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Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Words you are using wrong in the English language


What you think it means... a human child.

What it really means... a young goat.


What you think it means... an inconsiderate person, a jerk.

What it really means... the back part of human foot.


What you think it means... a division in a road.

What it really means... an eating utensil.


What you think it means... to make an automobile accelerate rapidly with your foot on the gas pedal.

What it really means... the lower surface of a room


What you think it means... an essay or school assignment, a scholarly article.

What it really means... "material manufactured in thin sheets from the pulp of wood or other fibrous substances, used for writing, drawing, or printing on, or as wrapping material"


Vance Maverick said...

My daughter, at ten, is only just learning to tolerate polysemy. I can dimly recall what that felt like -- I remember, as a kindergartener, telling a girl on the playground that the word "makeup", which she had just used, wasn't real. Language peevers (who I suspect were your inspiration here) seem never to have gotten past this stage.

Jonathan said...

Exactly. I was thinking of people who can't stand the fact that decimate is not "kill one tenth of" in everyday usage or that enormity can also means enormousness.

Anonymous said...

The Christian right is upset with polysemy because it is devilish, I learned via complaints from parents (yes we get these at the university).

Vance Maverick said...

Can you give examples of devilish polysemy, without betraying individuals? (The 72 virgins, perhaps, which a few years ago we heard might actually have been raisins? Calling Simon "Peter" because he's the rock on which the church is built?)

Unknown said...

thanks very goooooooooooooooooood


Phaedrus said...

My Mom quite objected to the wrong meaning of "kid."

Phaedrus said...

I think that the "everyday" usage of words like "enormity" nuke the perfectly good lexical definitions of the words. Into this category I would put "fulsome" and "disinterested." In these cases (as with"decimate" but not "kid") the issue is not polysemy but replacement.

JforJames said...

Words/Signs only get to have one to have one referent for all times. It seems like a recipe for language stagnation. Here's looking askance at you, kid.

Anonymous said...

Vance, any word with more than one meaning.