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The Critique Crypt => General writing chat => Topic started by: Rev. Austin on August 13, 2010, 05:28:43 AM



Title: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Rev. Austin on August 13, 2010, 05:28:43 AM
This is something I came across recently in editing some stories and writing my own ones and thought it might make an interesting discussion point.  There are a lot of words that, when you check their meaning, refer to very specific things but actually have alternate uses that dictionaries (at least ones I've got  ;) ) don't reference.  The two that immediately spring to mind are careening and aquaplane.  Careening/careen refers specifically to ships, yet I've seen it used many times to denote something, like another vehicle, being out of control.  Aquaplane/aquaplaning refers to, basically, waterskis/waterskiing, yet is accepted as a term for when a vehicle slides across a wet road. 

These are just two examples, though.  Can anyone think of any others?  And is there any sort of 'technical' reason why these words are 'allowed' to act as something a dictionary doesn't describe them as, if you see what I mean?  Or is it maybe just a case of something being used in everyday conversation/life that, though wrong, has been used that many times that the new meaning/use has stuck?


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: delph_ambi on August 13, 2010, 06:45:43 AM
"And is there any sort of 'technical' reason why these words are 'allowed' to act as something a dictionary doesn't describe them as, if you see what I mean? "

Yes. It's called metaphor.  :azn:


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Rev. Austin on August 13, 2010, 06:52:01 AM
No, I mean, not describing something as something else, I mean actually using it in the "wrong" context, like 'the shopping trolley careened down the hill' or the 'truck began to aquaplane' - I'm not comparing the trolley to a ship or suggesting the truck's started waterskiing  :grin:


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: delph_ambi on August 13, 2010, 07:27:55 AM
Okay, "the shopping trolley careened down the hill" is an example of a typo (or ignorance). The correct word in that context is "careered".

"the truck began to aquaplane" is correct usage, as one of the definitions Chambers gives is: "to travel or skid on a film of water which has built up between the tyres and the road surface".


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Rev. Austin on August 13, 2010, 07:55:14 AM
Right well that's the end of that then  ;)  :grin:


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: delboy on August 13, 2010, 08:41:12 AM
Quote
Okay, "the shopping trolley careened down the hill" is an example of a typo (or ignorance). The correct word in that context is "careered".

I have it on good authority that the genesis of this usage is based on careful observation of Del's writing career progression...


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: JonP on August 13, 2010, 08:43:00 AM
But ... as much as the purists among us hate it, meanings shift over time. For example, it is already almost acceptable to use "decimate" to mean "reduce to a tenth", even this annoys the hell out of me.


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Caz on August 13, 2010, 02:58:19 PM
I had a bit of a head scratch with 'bid' the other day. I wrote that a character bid the world farewell, it's a phrase I've heard many times, but when I checked in the dictionary there was no mention of the word relating to a farewell. Then I figured that as one of the meanings of bid is to make an offer is was okay to use it. As in, she offered the world farewell. I think I'm right with that one. 


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: delph_ambi on August 13, 2010, 05:17:15 PM
No, it's the other meaning of 'bid', which is 'to greet with, to say as a greeting'. The past tense is 'bade', so correctly you would say, 'he/she bade the world farewell'.


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Caz on August 14, 2010, 07:15:32 AM
No, it's the other meaning of 'bid', which is 'to greet with, to say as a greeting'. The past tense is 'bade', so correctly you would say, 'he/she bade the world farewell'.

I checked the 'Works' dictionary again and there's no mention of bid or bade as a farewell. Had a look in my sixty year old dictionary and it says to announce, to proclaim, to wish or to offer so I'm still not sure which is the correct meaning, though my money is on to announce or proclaim.
Confusing stuff the English language.  :scratch: 


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Ed on August 14, 2010, 07:48:30 AM
But ... as much as the purists among us hate it, meanings shift over time. For example, it is already almost acceptable to use "decimate" to mean "reduce to a tenth", even this annoys the hell out of me.

Yep, that's a strange one, isn't it? Originally it came from the practice of killing one in every ten men in a legion that had been judged to have been cowardly in battle. Now it seems to mean reduced by an unspecified number, or just 'a lot'.


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: JonP on August 14, 2010, 07:55:26 AM
Yep. Whenever I hear someone say that something has been decimated, the pedant in me thinks "well, only down by a tenth - could be worse". Seem to remember the Master used it in its original sense in the finale of Dr Who a few seasons back. Good role model, there.


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: delph_ambi on August 14, 2010, 08:13:10 AM
Caz, get yourself a Chambers dictionary. Knocks spots off anything you'll find online for accuracy and depth (and is clearly better than your 60 yr old one). It weighs a ton, but that's the only downside.


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Caz on August 14, 2010, 02:11:48 PM
I've added a copy of the Chambers Dictionary to my shopping list. Still like my old one though, it's full of illustrations draw in pencil. Cool stuff.

I always thought decimated meant to almost destroy. You live and learn.  :afro:


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: jsorensen on November 07, 2010, 09:24:48 PM
Wow--I must say that this simple little question has opened into something with teeth (willing to swallow us whole).  Purist?  Innovator?  Don't know.  However, Shakespeare, when left without the right word to use, simply made up his own.  Of course using the correct meaning of a word is prefered over not, but isn't it proper to use the word in which the audience is most familiar with?  Decimated has come to mean almost completely destroyed--I understand that the root (deci) clearly refers to a tenth, but in a modern world do we use the correct or the understood?  But then again--do we simply let the language slide into modern mumbo jumbo just to satisfy an audience's preconceived notion? 


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: starktheground on November 07, 2010, 09:40:53 PM
It seems to me that if you want to communicate clearly to a large audience, you'd stick with the mumbo jumbo. . . But, then again, it drives me absolutely crazy when someone says they are "nauseous" instead of "nauseated."  ::)


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Ed on November 08, 2010, 02:39:58 AM
Wow--I must say that this simple little question has opened into something with teeth (willing to swallow us whole).  Purist?  Innovator?  Don't know.  However, Shakespeare, when left without the right word to use, simply made up his own.  Of course using the correct meaning of a word is prefered over not, but isn't it proper to use the word in which the audience is most familiar with?  Decimated has come to mean almost completely destroyed--I understand that the root (deci) clearly refers to a tenth, but in a modern world do we use the correct or the understood?  But then again--do we simply let the language slide into modern mumbo jumbo just to satisfy an audience's preconceived notion?  

I'm kinda anal about using the correct word. I can't knowingly write something wrong and leave it. At least if I get picked up on something where I've used the right one, I can explain why it's right.


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Pharosian on November 08, 2010, 06:24:04 AM
I'm with Ed on this. I cringe when I read something with a misused word or phrase.

One I've seen abused several times lately is "free rein," as in "He gave her free rein to decorate the house." It means to give someone freedom of action or expression. It comes from the practice of giving a horse "free rein" as in holding the reins loosely so the horse can choose its own path. Unfortunately, many people today are substituting a homonym and writing it as "free reign," apparently thinking it means to allow someone to govern [a project] as they see fit... but historically there wasn't anybody above a king or queen who "allowed" the ruler to do as he or she wished.  ::)


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: LashSlash on November 08, 2010, 07:54:39 AM
sometimes people mix up irritate and aggravate


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: jsorensen on November 08, 2010, 08:54:08 PM
Honestly, I feel I am a purist when it comes to words, but I ususally go for the simplest of words anyhow and usually the Anglo Saxon ones--Latinized words are a bit to academic for me...besides there's something gritty and brutal with words like "gut" instead of "abdomen" or even "stomach".  Think Of Mice and Men--there is a novel that very quickly and simply sets mood, setting, and character with not only simple words but also ones the barely escape a single syllable...


Title: Re: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words
Post by: Ed on November 09, 2010, 02:47:01 AM
Think Of Mice and Men--there is a novel that very quickly and simply sets mood, setting, and character with not only simple words but also ones the barely escape a single syllable...

I'm going to have to read that one. My prose was once described as 'workmanlike', which I took to be an insult in the context it was given, but I'd far rather write plain English, as long as it's effective. Hemingway and Carver both made a good living out of it. I think their skill was in nailing perfect simplicity.


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