Tag Archives: words

I bet you thought I was dead!

In my wanders through the many pages of the Internets, I came across several things that really boggled my mind, now I like to consider myself reasonably well read and that I have a pretty good grasp on the English language, and only want to throttle it occasionally.

I do understand that for some people English is a bit hard to grasp hold of and that it is filled with words that look alike, but have vastly different meanings, for the average person I can understand making a mistake, but when I come across certain words on a professional business site, as well as within the confines of a published authoritative piece, I start to wonder.

The three words that have garnered my attention for the most amazing misuse within recent  memory are COMMENSURATE, COMMISERATE and COMMEMORATE.

Commensurate means:

  1. having the same measure; of equal extent or duration.
  2. corresponding in amount, magnitude, or degree: Your paycheck should be commensurate with the amount of time worked.
  3. proportionate; adequate.
  4. having a common measure; commensurable.

Commiserate means:

  1. to feel or express sorrow or sympathy for; empathize with; pity.

Commemorate means:

  1. to serve as a memorial or reminder of
  2. to honor the memory of by some observance
  3. to make honorable mention of.

So when I saw a business offering a sale for the ANZAC day long weekend holiday with the banner:-

“To commiserate the ANZAC long weekend, all items 20% off”.
I nearly fell out of my chair, that word, it does not mean what you think it means.

I started to wonder if this was just an isolated incident, but Google got me many hundreds if not thousands of cases where people have used these three words interchangeably, I saw lots of questions posed along the lines of :

“Is your pay commemorate with your experience?”

and even:

We gathered to commensurate the occasion with a few drinks and a song or two

If anyone feels like commiserating with me over the commensurate angst I felt upon reading all those  errors, then we could commemorate the occasion with a wild HUZZAH or two.

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Years most used words and phrases

Shamelessy stolen from The Daily Writing tips mailing list.

The Global Language Monitor (GLM) is an Austin, Texas-based entity that documents, analyzes and tracks trends in language and publishes a list of the year’s most used English words, names, and phrases.

According to GLM’s algorithm, 2009’s most used word, both online and in print, is Twitter.

GLM’s top ten for 2009:

Twitter
Obama
H1N1
stimulus
vampire
2.0 (as a suffix attached to the next generation of everything. Ex. Web2.0)
deficit
Hadron
healthcare
transparency

A look at the Words of the Year for 2000-2008 recalls the prominent events and personalities of those years:

2000 chad
2001 GroundZero
2002 misunderestimate
2003 embedded
2004 incivility
2005 refugee
2006 sustainable
2007 hybrid
2008 change

Taking the decade as a whole, here are the top ten words with GLC comments:

1. Global Warming (2000) Rated highly from Day One of the decade
2. 9/11 (2001) Another inauspicious start to the decade
3. Obama- (2008 )The US President’s name as a ‘root’ word or ‘word stem’
4. Bailout (2008) The Bank Bailout was but Act One of the crisis
5. Evacuee/refugee (2005) After Katrina, refugees became evacuees
6. Derivative (2007) Financial instrument or analytical tool that engendered the Meltdown
7. Google (2007) Founders misspelled actual word ‘googol’
Surge (2007) The strategy that effectively ended the Iraq War
9. Chinglish (2005) The Chinese-English Hybrid language growing larger as Chinese influence expands [There are an estimated 300 to 500 million users and/or learners of English in the People’s Republic of China.]
10. Tsunami (2004) Southeast Asian Tsunami took 250,000 lives

To see the top phrases and names for 2009 and the first decade of the 21st century, explore the Global Language Monitor site.


Persons of interest

One of my readers (Hi Chris) sent me an email regarding the use of’people as opposed to persons. I have been doing some research and my first skim tells me that it is mainly a personal choice, however on some further deeper reading it appears that opinion is divided on what is the proper usage.

Some deride persons as being outdated and old fashioned, others say that it is the logical plural use of the word person.

Often people is used as the logical plural of person and this is wrong, as the two words derive from different latin roots and do not mean the same thing; the former from populum, referring to the people in the sense of the populace, the latter from persona, “an actor’s mask; a character in a play” and which in the English form person, came to refer to an individual human being.

The proper plural of person is persons, however it appears that writers from the time of Chaucer onwards have been using people as a plural for person, not only to mean in the general sense of a mass of uncountable individuals, but also in a specific sense where numbers were countable.

This persisted until around Victorian times, when for some reason the Victorians rebelled agaisnt this and decided that the plural of person is persons when a specific, countable number of individuals is meant, but that people should be used when the number is large or indefinite.

However modern style guides, those pesky creatures, disagree; as they can point to any number of examples where they can use people as the plural of person in both situations.

Persons seems to survive mainly in a legal context, you often hear the Police wanting to talk to “persons of interest” or “so and and so was killed by person or persons unknown“. Persons seems to be a very formal and somewhat clunky word in this modern time. So this is why it seems to have fallen out of favour, with people replacing it.

The popularity of people is increasing as persons falls into disuse, though from the outset even though people is the singular collective term, it seems to have always been used to describe plural as well. It’s a very versatile word and depending on the context can mean one group, or it can mean a whole collective of groups.

This particular usage of people has become second nature to most and so the singular form of people as in “this people is lonely” seems just as clunky and outdated as persons.

The use of peoples as the plural of people has in the past been derided as an uncouth word, but it has gained popularity of late and is now considered a legitimate use of the word e.g:  “the peoples of this land are many and diverse“.

I hope that helps Chris in some small way, thanks for the interesting idea, much appreciated.


Odds and Ends.

  • I have returned, the place I had this website hosted at changed hands and resulted in a slight, UNPLANNED disturbance to service, everything seems stable once again.
  • Do you have a favourite word or words? I do mine is;

    e-vis-cer-ate

    <a href=”http://dictionary.reference.com/audio.html/lunaWAV/E03/E0368100″ target=”_blank”><img src=”http://cache.lexico.com/g/d/speaker.gif” border=”0″ /></a> [v. i-visuh-reyt; adj. i-vis-er-it, uh-reyt] Show IPA verb, -at?ed, -at?ing, adjective

    –verb (used with object)

    1. to remove the entrails from; disembowel: to eviscerate a chicken.
    2. to deprive of vital or essential parts: The censors eviscerated the book to make it inoffensive to the leaders of the party.
    3. Surgery. to remove the contents of (a body organ).

    Origin:
    1600–10; < L ?viscer?tus, ptp. of ?viscer?re to deprive of entrails, tear to pieces, equiv. to ?- e- + viscer(a) viscera + -?tus -ate 1

    e-vis-cer-a-tion, noun
    e-vis-cer-a-tor, noun
    “eviscerate.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 19 Apr. 2009. Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eviscerate.
    1. It has a lovely lovely ring to it, and is almost onomaetopic in its sound.
    2. Unrelated note, I have Pocky.