June 4, 2015
Weekly Language Usage Tips: aggravate or irritate
Weekly Language Usage Tips
Here’s a story about how my woes begot a Weekly Language Usage Tip (wlut). Yesterday, when I was supposed to writing today’s wlut, I was, instead, standing in my local Apple store, waiting for an Apple Bar “genius” to help fix my brand new iPhone 6 and my brand new Apple watch. My phone had frozen and when I restarted it, it restored the data from Icloud, and then, it restarted again, and again, restored the data, and then it restarted again, and again, restored the data and so forth and so on. It was stuck in a crazy feedback loop, and kept restarting. So instead of writing the wlut, I hopped into my car and then, there I was at the Apple store. Justin, the genius, really tried to fix it. I was there about three hours, but he finally gave up, saying my back-up was corrupted, and he couldn’t fix it. By the way, it was in the store with all of these twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings buzzing around, helping customers, that it came to me that ‘awesome’ is a really overused word.
Anyway, my back-up was corrupted, but I said it’s in the cloud, how can that be? Justin was as perplexed as I was. So I shouldn’t use the back-up in the cloud anymore? But what about my other devices that are backed up to the cloud? Are they unsafe, too? So, I shouldn’t use icloud anymore? It’s not like a hard drive, is icloud unsafe for everyone? That’s when he elevated my case to Tony, a special specialist in Chicago. Tony, a very jovial fellow, said that after trying to restore from icloud a number of times, that icloud is set to lock the file, “so the data is kept safe.” But, no worries, the file will be unlocked tomorrow, Friday, and you can try again then.
That’s when I came to this week’s wlut. I was aggravated—or was I irritated? If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said that I was both—aggravated and irritated. But that’s not really the case. I was irritated. To irritate means to annoy. And that’s true, I was annoyed. To aggravate means to make worse or to exacerbate. So, I could not have been aggravated, really. It doesn’t make sense. These words are commonly used in conversation, so using aggravate as a synonym for irritate isn’t really a problem. It is ubiquitous after all. But be careful how you use it in more formal writing. A copy editor will change it every time. I was going to respond to a request to write once more about numbers and numerals, but then my phone froze, so I’ll write about numbers and numerals next week. And so you have it. I’ll try to rescue my iphone from its feedback loop tomorrow, but now, we know that I was irritated not aggravated. So here we are. And me without my phone. Awesome.