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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Words That Dr. Bitz Hates

With the baseball season over I guess I'll have to find something else to write about. I'm sure I'll have some one sentence reviews coming up pretty soon. But I think it's time to answer the question that all of you have been dying to know: What are the words in the English language that Dr. Bitz hates?

Well, here you go:

Restaurant: Sure, restaurant may seem like an innocent word, but all I have to say about it is thank God for spell check. If I had to spell restaurant on my own I'd get it wrong 100% of the time.

The problem is every time I misspell restaurant I know it's wrong! But I can never figure out the right combination of letters to make the word look right.

For example, if we lived in a world without spell check, this is how a hypothetical note from me would look:

Hey, for lunch, which restarant resturant restaraunt resturaunt resturuant reasturuant reausturant reastuarant eating place would you like to go to?

Misspell: Speaking of misspelling words, how lame is misspell? I mean, part of me thinks it should be missspell, because you missed the spelling. But my real problem with the word is that I always want to spell it: mispell. And you know why? Because of another word...

Threshold: Nobody pronounces this word thresh-old, everybody says thresh-hold. But no, we have to eliminate an h in the spelling even though the double s in misspell is completely acceptable!

Even Merriam-Webster's pronunciation has to use two Hs (ˈthresh-ˌhōld) so let's just spell it Threshhold and get it over with. (I know it looks weird, but that's just because we're not used to it...yet.)

Capital/Capitol: You have capital letters, capital punishment, capital as in money, capital cities, and capital buildings...wait...no. The building in which a state legislative body meets is spelled "capitol".

So we have the word capital that has like six different meanings (including a definition that directly ties to buildings and architecture) but in the one case where we refer to a building itself it has to have an O? Give me a break.

Guarantee: See - Restaurant

Any word that ends in S and needs an apostrophe: I was taught at a young age that any time a word ends in an s and you want to apply ownership to that word you simply put an apostrophe at the end of it. Such as: Chris' hair looked nice today. Then I noticed that some people wrote the sentence like this: Chris's hair looked nice today.

I became so confused that in writing I would actually avoid applying ownership to any word ending in s. So if I had to write "Chris' hair looked nice today," I'd write "Chris Johnson's hair looked nice today" or "Chris had nice hair today."

So one day I decided to clear up the confusion and look up what the proper grammar would be, because obviously one form is correct and the other is not, right? Wrong! They're both right!?

Apparently in the English language these days any way you want to use an apostrophe with a word ending in s is completely acceptable. What? Really? No wonder I was always confused.

Affect/Effect: These certainly aren't the only words that sound suspiciously alike. There is accept and except. But the thing about accept/except is that they both have two distinctive (and almost opposite) meanings. So once you assign a meaning to each word, it's easy to know when to use which.

What about affect and effect? The difference in the definition of these two words is very subtle, yet it's distinct. In every situation where you want to use affect or effect it's never acceptable to use the wrong version of the word.

How many times have you written a sentence and felt like if you used the wrong form of affect/effect it would completely change the meaning of said sentence? I can tell you how many, zero! So what I'm saying is maybe we stay away from this hornets' nest entirely and use only one form of the word. It would simplify things immensely and wouldn't add any ambiguity.

(Before I go any further, let's make it clear that I'm not going to start talking about the affect noun which I believe was solely created so it could be overused by Vincent D'Onofrio in Law and Order: Criminal Intent.)

Now maybe you think I'm just whining and I'm too stupid to understand effect vs. affect, but let's look at a portion of the Merriam-Webster definition:

Effect and affect are often confused because of their similar spelling and pronunciation. The verb affect usually has to do with pretense {she affected a cheery disposition despite feeling down}. The more common affect denotes having an effect or influence {the weather affected everyone's mood}. The verb effect goes beyond mere influence; it refers to actual achievement of a final result {the new administration hopes to effect a peace settlement}.

That's right, "...affect denotes having an effect..." Awesome...that's the English language for you.

7 comments:

  1. In one of my first posts for GoL, I talked about AFFECTIVE leadership and was promptly shunned by one of our readers for using the wrong word.

    "It's EFFECTIVE, not AFFECTIVE," they wrote.

    Even though I changed it, I knew what I was trying to say. I was trying to say "leadership that has an effect on us." AFFECTIVE was my word.

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  2. Ah, so you were trying to say "leadership that has an effect on us" or "affective leadership" as opposed to "leadership which works well" or "effective leadership".

    Well, that's what you get for writing in a language with two similar sounding words whose distinctions are subtle at best. :)

    Seriously English, the hell?

    The "eating place" word throws me off sometimes too (*cough* all the time *cough*), as does "temperature" (I always think it's more complicated than it is and start tossing extra A's all over the place).

    Another simple word I can never spell right on the first go for some reason is "definitely". Don't ask me why. I think it's because I think there shouldn't be the "e" before the "l".

    Back in second grade, some teacher taught us this mnemonic device for remembering how to spell "friend", something about how a good friend will be your friend until the END of FRIday. To this day, whenever I write "friend" I pronounce it in my head as "FRY END".

    How do you feel about then/than? Like accept/except, there's a pretty big distinction between them, but at the same time, when writing fast, I find I'll sometimes use one when I mean the other, and if I don't go back and proof what I'm writing, I end looking like an idiot.

    And don't get me started on the possessive apostrophe on nouns that end with "s". I too was always taught that you just stick the apostrophe on the end, and I find the extra "s" terribly ugly. But that's okay now, because enough people screwed it up that "we" just decided it wasn't worth correcting any more so the error was made "correct".

    I took a linguistics class in college. It was an awesome class, but the hardest thing about it was coming to terms with the fact that English is a living language, and thus its rules are more guidelines than unbreakable laws, subject to the whims of its users. So if enough people screw something up, then the error just becomes acceptable.

    For an English major with little to do with his degree other than lord his deep knowledge of the language over other people, it was very hard to accept that all those intricate rules I learned through the years are mutable, and largely irrelevant, as long as meaning is effectively conveyed.

    On the plus side, that means there's hope that the effect/affect distinction can be eradicated...

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  3. I also really hate ensure/insure.
    Also the word vacuum (vaccum? vaccuum?). And commission.
    -Anne

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  4. I never have an issue with than/then. But i have problems with affect and effect (however after reading this post and comments i think i have it) I know we've discussed this before, teebore, but i, too, always have to say Fry-ends when writing friends.
    I have a problem spelling renaissance - i always want to throw in another 'n'. And i've only recently come to terms with Guarantee (i always wanted to spell it like restaurant)

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  5. Frankly, I think most of the words w/seemingly unnecessary extra letters are more trouble than they're worth: vacuum, commission, community, committee, necessary, renaissance: there's no rhyme or reason to which letters get doubled up!

    (Incidentally, my problem with renaissance comes in the placement of the "i": I either want to leave it out or put after the wrong "a").

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  6. baroness van bitzenhoferOctober 24, 2009 at 9:03 AM

    My main word is millennium and it grinds my gears because I really feel like it should be spelled millenium. Even the dictionary says it should be pronounced ma-leh-nee-um, so if we aren't pronouncing 2 "n" sounds, why are there 2 n's in the word??

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  7. The word "meal" makes my skin crawl. Also, the English call aluminum "alumnium" as they didn't want to break up the "-ium" thing on the table of elements like calcium, and um, hmm, barium? What other -iums? Surely they didn't go to all that trouble just for calcium (the wimpiest of all the elements.)

    Carrot also messes me up and I have to say "Car Rot" to spell it right. I also have to go "Tom OR Row" to spell tomorrow right as I am an idiot. Yes let us air our grievances against these high and mighty words!

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