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Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Right Word

We recently watched a rerun of one of our favorite episodes of Law and Order: SVU. One of the things that intrigue us about this episode is the witness to the nearly-fatal beating, the daughter of the victim. The child has Williams Syndrome, which can cause learning and developmental disabilities, along with very social personalities and an affinity for music. The child does not see the crime occur, she hears it. Since she has very sharp hearing and perfect pitch, she will be able to identify the assailant when she hears his voice. This actually happens when someone who is not a suspect speaks while he is in the police station. The girl doesn't say that this is the man who beat her mother, however. She walks up to him and says, "You used the wrong word. You called my mother a bitch. A bitch is a female dog. My mother is not a bitch!" Even though the defense attorney questions the witness' identification of the assailant, justice prevails.

I've seen many examples of people using the wrong word over my lifetime, but the trend appears to be growing. One that I have never forgotten happened many, many years ago. It was very early in my daily drive out to my retail job at Denver International Airport. There was, and I believe still is, a florist's shop at the corner of a fairly busy intersection along the route that I drove that day. They had a sign with the name of the shop, the kind that has space below the business name for plastic letters to spell out messages like, "Don't forget Valentine's Day!" Well, this particular day, their sign had me mystified. I actually drove at least half a dozen blocks before I figured it out. The sign was advertising BO-KAYS for $9.95.

I drove down the street shaking my head and trying to figure it out. What the heck is a bo-kay, I wondered. In my mind, I was pronouncing it bo-kye. Bo-kye, bo-kye...what in the world is a bo-kye? Why would anybody want one? Was $9.95 even a good price for this mysterious object available at the corner florist's? Then it hit me between the eyes (that is sorta where the brain is, right?). It was a bo-kay...bow k...bouquet! You know, if they had spelled it that way, I would have understood it immediately.

As a moderately good speller, perhaps I am too judgemental of this situation. Heck, I'm still trying to get used to the common replacement of donut for doughnut. In fact, the grammar and spell-checking demon that I recently installed on my computer, which drives me insane with trying to change my writing style because I do not care if it thinks I am missing an article or am being too wordy, is currently underlining doughnut and suggesting that I change it to donut. Gah!

I've noticed while reading various things on various parts of the internet that many old-time sayings are either lost or misheard, along with new terms using the wrong word. I actually saw something in the body of an article that surprised me because there was obviously no proofreading. I can't even begin to tell you what the article was about. All that I know is that I wrote down the gem for a later date. The writer observed, "At lease they admit it." Mm-hmm. A lease is an agreement whereby one party agrees to pay another party for use of property. C'mon, professional writer, at least you could have someone double-check your work!

Another one that can make me laugh is when someone writes that such-and-such person is a hoe. That's a good one. Feel free to call me a hoe. A hoe is a gardening/agricultural implement. It's sort of a flat blade on a long handle and is excellent for moving earth around in your garden. It chops at the roots of weeds, giving the plants that you like more room to grow. Now, if you should call me a ho, as in whore, we will definitely have a problem. That is absolutely not the right word, not to describe me. Don't use it. Actually, whether you think it is the right word for someone or not, let's not use that one, shall we?

Which misused words or phrases irritate you? I'll list a few more here to start you off.

-Now in days or now a days instead of nowadays.

-Using myself instead of me or I because people think it makes them sound smarter. It doesn't.

-Saying you stood overnight at your friend's house. Were there no chairs? You stayed there overnight.

-And, as always, not knowing that the ground is outdoors, and the floor is indoors.