Late in life, I find I’ve become a language snob. 

People who know my history will find that hard to believe. I’m the guy who flunked freshman English and who once wrote that a piece of stolen jewelry was a “neckless.”

If it hadn’t been for spell-check, my career in newspapers would have ended long ago.

I’m not the kind of language enforcer who gets upset when someone ends a sentence with a preposition, which almost everyone does nowadays. 

I get annoyed when people misuse the words “there,” “they’re” and “their,” although my longtime friend and copy editor Kurt Helland will tell you that I still do that occasionally when my keyboarding fingers get ahead of my brain.   

I despise double negatives, because all they do is confuse things. 

Truthfully, I’m not a language snob. I just abhor the intentional misuse of words. 

There are a lot of examples in sports, but two that I detest are the Big Ten and the Big 12 athletic conferences. Both organizations abandoned any numerological connection decades ago. 

The Big Ten once had 10 schools, but membership has increased in recent decades to 14. The Big 12 avoided such blatant misrepresentation for many years, changing its name from Big 6 to Big 8 and finally Big 12 as the number of schools increased. But it, too, is now a fraud with only 10 member schools. 

Officials justify the misrepresentation by saying the names are a “branding tool” and do not have any intrinsic numerical value. To which I respond: Tell that to a second grader who can’t decide if 10 plus 12 is 22 or 24.  

I believe language abuse is worse when numbers are involved because numbers have established values that do not vary. For me, it is heresy when educational institutions flaunt that, especially for branding purposes. 

At a recent holiday party, I mentioned this to Angela Renkoski, a professional writer and copy editor, who said one of her pet language peeves is the phrase “with all due respect,” which people say “right before they slam someone.”

When it comes to language abuse, she added, politics is worse than sports. 

She suggested I read George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” to learn more about language perversion. The essay appeared in 1946, a year after Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” while he was writing “1984.” Several of the dystopian themes from that novel are evident in the essay. 

“The English language is in a bad way,” the essay began. “Our civilization is decadent and our language … must inevitably share in the general collapse.”

Among other problems, he wrote, “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

He argued, however, that the process was reversible if we are “willing to take the necessary trouble of correcting bad habits,” which clearly wasn’t the case then and is probably less so today.  

Orwell abhorred the use of “meaningless words,” like “fascism,” which he said had no meaning beyond signifying that something was “not desirable.”

Other political words that he said had either lost their original meaning or had taken on so many other meanings as to be pointless included “democracy,” “socialism” (I’ll write more about it in a future column), “freedom,” “patriotic,” “realistic” and “justice.” 

“Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way,” he explained. “That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.”

Orwell also disliked invented words, like “pacification,” that rely on “sheer cloudy vagueness.” 

Unfortunately, cloudy vagueness is as good as it gets in today’s world of “collateral damage,” “enhanced interrogation” and “extreme rendition.”