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.


7 Comments:

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.

signed,

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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