus thinking about us?

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