May 4th, 2009

So many ways to be right…and yet still, some aren’t

Ever since my post about vocabulary confusion a couple weeks ago, I’ve been asking around for other people’s word-dislocation pet peeves. And, boy, are there some amazing ones, including mistakes it would never even occur to me were possible and some I make (have been making; will now stop) every day. I kept meaning to post this list, but I’ve been in too good a mood for a vocabulary rant. Thank goodness for Mondays!

From Saleema:

Weary/wary/leery/chary–*weary* means exhausted by, or at the metaphorical edge, bored with. *Wary* means cautious or suspicious of. Because they are pronounced similarly and take the same construction (with “of”), people seem to use them interchangeably, but they aren’t aren’t aren’t. To this Saleema adds *leery* off, which actually does mean the same *wary*, and I add *chary* which is actually defined in my dictionary as “wary”. Why we need 3 slant rhymes for the same concept, I don’t know. English is weird.

Nonplussed–It means bewildered, or perplexed, but people seem to think based on the sound of the word that it means not excited about something.

Bemused–Again, bewildered or perplexed, though it’s true that the word seems to suggest some kind of wry amusement. I’ve seen this in more than one book with the wrong implied meaning. (And confession: one of my first published stories used it in the wrong sense, too.) That’s Saleema’s comment, to which I add that I always remember the definition of *bemused* by “benign + confused = bemused.” Bemusement is not the kind of confusion you get during a bomb scare; it’s the type of confusion you feel when you find the pepper mill in the fridge.

From Mark:

People are entitled; books are titled.–Entitled most often means you have a right or claim to get something; ie., “I am entitled to a big piece of cake since I’m the one who baked it.” Someone coming into an aristocratic title would also be “entitled” in that moment (a transitive verb; the title is conferred by someone else). The second meaning is of course far less common in the Canadian 21st century, but to me they are related, since the aristocracy does/did feel entitled to so much. And if you have a book with a title, it’s “titled” not “entitled”–“my book is titled *Once.* You can stretch this definition to make entitle the verb of giving a title to, but who does that? “I spent the afternoon entitling my book, and I think I finally got it right.” I actually didn’t know this one until M’s explanation last week, so please strike any prior Rose-coloured talk of entitlement from the record.

From K:

Apparently addicting is making it’s way into the vernacular. This is a mistake I had never heard of anyone making until K mentioned it–apparently some use it as a synonym for “addictive.” Which is, to my mind, insane, since addictive is the adjective we all know and love to describe the dependency-engendering effects of heroin, nicotine, and Pilates. Addicting derives from the same root, obviously (addict) and so adds not a jot of nuance when used *incorrectly* in place of addictive. Addicting is a transitive verb, indicative of an action done by one to another: “we are addicting the puppy to Pupperoni by giving her slightly more each day.” But that doesn’t come up very often. Apparently there is debate over whether “addicting” will fly as a participle adjective and *could* actually be used in place of additive. But this is my blog and I refuse to brook that argument.

I look a little bit older / I look a little bit colder

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