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Misused terminology

Crumbly Writer

Quora has an excellent question posed: What is a simple and common English Word that most people don't know the meaning of? We've discussed the words that bother us the most, but haven't really opened the discussions to commonly misused or misunderstood words. So I'll present you with a few:

Disinterested:

People use it all the time, thinking it means "uninterested, detached".

But in fact disinterested means "impartial, not taking a specific side or stance."

A judge presiding over a trial should be a disinterested party. A bored student is uninterested.

They are not synonymns. But people use this one incorrectly much more often than they use it correctly, in my experience.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Sough:

It's simple. It's an old English word, having been around for a long time.

One syllable, with the same spelling pattern as many of the most common words in English: though, thought, rough, bough, through, cough, although, enough,…

This word appears in many, many works of fiction, usually on the first page, frequently in the first paragraph or even the first sentence.

It's pretty much guaranteed that anyone who reads has seen the word many times.

Unknown? It is practically never used in speech, and almost never seen in writing EXCEPT in the early part of a novel such as above.

Moreover, NO ONE knows how to pronounce it, since even the dictionaries offer multiple choices or conflicting answers.

Suff, saw, sou, sow (uncommon).

Usually it is used in a semi-trite expression like the "wind was soughing through the trees" or the "wind was soughing through the high grass".

I actually prefer to changing the pronunciation to match the most likely sound in each particular scene.

For example: Sawing through the trees, suffing through the grass or whatever best fits is my choice in each specific case.

My guess: writers mostly look it up when trying to polish the first page or paragraph of their great American novel.

Simple, old, common, unknown, even the pronunciation is disputed or ambiguous and most people can't tell you the meaning even though they have seen it many times.

Replies:   BlacKnight
Crumbly Writer

Effective, Efficient:

How about a pair of confusing words and their meaning?

Effective > Successful result

Efficient > Productive; without a waste of money or time.

These two are constantly used incorrectly and mistaken in business English. Business pros have often used them trying to sound as experts or savvy in certain areas or their line of business, but usually they-re wrong.

While some tend to use effective in a correct way so to speak, for Sales or Project results, others use it as a positive description or impression, such as effective service which it ain't wrong. However, they need to stick to something successful, specially whenever talking about revenue from services or products.

Moreover, efficient is sometimes wrongfully confused with effective. For instance, whenever there's a sales pitch trying to sound as if X product or service will provide "efficient results", meaning it will provide great results. This word should always be tied with certain areas, like production or distribution; use it only when you save your company some money, time or are able to reduce budget spending!

Needless to say, if you're a highly regarded pro in a business line or industry, stick always to the main difference. Better to put it in the words of a great business investor, Robert Herjavec: "Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing the things in the right manner."

Stick to the right business way.

I'll post a few more over the coming days (for all those too lazy to click on the link).

richardshagrin

One of the most misused, to the point it doesn't mean what it used to, is decimate. Its from Latin, the Romans sometimes punished a unit by killing 1 man in ten. They decimated it. If nearly everyone, or half or even only 20 percent of a group or other item is destroyed you haven't decimated it. Near total destruction is not decimating it.

There are other opinions: here is one from Oxford.

Does 'decimate' mean 'destroy one tenth'?

Most people have a linguistic pet peeve or two, a useful complaint about language that they can sound off about to show other people that they know how to wield the English language. Most of these peeves tend to be rather irrational, a quality which should in no way diminish the enjoyment of the complainer. A classic example of this is the word decimate.

The complaint about the word typically centers on the fact that decimate is used improperly to refer to 'destroying a large portion of something', when the 'true' meaning of the word is 'to put to death (or punish) one of every ten'.

There are several problems with this complaint. The first, and most obvious, is that language has an ineluctable desire to change, and there are almost no words in English which have been around for more than a few hundred years without taking on new meanings, changing their old ones, or coming to simultaneously mean one thing and the opposite (a type of word known as a contronym).

Which came first? The tithe or the punishment?

But the claim that decimate should be used to mean naught but to 'put to death (or destroy) one of every ten' has deeper problems than that. For it is not at all clear that this punitive sense is indeed the earliest definition of the word. The earliest Oxford English Dictionary citation of decimate in a punishing sense dates from 1600, in a work by John Dymmok, titled A Treatise of Ireland. Currently, decimate meaning 'to tithe' makes its first appearance in 1656 (more of which below). But the OED entry for decimate has not yet been revised and in the course of writing this article, I discovered an example of this meaning in a work of 1606 by Henoch Clapham called A Manual of the Bibles Doctrine. With just six years separating these citations at a time in history when far fewer writings remain, we cannot say with any certainty which meaning came first.

Going back even further

Decimation appears to be a slightly older word in English than the verb as it began to make an appearance in English writing in the early 16th century, some seventy years prior to decimate. Again, recent research can provide an earlier example than the current unrevised OED entry. It appears in a book by William Barlow, printed in 1528, where he writes 'To forge excommunicacions For tythes and decimacions Is their continuall exercyse.'

If we look to the dictionaries of this time period the evidence suggests that this tithing sense of decimate was just as common, if not more so, as the sense of killing or punishing one of every ten. The first English dictionary to record the word was Thomas Blount's magnificently titled Glossographia, published in 1656, which defines decimate as "to take the tenth, to gather the Tyth", with no mention made of killing anyone, soldiers or otherwise. In Elisha Coles' An English Dictionary, published some twenty years later, it is defined as both 'to tythe or take the tent' and 'also punishing every tenth man'. These are the only two dictionaries of the 17th century to define decimate (which is not terribly surprising, as there were very few such reference works at the time).

Think before you decimate

So given that these two meanings of decimate appeared almost simultaneously, why are we so obsessed with assigning the punitive meaning to the word? A likely answer is that people are falling prey to what is known as the Etymological Fallacy, a tendency to believe that a word's current meaning should be dictated by its roots. Unfortunately for the etymological purists, decimate comes from the Medieval Latin word decimatus, which means 'to tithe'. The word was then assigned retrospectively to the Roman practice of punishing every tenth soldier.

So, next time you attend a symposium (etymologically, drinking partner) with someone sinister (etymologically, left-handed), and they launch into a tirade about the misuse of this word, you'll be able to decimate their argument in no time at all.

The opinions and other information contained in OxfordWords blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
richardshagrin

Another thought, why are flammable and inflammable the same thing?

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

One of the most misused, to the point it doesn't mean what it used to, is decimate. Its from Latin, the Romans sometimes punished a unit by killing 1 man in ten. They decimated it. If nearly everyone, or half or even only 20 percent of a group or other item is destroyed you haven't decimated it. Near total destruction is not decimating it.

That was one of the issues raised, but we've discussed it so many times, I figured it wasn't worth repeating. However, your explanation of its Etymology is fascinating and more complete than any I've heard so far.

It seems our Roman ancestors had a thing for the number X. Apparently, when they punished people for rebellion, they saw the deaths as a tythe to the Roman Emperor so he'd relent against punishing everyone else.

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

Another thought, why are flammable and inflammable the same thing?

Because both words 'inflame' the etymology purists?

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

Another thought, why are flammable and inflammable the same thing?


when I was in school during the Jurasic Period I was informed the words were very similar but not the same. Flammable meant it could be set on fire, while inflammable meant it could be very easily set in fire. Cardboard is flammable in you can get it to burn, but it wasn't inflammable, while gasoline was inflammable because it was very easily set on fire and could be ignited via the fumes alone.

Replies:   Joe Long  Dominions Son
Joe Long
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


while inflammable meant it could be very easily set in fire


I always thought 'inflammable' meant that something wouldn't burn. (but apparently I've been wrong for 58 years)

I always wonder why 'no' is used as a synonym for 'any.'

"You aren't gonna get no compliments talking like that."

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Ross at Play

@richardshagrin

Another thought, why are flammable and inflammable the same thing?

There was an article on that by William Safire in the NYT shortly before he died.
The prefixes '-in' and '-dis' usually create a contrary meaning, but with a few words which already have negative connotation they intensify the meaning.

So flammable and inflammable do not mean the same, inflammable means very flammable. you shuld be complaining that the 'highly' in 'highly inflammable' is redundant.

And 'gruntled' is a valid word, although ex-employees rarely go on a killing rampage outside of America, or if they are merely gruntled. They don't do that until they become, more i.e., disgruntled.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


when I was in school during the Jurasic Period I was informed the words were very similar but not the same.


According to Merriam-Webster, flammable and inflammable have exactly the same meaning, but different origins.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/flammable-or-inflammable

That would make sense—if inflammable had started out as an English word. We get inflammable from the Latin verb inflammare, which combines flammare ("to catch fire") with a Latin prefix in-, which means "to cause to." This in- shows up occasionally in English words, though we only tend to notice it when the in- word is placed next to its root word for comparison: impassive and passive, irradiated and radiated, inflame and flame. Inflammable came into English in the early 1600s.

Things were fine until 1813, when a scholar translating a Latin text coined the English word flammable from the Latin flammare, and now we had a problem: two words that look like antonyms but are actually synonyms. There has been confusion between the two words ever since.

Ross at Play

To be more specific about the Roman punishment of decimation.
Troops would typically sleep 10 to a tent and become close. The punishment for cowardice in battle by a troop was they must which one must die by some form of lottery and then kill him themselves.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Geek of Ages

@Joe Long

I always wonder why 'no' is used as a synonym for 'any.'


English is strange in that we make the distinction. A lot of things around negation are different in other languages. The podcast Lexicon Valley talked about this some a while back: http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/lexicon_valley/2017/07/john_mcwhorter_on_the_history_and_evolution_of_no_and_not.html

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/flammable-or-inflammable

The Oxford Dictionary agrees the words had different origins.
Generally, when a second word with a similar meaning is added to the language they often diverge into almost synonyms with a difference nuance.
Not everyone distinguishes between the meaning of the two, but for those who do the 'in-' prefix could be used for gasoline, but not wood.

Another example of divergence is English only had one word each for the meat of cows and sheep before French became the language of the royal court. In modern English those words are veal and lamb.
After the French introduced boeuf and mutton, the words beef and mutton took on the meaning of coming from older animals.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Joe Long

Dammit Ross, go to bed. I am.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

And 'gruntled' is a valid word, although ex-employees rarely go on a killing rampage outside of America, or if they are merely gruntled. They don't do that until they become, more i.e., disgruntled.

Gruntle: (n) The emotional state producing mostly grunts for frustrated workers. Not to be confused with ingruntled!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

I am whelmed. :)

Replies:   Ross at Play  Joe Long
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

We get inflammable from the Latin verb inflammare, which combines flammare ("to catch fire") with a Latin prefix in-, which means "to cause to."

That makes sense. Since "flammable" means "able to burn", inflammable means "highly (causes to) flammable". Give the previous explanation by the late Mr. Safire, the distinction makes sense. However, I guess that it was only with the invention of gunfire and gasoline that we actually needed to differentiate the 'merely flammable'.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

The punishment for cowardice in battle by a troop was they must which one must die by some form of lottery and then kill him themselves.

You forgot a word "by a troop was they must [choose] which one must die".

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

inflammable means "highly (causes to) flammable".


I did a Google search for flammable vs inflammable.

All of the half dozen or so results I checked, including the Merriam-Webster article I sighted considered flammable and inflammable exact synonyms, no difference in meaning.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

I am whelmed.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/whelm

Verb
whelm (third-person singular simple present whelms, present participle whelming, simple past and past participle whelmed)
1. To cover; to submerge; to engulf; to bury.
2. To overcome with emotion.
3. (obsolete) To throw (something) over a thing so as to cover it.
Usage notes
Today, the verbs overwhelm and underwhelm are much more common than "whelm".

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Not everyone distinguishes between the meaning of the two, but for those who do the 'in-' prefix could be used for gasoline, but not wood.

Let me tell you, the American West during a dry period, the woods can become particularly inflammable as well! Merely breathing on dry leaves is enough to start a forest fire, as many are caused by tossed cigarette butts or sparks from a car on the roadway.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

You forgot a word "by a troop was they must [choose] which one must die".

I did not forget! If that meaning is correct, and I do not doubt you, I never knew the precise meaning.
Perhaps some chose to choose by lottery.

EDIT TO RETRACT CONCESSION:

NOPE!
According to Wiki, at least, the one in ten was definitely chosen by lot.
I still don't "doubt you", now I disbelieve you.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Verb
whelm (third-person singular simple present whelms, present participle whelming, simple past and past participle whelmed)
1. To cover; to submerge; to engulf; to bury.
2. To overcome with emotion.
3. (obsolete) To throw (something) over a thing so as to cover it.

Good to know:

I plan to waylay my target, overwhelm him with my superior strength and then whelm him in the woods where no one will ever find his body!

However, you don't want to overwhelm a body, as that spoils all the suspense in a story if it's never discovered near the ending.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Let me tell you, the American West during a dry period, the woods can become particularly inflammable as well! Merely breathing on dry leaves is enough to start a forest fire, as many are caused by tossed cigarette butts or sparks from a car on the roadway.

Americans always think they or their version of everything is the biggest and the best.
NOT WITH FOREST FIRES which Australians call bushfires.
Our predominant tree species is eucalypts which have a lot of oil in the leaves. During an intense bushfire in Australia their leaves will pump gasoline into the air as the fire approaches, just to help it along.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

mericans always think they or their version of everything is the biggest and the best.


No, that's just Texans. Though if we divided Alaska into two states, Texas would be the third largest state by land area.

Ross at Play

Be advised you lot: I was in Brisbane for the floods of 1974, in Darwin for the cyclone of 1975, and in Canberra for the bushfires of 2003.
I'm a walking disaster area, as if you all did not know that already. :-)

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Americans always think they or their version of everything is the biggest and the best.
NOT WITH FOREST FIRES which Australians call bushfires.

California (not Texas, although they have plenty of fires, too) has a particular problem with the Santa Anna winds, which fuel the normal yearly droughts into an intense inferno. When you add in the 7-year extreme drought cycles (can't find the damn name of those in Wiki), it gets extreme. And now with global warming making the situation even worse, they're seeing fires like they've never encountered before.

While those are happening everywhere, California is uniquely situated to have severe fires, which is only made worse because almost ALL their water in the west is piped in from elsewhere to promote farming in otherwise arid areas, making the political situation continuing tense.

Switch Blayde

People write "tact" when they mean "tack."

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
BlacKnight

@Crumbly Writer

Sough:
[...]

Simple, old, common, unknown, even the pronunciation is disputed or ambiguous and most people can't tell you the meaning even though they have seen it many times.

I'm a voracious reader, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever seen this allegedly common word.

Merriam-Webster's current web usage example appears to be a typo for "sought". On googling for "sough", I found the entire first two pages of results were simply the definition of the word on one dictionary site or another. I got to page eight before I found an actual use - in an old poem - of the definition you seem to be using. (Though several references to "mining soughs" showed up starting at the end of page three.)

So I'm assuming that the "misused terminology" here is your use of "common" and "many".

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@BlacKnight

I don't recall seeing it either.
I let it pass, assuming it was another weird Americanism when CW mention the "great American novel".

Thanks for doing the research for your post - and for sinking the boot in so effectively.

So I'm assuming that the "misused terminology" here is your use of "common" and "many".

Joe Long

@Dominions Son

I am whelmed. :)


This bothers me a deal.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands
Updated:

@Joe Long


This bothers me a deal.


Why? Do you know with what DS was whelmed? If he's smiling it shouldn't be some nasty stuff.

Replies:   Joe Long  Crumbly Writer
Joe Long
Updated:

@robberhands


Why? Do you know with what DS was whelmed?


It was in jest.

Americans always put a modifier in front of deal when used in that context, as a noun. A big deal, a great deal. One radio magazine host I listen to is about the only person I'm aware of who uses deal in an unmodified form. "We have a deal of information on the attacker."

Even in Merriam Webster:
2: a usually large or indefinite quantity or degree
a great deal of support
a good deal faster

Replies:   Ross at Play  REP
Ross at Play

@Joe Long

Americans always put a modifier in front of deal when used in that context, as a noun. A big deal, a great deal.

It's not just Americans.
The way I interpret the definition of 'deal' in the Oxford Dictionary is that the meaning of 'a lot' requires a phrasal noun with 'deal' preceded by a modifier such as 'great' or 'good'.

One radio magazine host I listen to is about the only person I'm aware of who uses deal in an unmodified form. "We have a deal of information on the attacker."

I understand what is meant, but I regard that as an incorrect use of the word 'deal'. If they are not prepared to use a quantifier they should use 'lot' instead.

Capt. Zapp

@Ross at Play

...the 'highly' in 'highly inflammable' is redundant.


Nah. It means that if you walk past it with a high fever that it will ignite. ;)

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Capt. Zapp

Or it means that it's more inflammable at a height of 100 metres than 1 metre. ;)

AJ

REP

@Joe Long

Americans always put a modifier in front of deal when used in that context, as a noun.


We Americans are not the only ones. Read through the Cambridge Dictionary's UK definition of 'deal' and you will find 'good' and 'great' used in their examples. Modifiers are commonly used in the examples they provide for other meanings of 'deal'.
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/deal

Consider the definition in the Merriam Webster dictionary:

a usually large or indefinite quantity or degree


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deal

'Usually' means not always. 'Indefinite quantity' means an undefined quantity. Therefore, a modifier (qualifier) such as 'big' or 'great' is appropriate.

Usage that contrasts like - he made 'a good deal' versus 'a bad deal' (or 'a poor deal') are common and accepted.

However I don't recall seeing contrasting usage like - He made 'a great deal' when he bought the car versus 'a small deal' (or 'a little deal'). Using 'small' and 'little' sounds wrong, but it is just as valid as 'great'.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@REP

Using 'small' and 'little' sounds wrong,...

'He made a little deal when he bought the car', doesn't sound wrong to me.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

People write "tact" when they mean "tack."

Its their tact(tic) to say "tack", which is why they get confused by it. 'D (By the way, I do it all the time, especially when I'm typing fast. Luckily, my editors mostly catch them all!)

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Why? Do you know with what DS was whelmed? If he's smiling it shouldn't be some nasty stuff.

On SOL, it should be wanton women and plenty of boobs!

Replies:   robberhands  REP
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

As promised, here are a few more:

Companion, Pandemonium:

I don't think there are any common words that most people completely do not understand, but there are some very common ones whose original meaning has been lost. Two of my person favorites:

"Companion" is a very common English word which is used to mean "a person or thing that travels with you", but the original meaning of the word is "a person you share bread with".

"Pandemonium" is not as common but it shows up fairly frequently. The modern usage means "a scene of chaos", but the literal roots of the word mean "meeting place of all demons" - which sounds pretty descriptive of a chaotic scene.

Now I'm gonna have to add the phrase to me book, The Demons Within. Thanks for putting that bug in my ear!

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

it should be wanton women and plenty of boobs!

Well, without wanton women connected to the boobs, it would be a nasty shower indeed.

Crumbly Writer

This one is probably my favorite of all the entries, just cause it's so unusual and informative of the little-used word's origins:

Ilk:

If we're allowed Scottish words, "ilk". People nowadays use this as if "of that ilk" means "of that kind", but that isn't what it means at all.

"Of that ilk" is a specialised Scottish term for a clan chief whose family seat - a sort of mini capital city for the clan - has the same name as the name of the clan. For example, you could reasonably call the Queen "Windsor of that Ilk" because Windsor is both her family surname and the name of their family house. But the chief of the Camerons has a house named Lochiel, so he is "Cameron of Lochiel", not "Cameron of that Ilk".

So "of that ilk" doesn't mean "of the same kind", but "of the same name".

Replies:   Joe Long
Joe Long

@Crumbly Writer

So "of that ilk" doesn't mean "of the same kind", but "of the same name".


Eponymous!

Trivia: I know of three songs that have the same name as the album they were published on that has the same name as the band that performed them. One was a top 40 hit. Can anyone venture a guess?

Crumbly Writer

@Joe Long

Trivia: I know of three songs that have the same name as the album they were published on that has the same name as the band that performed them. One was a top 40 hit. Can anyone venture a guess?

Let me guess:
- The Ilks?
- The Queen's Ilk?
- Ilking the Queen?

REP

@Crumbly Writer

On SOL, it should be wanton women and plenty of boobs!


Except for those who write male gay stories.

BlacKnight

@Joe Long

Trivia: I know of three songs that have the same name as the album they were published on that has the same name as the band that performed them. One was a top 40 hit. Can anyone venture a guess?

I know of quite a few bands with eponymous albums, and a lot of albums where one of the tracks shares the same name, but the only one I can think of that hits the trifecta is Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden - "Iron Maiden". Which I think was otherwise not of particular note.

Replies:   Joe Long
helmut_meukel

me or I?

1) e.g. "who is there?" anwered by "It's me!"
I think this was one of Anne McCaffrey's pet peeves, I remember numerous scenes in her Pern books, where a youngster using 'me' was told 'I' is correct.

2) two or more persons, e.g. ... Bob, Fred, and I/me ...
I read in a dictionary this is simply to find out:
just remove the other person(s) from the sentence and you will see which is correct.
e.g. "... she keeps my sister and I in lots of activities ...".
Applying the mentioned rule shows clearly the writer should've used me instead of I:
"she keeps I in lots of activities"
"she keeps me in lots of activities"

BTW, the quote "she keeps my sister and I in lots of activities" is from a story here on SOL.

HM.

Replies:   Joe Long
Ross at Play

@robberhands

@REP
Using 'small' and 'little' (deal) sounds wrong,...
@robberhands
'He made a little deal when he bought the car', doesn't sound wrong to me.

'Little deal' is okay if 'deal' means something like a contract or bargain.

Dictionaries list another meaning for 'deal', to mean 'a lot', but only with a quantifier suggesting a large quantity in front.
People would not say, 'It was a small deal.' They would say, 'It was no big deal.'

robberhands

@Ross at Play

People would not say, 'It was a small deal.' They would say, 'It was no big deal.'

That's small potatoes to me.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Joe Long

Trivia: I know of three songs that have the same name as the album they were published on that has the same name as the band that performed them. One was a top 40 hit. Can anyone venture a guess?

The Monkees?

Replies:   Joe Long
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

People would not say, 'It was a small deal.'


unless speaking about the initial deal in a game of Texas hold'em.

Joe Long

@BlacKnight

the only one I can think of that hits the trifecta is Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden - "Iron Maiden"


I Googled and found a handful more.

Iron Maiden is one, as Black Sabbath, Motor Head and Bad Company (the one I knew originally.)

For all it was their first album, and for most the first song.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Joe Long

@helmut_meukel

My wife does this constantly. When she recently said, "Me and her went to the store" I tried to point out that to be correct either has to be able to stand on it's own. She yelled at me and accused me of not knowing proper English.

Joe Long
Updated:

@Ross at Play


The Monkees?


No, as first song is listed as (Theme from) The Monkees - but close! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monkees_(album)

I gave four mainstream bands in a previous response, also Christian bands Shout and Mad at the World.

Ross at Play

@Joe Long

I Googled and found a handful more.

I agree that "(Theme from) The Monkees" does not qualify.
I was hoping for a reverse gotcha if you said that was one of yours.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

That's small potatoes to me.

But is it a "big" or "small" 'deal' of potatoes? 'D

Crumbly Writer

A few more from the article's submissions:

Companion, Pandemonium:

I don't think there are any common words that most people completely do not understand, but there are some very common ones whose original meaning has been lost. Two of my person favorites:

"Companion" is a very common English word which is used to mean "a person or thing that travels with you", but the original meaning of the word is "a person you share bread with".

"Pandemonium" is not as common but it shows up fairly frequently. The modern usage means "a scene of chaos", but the literal roots of the word mean "meeting place of all demons" - which sounds pretty descriptive of a chaotic scene.

Crumbly Writer

Nice:

Words have a tendency of changing it's meaning thru the centuries. Depending on how it catches on with those who use it.

"NICE" is a word that has completely turned around from what it really was. It used to mean "foolish, stupid, senseless, careless, clumsy, weak, poor, needy" in the 12th century. Then it became to mean "fussy, fastidious" in the late 14c. to "dainty, delicate, precise, careful" in the 1500s and finally to "agreeable, delightful, kind, thoughtful" in early 19th century.

Here in the Philippines, where English is a second language, some words have already evolved. Like "SALVAGE", which has now come to mean, "to be killed or left dead on the roadside or grassland".

Crumbly Writer

Memento:

Perversely here in this case, people know the meaning of the word quite perfectly.

The word itself, not so much. With near universality, people say "momento" when they absolutely do not mean 'a brief span of time', which is what momento from the Spanish means.

So people say "momento" when what they mean is 'a thing which invokes pleasant memories'. Thus in context, they don't actually know what momento means.

Crumbly Writer

Racism, Ignorance, Impeach and Electrocuted:

Racism (most of the people who use it do so when ethnocentrism or bias would be the more appropriate word. Racism means The assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others.)

Ignorance (many people use the word as an insult. It means Lack of knowledge, either in general or of a particular point.)

Impeach (many people think it means to remove from office. It is synonymous with indict. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached, but the vote to remove each one failed — in Johnson's case, by one vote.)

Electrocuted (many people use it as a synonym for received an electric shock. To be electrocuted is to receive a FATAL electric shock.)

Replies:   awnlee jawking
BlacKnight

@Joe Long

Trivia: I know of three songs that have the same name as the album they were published on that has the same name as the band that performed them. One was a top 40 hit. Can anyone venture a guess?


I just ran across another: Train - Train - "Train".

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Electrocuted (many people use it as a synonym for received an electric shock. To be electrocuted is to receive a FATAL electric shock.)


Electrocute - verb - injure or kill by electric shock. My dictionary doesn't mention a different US usage.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Electrocute - verb - injure or kill by electric shock. My dictionary doesn't mention a different US usage.

According to most sources I've seen, "shock" is to receive a non-fatal dosage, while "electrocute" specifically means "to die because of an high-voltage electric discharge".

I'm sure there are variations, specially as the term gets misused and misapplied over time, but the distinction if pretty clear (at least etymologically).

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Etymologically perhaps, but the OED defines its current usage.

AJ

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Etymologically perhaps, but the OED defines its current usage.

I think CW had a point that the expression is often misused - to mean receiving a shock, when it really must be much more.
If he had said it must be 'fatal, or near-fatal', i.e. enough to cause injury, then I would have agreed with him.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

OED says injure. I'd be happy to use it for a minor burn.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Etymologically perhaps, but the OED defines its current usage.

In that case, it may be an American vs British usage, but given its origins, that's an unlikely explanation (since Americans typically rejected anything European).

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

In that case, it may be an American vs British usage


That's probably the case. After all, the electric chair was invented here in the US at the dawn of the electric age.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

That's probably the case. After all, the electric chair was invented here in the US at the dawn of the electric age.

After you mentioned that, I had to look it up. According to Online Etymological Dictionary, the term "electrocuted" was first used in 1889, shortly before the first electrocution in 1890 in the U.S. The term was specifically coined in reference to killing people. However, it may have assumed a broader usage across the pond.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

After you mentioned that, I had to look it up.


Thomas Edison was pushing DC electric service, and most of his competitors for providing residential and commercial electric service were pushing AC.

Edison invented the electric chair for the specific purpose of discrediting AC electric service as too dangerous.

Joe Long

I believe 'shock' is the general term which can include a fatal shock. However, it's generally thought of as less severe, where electrocution is specifically fatal.

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

but the OED defines its current usage.

I expect to find some note in the Ox. D. when there's a distinct difference in AmE and BrE usage.
It has no distinction for 'electrocute' and defines it as 'injure or kill'.
But dict.com and Am. Heritage D. both only list causing death.
My conclusion is it is an AmE v BrE thing.
The word was coined in America and there it has only ever meant causing death.
In BrE, there was almost no use for the word if it was limited to that and the meaning became extended to include injuries.
Even writing in BrE, I would not use it to mean anything other than causing death if I expected Americans to read the story.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ross at Play


The word was coined in America and there it has only ever meant causing death.


Yep, as I said before, it goes back to the very beginning of the electric era and a fight between Thomas Edison who favored direct current(DC) for household electric service and Tesla and other who favored alternating current (AC).

Edison invented the electric chair purely as a publicity stunt to portray AC current as too dangerous.

In fact, the first few executions by electric chair were done by Edison himself, borrowing prisoners sentenced to die from local prisons. Grand public spectacles were set up with press coverage and quite gruesome electrocutions. All done for the sole purpose of trying to discredit AC electric service.

awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Ross at Play

The word was coined in America and there it has only ever meant causing death.


Ironically, if you follow its etymology back to Latin, it ought to mean 'consequence of electricity'.

ETA an executive is someone who enacts things of consequence - only in the CIA, NSA, Secret Service etc are they also killers.

AJ

Replies:   Joe Long
Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

the OED defines its current usage.


Often true, but more often what the current OED has is how the current editors would like to have it currently used instead of how most people use it.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

We'll have to disagree on that. I rate the OED as one of the better dictionaries.

AJ

JohnBobMead

@Ernest Bywater

the OED defines its current usage.


Often true, but more often what the current OED has is how the current editors would like to have it currently used instead of how most people use it.

Erm. The OED began, and as far as I know continues, to be focused on the use of the English language in the Printed Word. Thus, it ignores colloquial verbal usage not found in print, or found rarely. I'm not sure how Web Culture has influenced what gets included, I suspect they look askance at Social Media usage, while being quite grateful for all the scanned documents becoming available and thus increasing the size of the document pool available to their researchers. In order to document a word's usage, you need access to the documents where it was used.

One of the driving reasons behind some individual's research into English documents, while not often admitted, is to see if they can find uses of a word prior to when the OED has it first listed, so they can send the citation to the OED forcing a revision of the entry. I'd call it a kink, myself.

Read the biography of the first OED editor back in grad school (Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary); fascinating story; of course, I was in grad school to get my Masters of Library Science, so it might have been an occupational attraction to the subject matter.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@JohnBobMead

I'm not sure how Web Culture has influenced what gets included


Sadly they're dumbing down these days to satisfy the populism of the snowflake generation. According to my newspaper they even include emoticons and text speak in the latest version :(

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

My take on it is:

"He got an electric shock." [a jolt of electricity passed through him]

"He was electrocuted." [he was killed by electricity]

ETA: I meant to "Reply to topic" not @awnlee jawking

awnlee jawking

@awnlee jawking

I rate the OED as one of the better dictionaries.


Having said that, my to-hand version - the Concise Oxford Dictionary - defines 'ball' as a solid or hollow sphere. Nowhere does it allow for the possibility of other shaped balls eg rugby ball, American football ball, Australian rules football ball, testicle.

AJ

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
Joe Long

@awnlee jawking

only in the CIA, NSA, Secret Service etc are they also killers.


The NSA only listens. They specialize in signals intelligence, a passive rather than active profession, even if Hollywood routinely shows the contrary.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Joe Long

What! They don't have the ability to electrocute people through their mobile phones? ;)

AJ

Joe Long

@awnlee jawking

What! They don't have the ability to electrocute people through their mobile phones? ;)


Don't give them ideas. You know they're reading this!

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

We'll have to disagree on that. I rate the OED as one of the better dictionaries.


In last decade or so the people who organise the OED started to include altered meanings of words where the changed meaning had not entered general usage, but it was being used by a small group of people who they knew, so that was a good enough cause of change for them, even if the word was being misused. I see the issue as being due to a lowering of standards with a new set of editors about a decade or so back. You can see the same thing happening with some of the on-line dictionaries as well.

Dictionaries are no longer the bastions of the defence of spelling and meanings they used to be. Some are now listing LEET and Text shortcuts as valid words and not slang, and that's sneaking into the latest versions of the OED.

I don't think they're living up to the standards their founders established or used.

In another thread there's discussion about the differences in the meaning of dialogue and dialog, yet the on-line Oxford Dictionary redirects dialog to the page for dialogue and lists dialog as and accepted alternate spelling. While some others list dialog as a US spelling of dialogue.

The on-line Oxford Dictionary lists the meaning of decimate as to kill, destroy or remove a large percentage or part of, then lists the killing of one in ten as a historical meaning that's no longer used. Yet a lot of other dictionaries give the killing of one in ten as the first and main meaning and list the large destruction as a modern alternate usage. However, I've a late 1980s print dictionary of International English that only has the to kill one in ten meaning.

It's OK for a dictionary to show a change in meaning when a new meanings has entered into general usage, but today the OED seems to think usage by a certain 1% of the population of the USA is good enough for general usage.

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

What! They don't have the ability to electrocute people through their mobile phones? ;)


shhhhh! they do, but they don't want you to know.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

The on-line Oxford Dictionary lists the meaning of decimate as to kill, destroy or remove a large percentage or part of, then lists the killing of one in ten as a historical meaning that's no longer used.


I was recently party to a discussion on this elsewhere. The UK media routinely uses 'decimate' with the Oxford Dictionary meaning and I can't remember the last time I saw it intended to have the original meaning.

I suggested 'unimate' as an alternative, meaning to kill one in one ie everybody. ;)

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

The UK media routinely uses 'decimate' with the Oxford Dictionary meaning


It would be interesting to have the time to go through a decade of media reports to see how often they use devastate and how often they use decimate when they mean devastate - but I'd rather put the time into writing.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

I suggested 'unimate' as an alternative, meaning to kill one in one ie everybody. ;)


Or "urinate" as in "piss on that." Words evolve.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Words evolve.


True, but the point under discussion by me is at what point does it reach general enough usage to justify it being listed as the main meaning and not a slang usage! Dictionary editors with some dictionaries now seem to be more interested in pushing changes wanted by a small group of media than in trying to have them stay with the meaning used by the general population. Whereas they used to be the other way, instead of pushing changes by a few they defended the previous meaning.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


to justify it being listed as the main meaning and not a slang usage!


There's a great movie "Akeelah and he Bee." The girl comes from the projects (that's a poor area) but is a great speller. Her principal hooks her up with a stuffy English university department head who says he won't train her for a spelling bee if she doesn't use "proper" English (continues to use slang).

At one point she asks him why he dissed her. He orders her to leave his house because she used slang. She then showed him where "dis" is in the dictionary and he relents.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

Advanced Search turned up 119 results on SOL. From the previews, the majority were by American authors and incorrect if you insisted on the 1 in 10 definition.

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

Advanced Search turned up 119 results on SOL. From the previews, the majority were by American authors and incorrect if you insisted on the 1 in 10 definition.


Since the change in usage for the word decimate started in the mid 1970s with a mistake by an on-air US TV media reporter who meant devastate and has since been pushed by him and other media reporters as a valid usage of the term I'm not surprised the media in the US have been soaking people with it in the US.

REP

@awnlee jawking

Nowhere does it allow for the possibility of other shaped balls


It also doesn't take into account balls that are not hollow, such as a baseball and a cricket ball.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
richardshagrin

@Switch Blayde

"urinate"

If a character ate urine, it is "golden showers." If there are eight of them, it might be urine 8.

Replies:   Dominions Son
awnlee jawking

@REP

From my previous post:

Having said that, my to-hand version - the Concise Oxford Dictionary - defines 'ball' as a solid or hollow sphere.


Easy to miss, but it does say 'solid'.

Would you call a testicle 'solid'? It's certainly not hollow but 'firm and stable in shape'?

(There will now be a short interlude while the non-distaff contributors to the forum investigate by squeezing their balls.)

AJ

Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

"urinate"



If a character ate urine, it is "golden showers." If there are eight of them, it might be urine 8.


Urine is mostly water and uric acid. If you are dehydrated or your urine is otherwise more concentrated than normal, your urine could eat through the floor.

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

There will now be a short interlude while the non-distaff contributors to the forum investigate by squeezing their balls.


I'm not a masochist, so I will forgo this operation. :)

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Having said that, my to-hand version - the Concise Oxford Dictionary - defines 'ball' as a solid or hollow sphere. Nowhere does it allow for the possibility of other shaped balls eg rugby ball, American football ball, Australian rules football ball, testicle.

I think that's fairly universal among dictionaries, as the American football is definitely an aberration. However, I don't think my balls have EVER been completely spherical, and they get more oblong the older I get. But then, "balls" is just a cutesy slang term, not their official name, so it hardly counts. Still, if they were shaped like American footballs, I'd see a doc quick!

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

What! They don't have the ability to electrocute people through their mobile phones?

No, no. You're thinking of their ability to read people's minds as they walk around in their apartments late at night (hence the need for aluminum foil hats).

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

In another thread there's discussion about the differences in the meaning of dialogue and dialog, yet the on-line Oxford Dictionary redirects dialog to the page for dialogue and lists dialog as and accepted alternate spelling. While some others list dialog as a US spelling of dialogue.

...

It's OK for a dictionary to show a change in meaning when a new meanings has entered into general usage, but today the OED seems to think usage by a certain 1% of the population of the USA is good enough for general usage.

Someone (Ross) finally ran an analysis of the use of "Prolog" and "Epilog", and while "Prolog" was briefly used by a VERY small number of books in the early 90s, its use now is low enough to be considered an 'unacceptable' usage. So, if the OED lists it as an "accepted alternate spelling", without any qualifications, I'd definitely agree with you about their standards slipping.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

I suggested 'unimate' as an alternative, meaning to kill one in one ie everybody.

Only if you then urinate on their remains. I can see it now: the Ultimate Uniate Unirnation Demonstration!

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Advanced Search turned up 119 results on SOL. From the previews, the majority were by American authors and incorrect if you insisted on the 1 in 10 definition.

The 1-in-10 definition is a holdover from when a whole generation of newly university trained individuals wanted to prove they still knew some Latin, but 'decimate' was about as far as they could manage. Like Switch (was that Switch, Ernest or someone else?), I'm unsure the word EVER meant only 1-in-10 in ancient Rome, though the Romans DID sometimes focus on 10% as a somewhat 'official' representation.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

(There will now be a short interlude while the non-distaff contributors to the forum investigate by squeezing their balls.)

Now, we're all busy squeezing someone else (or for the MM squicks among us, having someone ELSE check them out for us).

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

So, if the OED lists (prolog) as an "accepted alternate spelling", without any qualifications, I'd definitely agree with you about their standards slipping.

My recent version of the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary makes no mention of 'prolog' at all.
It may get a mention in their massive tomes, but my version is no "Mickey Mouse Dictionary". It has about 2,000 pages, in tiny fonts, and the "Advanced Learner's" in its title only refers to the fact it's designed with special features intended for those learning English as a second language.
I would not say their standards are slipping even if some changes of emphasis are detectable.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

COD lists 'prolog' as a US alternative to 'prologue'.

AJ

Replies:   samuelmichaels
samuelmichaels

@awnlee jawking

COD lists 'prolog' as a US alternative to 'prologue'.


The fish? Charge On Delivery?

My OED defines Prolog as a computing term. No other definitions -- certainly not an alternative spelling of Prologue. (Page updated June 2007).

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@samuelmichaels

Concise Oxford Dictionary. It has an entry for Prolog, the computer language, followed by an entry for prologue (US prolog).

I'll log into the online version of the OED if I get time later.

AJ

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Joe Long

Eponymous!
Trivia: I know of three songs that have the same name as the album they were published on that has the same name as the band that performed them. Can anyone venture a guess?

@Ross at Play

The Monkees?

@Joe Long

No, as first song is listed as (Theme from) The Monkees - but close!

Yeah, close but no banana.

* * *

Some research that will probably interest nobody else but here. Here is the ngrams.

'Close but no banana' has been around for a long time, but it's always been pretty rare. 'Close but no cigar' started appearing in print during the 1920s, but there are rumours it was in already in use by the 1910s. By the 1980s it was being used about 20 times as frequently as 'no banana'.

As if it was ever needed, here is proof that I am the biggest clever-dick alive.

I checked to see if anyone had started using 'close but no Cigar' since the mid-1990s. I probably would, or perhaps even 'close but not Cigar', but apparently nobody else has ever thought of it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Yeah, close but no banana.

"Close but no banana" was the punchline of a joke popular when I was a kid (about the same time as all the jokes about elephants jumping out of trees). As such, the references to it's use will be almost entirely generational to that one specific generation (those kids during the 5 to 7 year period it was popular, so hardly 'generational').

"Close but no banana" has NO relation, meaning-wise to "Close but no cigar", other than it's use as an unexpected ending to the joke.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

"Close but no banana" has NO relation, meaning-wise to "Close but no cigar", other than it's use as an unexpected ending to the joke.

I thought the meanings were EXACTLY the same: close but no prize for winning.
A banana was the reward for a lab monkey for doing something right, and cigars were common fairground prizes, before they became unfashionable.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

I thought the meanings were EXACTLY the same


#MeToo

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

#MeToo

Two dimwits ... But I admit I thought so as well. That makes it three dimwits this time.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Two dimwits


I'd class myself as eco-friendly rather than dim.

"Are you pleased to see me or is that a banana in your pocket?"

"Close, but no banana."

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Outrageous, it was a family friendly discussion until you dragged it down into the filthy depth of your depravity.

Of course, now you'll tell me it was a flashlight in his pocket or something like that.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I thought the meanings were EXACTLY the same: close but no prize for winning.
A banana was the reward for a lab monkey for doing something right, and cigars were common fairground prizes, before they became unfashionable.

I meant the meaning in the joke, not in other, wider contexts. I never heard the phrase in any medical labs or fairgrounds, fashionable or not. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Of course, now you'll tell me it was a flashlight in his pocket or something like that.

Of course it's a flashlight, it's just the newest kind, a flesh covered one. Only, it's automatic, so it only lights in the dark. If you just put it into your mouth, I'll tell you when it lights up. What's more, the darker it is, it grows, making it brighter whenever necessary!

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I meant the meaning in the joke, not in other, wider contexts.

Okay. You're not crazy but that joke you remember from your youth may not be as well known as you imagine.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Of course it's a flashlight, it's just the newest kind, a flesh covered one. Only, it's automatic, so it only lights in the dark. If you just put it ...

Please, CW, be more careful with your codes! Some of us here have squicks for MM stuff like that.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

Please, CW, be more careful with your codes! Some of us here have squicks for MM stuff like that.

I'm just happy he showed some restraint. I complained about AJ dragging the discussion into the depth of his depravity, whereas I'm certain it is nowhere near the depth of CW's.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Okay. You're not crazy but that joke you remember from your youth may not be as well known as you imagine.

I never suggested it was, especially outside the U.S. (or even the regional use I originally heard it in), but as far as I know, that's the source of the quote and explains the unusual ngrams you noted.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Please, CW, be more careful with your codes! Some of us here have squicks for MM stuff like that.

What makes you think it was a MM reference (as opposed to every other lecherous comment on SOL). Just because I sent the reply to you don't mean the author was to you. It was an illustration of the argument taken to a logical extreme (I forgot the term for those examples).

Seriously, you seem to be on a particular 'everyone is out to get me' tear today. :(

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

banana

B a nana.
"Nana | Definition of Nana by Merriam-Webster
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nana
Definition of nana. : grandmother. First Known Use: 1899."

I am old enough but the wrong sex.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

What makes you think it was a MM reference

I didn't think a smiley face was needed.
I thought everyone would spot the intentional error in 'be more careful with your codes' and know I was joking.

robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

(I forgot the term for those examples)

'Youthful Exuberance'

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

It was an illustration of the argument taken to a logical extreme (I forgot the term for those examples).

Do you mean reductio ad absurdum?
Perhaps hyperbole?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Do you mean reductio ad absurdum?

That's the one. I kept trying to search for 'infinito absurdum' and kept getting nothing.

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