Whose Using The Dictionary?

This is it boys and girls!  This is the post about English language usage and misusage that I’ve been threatening for a year.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that I decided to do one, and have paid more attention, but the last month or so the mistakes have just been leaping off the pages at me.  I have to do a bitch post about them, or I’ll smack somebody with a thesaurus.

Despite the high rate of literacy in North America, there’s a difference between can read, and do read.  There’s a disturbing percentage of the population, for whom English is a spoken language.  They cannot make the mental connection between the random grunts that fall from their face, and the magic marks which appear on paper or computer screen.

Even among the more intelligent and educated, the professionals, paid to use the language, there is too much attention and thought given to the information being broadcast, and too little given to the words used to convey those stories.

I think of it as a young man who has proposed to his sweetheart, and now has to go to meet her family.  After a shit, shower, shave and shampoo, he splashes on some nice cologne, dresses in his best clothes and sets off to drive to see them.  He knows exactly where they live, and exactly which streets and roads he will take to get there.  He rolls into their driveway, and they see that, instead of his shiny Audi coupe, he has somehow taken the neighbor kid’s rebuilt ’73 VW Bug, with the flowers and peace symbol.  Everyone knows he made the effort, but he still looks like a fool.

Other words cause problems for the inattentive, but homonyms seem to be the most numerous problem.  Pairs of words with similar pronunciation, but vastly different meanings.  It sounded like what I wanted to say!  Restricted vocabulary sometimes means the speaker/writer doesn’t know both words, and uses one for all cases, but that’s a mute point.

I’ve got a list of doozies I’ve seen recently.  I’m going to put them down and make fun of them.  Pay attention please.  Even the best of us may learn something.

I don’t know whether to be more irked or amused when a columnist writes about something they know nothing about.  A recent article by a female about archery, enjoying a resurgence because of movies like Brave, and The Hunger Games, contained this line.

this bow and arrow, with a bendy piece of wood with one sharp end held taunt with a piece of string

So few words – so many mistakes!  I could taunt her by telling her that the correct word is taut – tight.  A bendy piece of wood??  There’s a crisp descriptive passage.  With one sharp end?  Is she writing about the arrow?  It’s an unusual bow that doesn’t have symmetrical narrow ends.  The word taunt I’ve already dealt with, but you can’t hold one end taut, it requires two, and the string doesn’t hold the bow taut.  The bow holds the string taut.

I do crossword puzzles.  There’s a lot more to them than a large vocabulary.  It’s like The Mentalist on TV.  It’s a guessing game, a long-range mind-reading act.  What was he thinking when he wrote this clue?  I have to guess not only what he meant, but what he meant when he used the wrong word.

Overly verbose – gregarious.  Gregarious means being part of a large group.  You may talk a lot when you do that, but gregarious has nothing to do with being verbose.  You may be the quiet one in the crowd.

Opposite of none – some.  The opposite of none is all.  Some is in the middle.

Day before a holiday – eve.  Eve is short for evening, perhaps from 6 PM till midnight.  It’s not the entire day.

Reared – bred.  Bred is producing offspring, reared is raising them to independence.

Between – amid.  Between is two.  Amid is more than two.  It’s that simple, and precise.

Retainers – fees.  Retainers are what you pay to ensure that a professional will work for you when you need him/her.  Fees are what you pay when the work is done.

Withered – sear.  Sear is what you do to a steak.  This one needs the word sere.

Like dandruff – itchy.  A dry scalp, which produces dandruff, is itchy.  Dandruff is dead.  It has no feelings.

Timidity – fear.  Timidity is lack of bravery or self-confidence.  One can be timid without fear.

Discus or javelin – event.  Discus or javelin throwing are events.  Discus and javelin are projectiles.

Nasty laugh – sneer.  A sneer, like a smile, or a frown, is a facial expression which makes no sound.  It can’t be a laugh, nasty or otherwise.

Restricted vocabulary can produce some interesting, though irksome, word usages.

We need to reign those politicians in

Even with lots of local Mennonites on the road with their buggies and wagons, people forget about horses and reins.

Raccoons don’t really watch their food

No, they eat it with their eyes closed, after they scrub it under water.

I don’t want to be one of thoughs.  And he worked so hard to be wrong.

Hallink, a plastic bottle dye maker.  What color were the bottles that came from the forming die?

A Wiccan experienced a right of passage, and low and behold.  Well, Wiccans don’t read much Bible, or they’d know the words were, “rite” and “lo.”

A golf cart for sale, with fancy weels and ect.  This one sets my teeth on edge.  Weels is bad enough, but the “and ect” is becoming too common.  The spelling is “etc”, an abbreviation of Et Cetera, which means, “and other things”.  And Ect is redundant, with incorrect spelling of a three-letter word.

The local car columnist, writing about station wagons, reported that they evolved from depot hacks, which were pulled by a handsome team of horses.  What he meant was that they were pulled by a pair of hansom horses, a hansom being a two-horse cart.

A woman fell and broke her tibula.  That might mean eyebrow, because the two bones in the leg are tibia, and fibula.  Even if the bones were jammed together when one broke, the words shouldn’t have been.

Wrist dramatically to forehead, Oh, whoa is me!  Well stop doing that, and use woe!

He pulled a slingshot from beneath his robe, placed a stone in the cup and whirled it around his head.  A slingshot is a Y-shaped object with an elastic band to propel objects.  Like David against Goliath, what he had, was a sling.

I could go on all day, but I’m already over quota.  Thanx for reading my rant.  Perhaps more another time.

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