It takes a spot of courage to stand up tall and a bit of derring-do to rise when you fall

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Words Are Weird

I love words (and there's probably a word for that but I don't know what it is). But they can be strange and illogical. For instance:

There's empathy and sympathy. Almost identical, right?

BUT....we go from that to: empathic and sympathetic.

Why are they different? Why is the adjective form of the word different from the noun form? Why are we missing an "e-t" in "empathic"? The solution for millions is just to say "em-pa-thet-ic" which is actually incorrect. I imagine the amused condescending thoughts going through people's minds when I say "empathic"---"poor girl, doesn't know how to pronounce that word right". I wonder if, when I do happen to use the word, anyone goes home to look it up. In my dictionary, under "empathetic", it says (you guessed it maybe): EMPATHIC. And then the second definition actually defines what empathic is.

I hate this new trend where, if a word gets said incorrectly enough, the word police just succumb and make it a word. Take "irregardless". Irregardless is not a word---or it wasn't a word until it was said so many times by people who meant to say "regardless" that it now gets put in the dictionary as a word. In fact, a sister-in-law of mine lost a bet in law school because she said that irregardless wasn't a word and wouldn't be in the dictionary. It was in the dictionary, and the definition? Yep: "REGARDLESS" Hel-looo! (I definitely think that was a bet she should have won, and I'm surprised that she wasn't able to pull off a sound-enough argument, being a law student and all. Of course, she was surrounded in like manner so maybe she was just outnumbered).

On the flip side of that, I love that language isn't static. I love that it can change as society changes, as cultures intermix and -mingle. I love that it isn't set in concrete....So, you can see that I'm of two minds here. As long as both minds delight in words, I'm fine with that.


Blogger heatherfeather said...

one of my favorites is when people talk about being in a procession, and how they have to process down the aisle.

please, people, you don't process, you proceed.

and can you please use xrznjvgp in a sentence?

8:14 PM, November 06, 2005

Blogger jay are said...

laughed right out loud at that...sorry to say I haven't had the opportunity to hear THAT word misused.
I am now going to process through the yyssvgxx. Wow--that should prove interesting.

9:48 PM, November 06, 2005

Anonymous si said...

i work with an english major/former teacher who is a resource for people in the office for help with their compositions (i'm one of them sometimes). she, however, is one of those who says "irregardless." (i *do* give her a bad time about that.)

another word that's been used here is a plain mispronunciation: "flustrate." there are 2 men (college-educated) who use this word a lot (i assume to mean "frustrate" not "fluster"). it's like nails on a blackboard for me. if this word ever makes it in the dictionary because of common use, i'll have to discontinue using the dictionary!

and one more -- why is there "ravel" and "unravel?" they mean the same thing, don't they?

glzrcomi is a window-installing communist?

10:58 AM, November 07, 2005

Blogger jay are said...

"ravel" and "unravel" have always been a mystery to me....what's that all about? and I have to say I've never heard of "flustrate." It's clever, really, but it would bug me that people thought it was a real word. Have I mentioned that I'm a word snob?
and where's unca when you need him? maybe he could make sense of dsrpcdfq.

1:59 PM, November 08, 2005

Anonymous si said...

hey, i have to confess something... i apparently say "empathetic" (in the original reply to you, i think that got lost somewhere). i used it yesterday & it dawned on me what you said on your post & my lack of 'fessing up.

i have to admit that "empathic" seems more awkward especially after Star Trek, The Next Generation (i know, you don't watch tv) -- there was an "empathic" on the show. the character could literally feel everything that others felt (can you imagine!).

so there. i feel better for confessing.


a sham of a word-snob (erzqhc -- my "swear" word of the day)

8:56 AM, November 10, 2005

Blogger jay are said...

well, "empathic" does sound awkward, especially at first. But it gets easier! :) Sometimes I'll say "empathetic" because I know that people will think I'm nuts but "empathetic" sounds wrong to me and seems more awkward now.

And I can see how a Star Trek character called an empathic could kind of muddy the waters.

Well, just give it a test say now and then. Test the word waters. Throw out a "qfsydrs" to really stymy them (see how "stymy" looks like word verification! Aghhh!)

12:21 PM, November 10, 2005

Blogger heatherfeather said...

let's not forget the mystery of flammable and inflammable meaning the same thing.

and then there's pdxbeeuh and unpdxbeeuh.

11:08 PM, November 10, 2005


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