Wednesday, April 08, 2009

WNW: Reader Edition

Since the inception of Word Nerd Wednesday, I've gotten lots of suggestions for issues to address. (Keep 'em coming! You can leave ideas in the comments or e-mail them to me.)

I'll discuss a just handful today.

Might Could
Erin brought up this particularly annoying phrase, used as:
I might could go to the movie tonight.

Might could is a dialectal thing, but it's definitely not acceptable in standard English. Depending on the quirk, I find some dialectal things intriguing rather than annoying. This one, however, bugs me, because it makes no sense.

It's like a some funky compound version of, "I might go to the movie tonight" and, "I could go to the movie tonight," or perhaps they're really meaning, "I might be able to go to the movie tonight."

But since when does could mean be able to?

In the mists
A malapropism is when one (incorrect) word is accidentally substituted for the word the speaker means. I love catching these puppies, because they're often really funny. My linguist father has a running list of malapropisms he hears from others, and it's hysterical to read.

Another term for them is "Dogberryisms," named after the character of Dogberry in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing (and we all know how much I love me some Much Ado!). Dogberry's lines are full of malapropisms, some of the funniest parts of the whole play.

(Michael Keaton performs the role brilliantly in the movie. Now I'm almost wishing I'd worked a Dogberry character into Spires.)

Lara brought up a malapropisms seen a lot on blogs: "in the mists" such as, "I was in the mists of making a project."

Of course, what the writer means is in the midst (or in the middle of) making a project.

Brooke mentioned another peeve of mine: using supposably for supposedly.

Technically, supposably is a word, but it doesn't mean what its speakers generally use it for. Supposably means something is able to be supposed, not that something allegedly happened or is mistakenly believed to have happened, which is what suppsedly means.

Feeling Poorly
Mina mentioned this one. It always brings a smile to my face, because I remember my beloved professor, Dr. Oaks, acting it out in class.

First off, the correct version isn't I feel poorly, but rather, I don't feel well.

Remember: poorly would mean you don't have a skill for feeling.

Just like you might ice skate poorly or cook poorly, if you feel poorly, you're doing a bad job of it.

Dr. Oaks demonstrated, pretending to feel the desks, the chalkboard, and the wall, but doing so in an inefficient way: with his hands palm side up so the only contact was with the back of his hand.

He was feeling poorly.

If you're sick, you're not feeling well.

Their/There/They're and Your/You're
Heffalump suggested that some common homophones be mentioned, particularly their/there/they're and your/you’re.

Since they sounds alike (duh, since they're are homophones), it's easy to mix them up (or easy to type the wrong one even when you know which is which).

A refresher:

Their is the possessive pronoun for they:
Their car was repossessed.

There refers to location:
Put the newspaper over there on the table.

They're is a contraction of they and are:
Tonight they're going out to eat.

Now for your/you're:

Your is possessive:
I love your new haircut.

You're is a contraction of you and are:
You're in ninth grade now, right?

Melanie J brought up one that I have a hard time understanding the confusion on, but I've seen it myself, so here we are:

Using wa-la for voila.

(I think I just heard Erin, francophile, gasp and faint.)

Voila is a French word meaning (according to Merriam-Webster), "see there." In English, it's used, "to call attention, express satisfaction or approval, or to suggest an appearance by magic."

But it's not pronounced with a W.

Finally, Lucy added a word pair very, very commonly misused. This time, they're not even homophones. I think the error is made because they simply look alike, the difference being whether the word has one or two Os in it:

Lose (with one O) refers to is when something is gone, missing, destroyed, lost:
Almost every day, I lose my keys.

Loose is the opposite of tight:
Tighten the strap; it's too loose.

For fun, let's combine them:
After losing weight, her pants were too loose.

See? Not so hard, right?

Today's Tour Stop:
Life in the Sagebrush
(I think this is third time someone has quoted the section about Samuel's disgusting work smells. I so rock at making readers sick to their stomachs! Gross smells aside, it's a hugely flattering review. Thanks, Brooke!)


Jordan McCollum said...

The feeling poorly one (another dialectical) made me think of this distinction which I think I read on SPOGG:

In response to "How are you?", many hypercorrective people like to respond "I'm well." This person said that I'm well = I am not ill. The desired response is really "I'm good."

To my knowledge, I've never seen anything "definitive" either way (but I do like the above rule; it bugs me to have people so programmed by "rules" that they start misapplying them. But maybe that's just I myself. ;) ). Have you?

Kristina P. said...

Do you read Zina at My Imaginary Blog? She does posts full of malapropisms, and it's so funny!

And I was thinking about asking you about dialects and how words change depending on the area you are in, and if it makes the words totally improper.

Don said...

Our High School band director was the king of malapropisms. Unfortunately, his best were let fly when he was chewing out the band for one reason or another - not the best time for taking notes, (let alone cracking up) so I sadly don't remember a single one.

Blondie said...

"Might could" is second only to "used to could" which I have actually heard used by people other than Jeff Foxworthy.

I always get a kick out of "in the mists." It makes me wonder where all the fog is coming from.

I've also noticed that sometimes people who feel poorly also tend to feel badly.

Lara Neves said...

I actually started keeping a list of malapropisms I've found since I sent you that one, and they always give me a giggle. I know I've seen really funny ones that I can't remember now, too.

Great post, as usual!

Melanie Jacobson said...

I see the lose/loose thing more than anything else by far, and it's often from people who I know to be good writers from a mechanical standpoint. I kind of expect it now and I'm impressed when I see it done correctly. Sad!

amelia said...

It's funny because when I write blogs/e-mails, I don't pay attention to grammar. But when I'm writing/editing stuff professionally, I am anal. I love your grammar posts - you are a better editor than I am!

I can't think of any off the top of my head...I'll have to remember to comment about future ideas.

Brittany Marie said...

Great post! A few months ago I remember TAMN saying "Jason [The Bachelor] is such a looser". LOL

My husband was in the habit of saying "depribed" instead of deprived. I wondered where in the world he got that from. And then over the weekend I heard his mom say it. *cringe*

Tomorrow I have a post going out about apostrophes. I saw a sign at a grocery store that said Kid's 'n' Cart's. LOL

Carina said...

The 'walla' thing KILLS ME.

I see variations all over the blogosphere:
Wah-la, wahla, wa-lah.

Someone was selling tickets to Wicked on and advertised "Isle Seats."

I wonder just how far out of the concert hall you'd have to be to get isle seats.

Heatherlyn said...

I had NO idea that supposably is a real word. And I don't see myself ever using it now that I know it is!

I like your word nerd posts!

Erin said...

Wah la makes me sick. I did just about faint! Or beaucoup - when people say boo coo or something like. GET IT RIGHT OR DON'T DO IT!!!

Thank you for validating me.

LisAway said...

These are good ones. Some of them I've heard used just to be silly, particularly feeling poorly and might could. Sort of to sound cute or something. I think we used a lot of those in my family just for fun. Sort of like how we rarely said "creek" since my grandma pronounced it "crick" (she was, after all, a Utahn! :)

One that keeps surprising me is "all the sudden". I know that probably most people who use it would recognize that it's wrong if it was pointed out to them, but it's said that way out of habit. It still surprises me when I read it on well written blogs (same with the loose/lose you mention in this post).

And I love when I post a comment on a blog and only to find that I've written something like, "You're son is so hilarious". It happens far too often.

Janelle said...

My mom and grandma are walking malapropisms and they will not be glad to hear that there is a name for it.

When my mom talks, nearly every time someone kindly buts in and says, "I think you meant ________." the correct word.

I will say that I nearly always substitute menagerie with menage a trois. Which I must say is a very embarassing malapropism. So embarassing in fact that I have eliminated menagerie from my verbal repertoire.

Some things are just genetic!

Went to Deseret Book today for the first time in a long while (I shop online) and was like Holy Cow Annette is everywhere!

Heather of the EO said...

I was just feeling annoyed by loose earlier today.

I thought I would loose my mind.

I love these posts! I'm all about learning more about words, how to use them...the correct way to use them.

I guess I'm a wordy. :)

Karlene said...

"Might could" and "used to could" are ones I'm guilty of in verbal speech. Along with "might oughtta" and a few others. It comes from being raised as a hick in the south. :)

I find myself unable to break the habit, but I do know it's not correct.

Iknow. Your opinion of me just dropped into the toilet.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who is terrified that I'll speak/write incorrectly and Annette will never speak to me again? =P

I never see wala but I frequently hear Wallah, which is Arabic for "I promise to God." I have to Islamic sisters and hear many small sayings in arabic littered all over their speech. When they say "Wallah," it's more like they're saying "OMG!"

My favorite of their arabic sayings is "in'sh'Allah," which is pronouced quickly: inshallah. It means "God willing" and they always say it when they are hoping for the best. I.E. "in'sh'Allah, mom will get better soon."

Sorry for the rant. =]

Anonymous said...

I meant to say I have TWO sisters...ugh...I'm blacklisted by Annette already?!

Peyton said...

I was an English Language major at BYU; I'm an editor now. Also of southern decent.

That said, I *love* double modals. I use "might could," "might should," and "might oughta" all the time in my speech and informal writing (journal, blog, whatever).

While I definitely take it out of anything I'm editing for publication, it has never bothered me in speech. I like the added flavor.

Luisa Perkins said...

This is a particularly satisfying edition of WNW.

My former brother-in-law used to say "wah-lee" when he meant "voila." Egreeeeeeeeeegious.

Unknown said...

You would love my friend (who is a middle school teacher). She could become a post all on her own! I never know whether to correct her or not. She recently used "commensurate" when she meant "commiserate".

How about "for all intensive purposes"??

Julie Wright said...

I love this. SOOOOOOO many of these things grate on my nerves. It's nice not to be alone

Little GrumpyAngel said...

I just want to say that I'm pretty proud that even though English is my second language I don't commit the "sins" you identified on this post :-) I have committed and am committing many sins against the English language, but none on this particular list :-)

An Ordinary Mom said...

Fabulous, as always!

(Here's another word usage you can explain: counselor vs councilor ... and is counsellor one, too?)

LeeAnn said...

Wa-la. I was beginning to think it was a new word or something. Thank you for educating me about what it was supposed to be.

The lose/loose thing? My pet peeve. It is so common that it is really hard to not comment on it. It's especially common on Facebook which seems to be the bastion of bad grammar and incorrect word choices.


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