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Author Topic: Acceptable 'wrong' uses of words  (Read 8542 times)
Rev. Austin
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« 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  Wink ) 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?
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #1 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
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« Reply #2 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
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #3 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".
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2010, 07:55:14 AM »

Right well that's the end of that then  Wink  grin
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« Reply #5 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...
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« Reply #6 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.
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Caz
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« Reply #7 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. 
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #8 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'.
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Caz
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« Reply #9 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 
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« Reply #10 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'.
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« Reply #11 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.
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delph_ambi
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« Reply #12 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.
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Caz
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« Reply #13 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
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« Reply #14 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? 
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