Thursday, September 06, 2007

Writing Discussion #4: The Trip-ups.

Behold, the English language. Is it not one confusing booger of a language?

To me, there are some things in our language that either trip me up constantly, or make no sense at all. For example, I have a cheat sheet pasted on my desk at work that reminds me of the different between i.e. and e.g. I've seen them both used often and for the longest time, I thought they were rather interchangeable. Not so! When I was corrected on my usage one time, I made sure I would not make that mistake again.

Hence, the cheat sheet:

i.e. = stands simply for "that is," which written out fully in Latin is 'id est'. "i.e." is used in place of "in other words," or "it/that is." It specifies or makes more clear.

e.g. = means "for example" and comes from the Latin expression exempli gratia, "for the sake of an example." "e.g." is used in expressions similar to "including," when you are not intending to list everything that is being discussed.

So, with the cheat sheet, that was an easy one to solve. The other one that always trips me up is the word bi-monthly. Or bi-weekly, bi-annually. I have to stop and think -- does that mean twice a month? Or every two months? Well guess, what? It means BOTH. I mean, now how in the heck can that be? And when you use it, do you have to clarify to the reader what you mean? It makes a difference, you know, whether my paycheck comes bi-monthly (twice a month) or bi-monthly (every two months). What the heck is up with that? Why can't we have a term that just means one or the other?

My solution? Avoid it. (sticking my head in the sand has always worked well for me at times...and other times, well, no....) Okay, to avoid it you simply say, "My paycheck comes twice a month." Just forget bi-monthly all the way around because, like, as long as you know, it's okay, right?

And then, just for the fun of it, there are those words that people misuse sometimes. You know the ones, those boogers that are close in spelling but mean something entirely different, yet you hear someone uses them improperly?

Here are some of my favorites.

"That paperboy is just impotent!" My grandmother. We think she thought to say incompetent.

"He took the blunt of it." Ouch. My former co-worker. I think she meant brunt. Taking the blunt of just about anything, I think, would hurt.

"All right, let's flush out this grant proposal." Hm. There have been many a grant proposal I would like to have flushed, but I really think this co-worker meant to "flesh out" the proposal.

"He thrusted for her." This, I actually read in a post on a romance writer's loop. It was a vampire story and the author, I believe, meant to say "thirsted" however, thrusted brings up all sorts of imagery, as well...

And one of my favorites. Year's ago, my father came home laughing about a man he worked with who had ridden to work with him that day. As my father was driving, the man called out, "Watch out for the medina strip!" Medina strip? my father asked. The man pointed to the median between the roads. "Yes, the medina strip."

To this day, when driving, it's still a family joke. I was a child when it happened but it's been passed down to my own children. We very much watch out for the medina strips when we are driving.

And then, of course, there is the other family joke. Once my mother made a comment while driving that she was tired of spoilers on the rear of cars. "They are just like assholes," she said. "Everybody has one."

To this day my son continues to call a spoiler on a car an asshole.

I'm not sure that last one has anything to do with the English language but hope it made you chuckle, at least.

Until the next time...

maddie
Post a Comment