Friday Fact: Lapse of Lexicon


Lex-i-con - noun. Plural: lexica. 
1. The vocabulary of a particular language, field, social class, person, etc. 
2. Linguistics. i.e. the total inventory of morphemes in a given language.

Lapse - noun, verb (lapsed, lapsing).
1. an accidental or temporary decline or deviation from an expected condition or state; a temporary falling or slipping from a previous standard. A lapse in judgment.

I wear a scarlet E on my chest - the badge of an English Major. It's not uncommon that when someone makes a lingual blunder in my presence, someone will announce "Ooh, look out! You're in the presence of an English major!" And, even though I graduated more than 6 years ago, their eyes dart to my red E and they rewind, fix, and apologize as though I were offended. That, or they haughtily insist that they know it was a mistake, they did it on purpose because they don't care and prefer to be free from the barriers of the rules of language, and think that I'm lousy for being such a language snob and thinking that they are nothing more than an ape attempting to speak in their quaint little monkey way.

And I haven't even said anything! Okay, so, like...90% of the time, I haven't said anything. Sometimes I just can't help it. Because, even though I never really bought into that elitist world of Academia, never drooled over research articles exploring the effects of feminism on Empirical India, never really considered Hawthorne to be pleasure reading - I do still notice the nuances of language.

I sort of collect them.

I don't know about other languages (I only barely speak sign language), but the English Language is fascinating! There are so very many ways to convey an idea. So many directions a sentence could go. So many words to choose from to get just the exact. right. fit. Because - English snob that I am - to me, a synonym is similar, but not interchangeable (there is such thing as the perfect word for what you are trying to convey). And, even within our own country, there are countless deviations to the rules. Countless phrases that would make complete sense to a native of Alabama, but would make absolutely no sense to someone in, say, northern Oregon.

I took a linguistics class my senior year at University and discovered (much to my dismay) that I was in the wrong major. It wasn't Marxism or bibliographies that excited me. It was words! Their infinite potential, how they are used, how they are misused, how they change, flex, breathe. Human language is a living thing. And where perhaps the general population of the English Academia world might hold fast to unchangeable rules for the use of language (MLA format, anyone?), Linguists hold fast to the idea that for language, unchangeable rules don't exist for long.

For example. When I was in elementary school, use of the word 'funner' got you laughed off the playground. Now, it's a bona fide member of the English Dictionary. True story. Look it up.

Accents happen because of the way our ears are trained by speakers of our native language as we grow up. For example - Chinese speakers hear the 'r' sound and the 'l' sound as pretty much the same thing, which is why when a native Chinese speaker learns to speak English, they may say "crean" instead of "clean".

The way we learn language and how it is in a constant state of change is so fascinating to me that I could go on and on, but I eventually need to get back to the Friday Fact, and so: enter forced segue.

I notice words and phrases that deviate from the 'beaten path' of commonly accepted language. I can't help it! This is why I wear that E. My mind is trained to notice. And, due to language shifts and the different accents and dialects of the areas we learn language in (e.g., Utahan's tend to say moun'n rather than mountain, Washingtonians tend to say warsh rather than wash) there are words and phrases common to the English language that are often mispronounced and misquoted.

And - yesterday I posted the question on Facebook, asking what commonly mispronounced words and phrases were your favorites, and so I know I'm not the only one who notices.

Which brings us (still with me?) to Today's Friday Fact!

A Peek into Stepper's List of Favorite Faulty Phrases and Lexicon Lapses!

Ready? Go!


COMMON PHRASES

I could care less. That's not saying much, is it? But if I couldn't care less, that puts things at exactly the bottom of my caring hierarchy.

You might enjoy going around butt naked, but most of us are fine with being simply buck naked.

To shimmy up a tree probably involves some pretty sweet dance moves. To shinny up a tree - referring to the use of the shins while climbing - might actually get you to the top.

To 'ease drop' on someone might mean to gently drop in on them for a visit? Which might give you a chance to stand beneath the eaves of their home and 'eavesdrop' on them.

Watch out for the curb when trying to curve your appetite, hunger, or enthusiasm.

A doe-eyed youth sounds charming. A dough-eyed youth just sounds painful.

You would think that doing your upmost would be the highest effort you could give. But all that is required is that you do your utmost.

When hydrating, try not to slack your thirst when you really need to slake it.

I think that being a wreckless driver is a good idea. But you won't be wreck free if you're a reckless driver. Especially if you're half-hazard, because being haphazard is bad enough!

Be sure to pronounce the RON in IRONY. Most pronounce it I-ER-NEE like the thing we use to press the wrinkles from our shirts. Remember to ask yourself: isn't it IRONIC? Not I-AR-NIC.

Words with SIMILAR SOUNDS but DIFFERENT MEANINGS:

Raucous (or rowdy and disorderly) laughter may create a ruckus (or noisy commotion).
I will sell you this shirt. It's on sale - half off! - because it didn't start out being green.
I heard that the boy who stocks the groceries at Maceys stalks his ex girlfriend on the weekends.
You're looking a bit pale. Why don't you let me fetch you a pail of water? Or, y'know, just a glass of water?
I will feel very productive when I fill out the census form and mail it back in.
I'm feeling a bit ambivalent (or conflicted - flipping back and forth) about the issue, because the facts are so ambiguous (or unclear; having several possible meanings or interpretations). 

SOMETIMES we get LAZY and forget to pronounce letters in words. e.g. you're supposed to pronounce the D in supposed to (not suppose to).

But then, SOMETIMES we get AMBITIOUS and pronounce more letters than there are. For example:
Familiar. There is one R, not two. Yet I often hear FERmiliar. Especially from Delila, the radio show host.
Toward. Don't walk towards me when it's better to simply walk toward me.
Especially if you're walking across the street. It's much harder to walk acrosst.
And who says anyways anymore, anyway?
Just where do you think you are? Not where do you think you are at?
Trust me. You just want these. Not these ones.

And here's your bonus just-for-your-enjoyment-and-edification fact:
How to correctly use i.e. vs. e.g.!

e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which translates to: for example. Use this when you mean to say "such as".
i.e. stands for id est, which translates to: that is. Use this when you mean to say "that is to say" or 'in other words'.

Isn't it fun?!

Now. Your turn!

6 comments:

Tamsin said...

Would it be obnoxious of me to make copies of this post and hand it out to everyone I know?

Grandpa Rusty said...

Thanks, Stepper. Here's some other ones that make me cringe:
Ignernt rather than ignorant.
Mel rather than mail or male.
Honest truth - I mean, is there any such thing as dishonest truth?
Libary rather than library.
Emnity rather than enmity.
Nuculer rather than nuclear.
Jewlery rather than jewelry.
And here's a good one: would you itch my back rather than would you scratch my back.

Lauren said...

Sherbert - wrong.
Sherbet - right.

It was either you or Emily that taught me that. I must admit it is still hard for me to leave that extra "r" out.

Love your blog. Thanks for sharing your awesomeness.

Lara and Jayson said...

I don't know if this really goes with your topic, since it is somewhat related to a foreign language, but my HUGE word pet peeve is when people call the city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico "Port of Ayarta". If you are wanting to try and translate it to English please just say "Port Vallarta" (puerto = port and there is no English translation for vallarta, as far as I know)

Jess, Keira and Telyn said...

I have a hard time watching march madness due to consistent pronunciation of Turnament instead of Tournament. So cringe worthy.

Anne said...

You have to read "The adventure of English" by Melvin Bragg- it tells the history of the english language from the start. Fascinating and fun.