Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Impeccable (ampeckobleh) is Sweet !

Add to Google Reader or Homepage« Impeccable » seems to be the “hot” new way for shop owners to acknowledge when you pay the bill. I don’t hear it as often as “merci,” but I hear it a lot.

·   Give the person exact change and s/he says: “impeccable.”
·   Pay by check and the clerk says: “impeccable.”
·   Offer a credit card and I hear: “impeccable.”

Last year, it seemed that “pas de problème” was the hot expression – both in France and as well as its American counterpart “no problem!” Unlike “pas de problème,”impeccable” does not have a perfect mirror reflection in English. I don’t often use impeccable in normal conversation and I don’t think it will become as popular in English as it has in French. When English speakers use it, it seems to be used in a very literal sense of “perfect” or “faultless.” I suppose “perfect” or “faultless” could apply to a small financial transaction but it doesn’t seem quite right. I want my taste to be impeccable (not much chance of that!) not the action of handing someone cash.

I realize that I am putting myself squarely in the OF (old fart) camp by commenting on language usage changes.

Impeccable and “pas de problème” will never match the current popular US response among 20-somethings who use “sweet!” as a response to most sentences. We had an exchange with a young person who texted (don't get me started on nouns becoming verbs!) us and could have written “I understand” or “okay” as an appropriate response but instead we read “sweet” in all of its syrupy splendor.

A while ago, I apologized for an error I made in French and the person with whom I was speaking suggested that my error would have gone unnoticed if I had been speaking with a teen because the teens of today no longer use proper French when they talk. He went on to complain about cell phones and text messages and how these phenomena were going to destroy proper language. As he continued to rail about the deterioration of language, I realized that I had heard these complaints before except they were in English! Even more, I realized that I had heard these predictions about language 50-60 years ago. The difference was that you had to replace “text messaging” with “rock and roll.” “and the beat(ing) goes on…” to paraphrase Sonny and Cher.

Generations have worried about the demise of language/culture/(insert your word here) based on the habits of those who are younger, yet every younger  generation seems to push the envelope until its shape is unrecognizable and they take us to places with discoveries and inventions we never dreamed possible.



  1. Why is it, I wonder, that when we see post apocalyptic films that much of the world has been rendered by the writers by showing smoky skies, dreary settings, but they rarely imagine the language changes that obviously would have taken place. Interesting post, Mark. If you put a stamp on it, I would have said, interesting post mark.

  2. And now it seems to be changing again...everything you say, the reponse is "I know! Right?"

  3. Les, you are so right about how often you hear the term "impecable". In fact, I can see faces of specific people who use that term in around Sablet. The response "no problem" really bugs me when you go to a coffee shop for example and get a coffee and say "thank you" for your coffee you paid for and the response is "no problem". I would be rich if I got a dollar for every time I hear "no problem".

  4. Sweet my ass! I sometimes think (actually feel confident) that our language will not look anything like it does today some 20 to 30 years out. And some scholar will publish an extensive research analysis of how and when the English language changed - due to technology (texting, in particular, but not singularly) - our communication practices and language. We might better be able to understand the Irish Gaelic than what we have grown up with.
    And as for those nouns being verbs - You are now tasked with doing whatever you can to stop the demise of our cherished English language. Make Edwin Newman proud! (The younger generation won't know, nor care about Edwin Newman.)

  5. "You are now tasked..." who said something about "nouns being verbs"?

  6. Exactly! You did! My ears hurt every time I hear "tasked" and another not so favorite, "repurposed."
    Good grief!

  7. the expression "ça marche!" is very handy to use in situtations similar to that one.