Say What? Edition 5: What Not To Say

Don’t say donzerlyThe Christmas season, which thankfully is over, always reminds me of my first neologism. While I never flubbed these lyrics from what is probably the most sung song in the country, I did spend a good portion of my childhood wondering what wilkenspire was, as in “Later on wilkenspire. As we dream by the fire.”

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Don’t say in order to.  Or should you? In my day job, I often have to decide whether to use “to” or “in order to.” The more succinct version generally suffices, but I sometimes opt for the longer because somehow it seems to provide clarity, though I could never articulate exactly why or how. Then I stumbled across this on the Write the Docs Slack.

I need John to answer the question. (He has to do it. No one else can.)
I need John in order to answer the question. (I need something from him so that I can answer the question myself.)

Ah, sweet relief.

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Don’t say begin. Or is it being? This is really a typing issue, not a speaking one. I mistype one of these words for the other so frequently that I had to stop to think about their meanings. I find it mildly thought-provoking that these two words are so close to each other and collectively, they describe the entirety of everything. There is a beginning to your existence and then you are being (existing) until you are no longer so. The similarity is just a happy linguistic accident, of course.

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Don’t say both. If your meaning is both together. A while back, I was attempting to make dinner plans with a couple and I emailed a proposed date. The response came back, “We both have plans that night.” and then proceeded to state what they were doing together. To me, “both” in that context meant separate plans. I’m doing X and my wife is doing Y. We both have plans. If they were doing something together, it seems they would have simply said “We have plans that night.” I don’t know why this usage bothered me and stuck with me so long. Problems of a wannabe linguist, I guess. 

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Don’t say happyAt some point last year, I came across one of those silly internet memes that pretend to be profound thoughts. This one said “Most people’s first word of the year is “happy.” Stupid meme on a time-wasting site though it might have been, I decided I didn’t want to be so quotidian anymore. So, I put some serious thought into what else I might say. But when the hour struck, I was in a conversation about the dead raccoon I had just removed from my shed, so I’m not even sure exactly what my first word was. I can assure you it wasn’t “happy.” Maybe “maggots” or “rabies” or “fat bastard.” But now that we are safely on the fifth day of the year and I have uttered many thousands of other words, I’ll wish my readers a very happy New Year!

 

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