So as part of my gig, I find myself thinking a bit about words and expressions—and sometimes more about the ones we don’t use so much.
For example, I was standing outside of the offices of the New Haven Register and I saw a sign pointing the way to “Human Resources,” which made me wonder if that somewhere in the building there’s an office of “Inhuman Resources.” I don’t think anyone would be happy about being called down there for a meeting … especially for a breakfast meeting.
Speaking of journalism—we always hear about “breaking news,” but how come no one is ever “fixing news.” Or is that what they did back in the days of Yellow Journalism?
I was also considering the term “prehistoric,” which is often paired with the word “creatures” and almost always invoked in dinosaur discussions. Other than the obvious point that anything we can look back on is technically “history”—and therefore anything prehistoric can only be something that occurred before the existence of the known universe—I’m intrigued by the idea that by the very definition of it, we will never know what “posthistoric” creatures will look like. Sort of sad, really, because I’m thinking herds of giant zombie tardigrades roaming the abandoned streets of Earth will be kind of cool to see.
In the same vein, I often visit a deli that proclaims it’s food as “world-class“—is there an alternative? I mean, our whole existence is pretty much confined to this world, so everything made here is automatically “world-class,” right? Of course, this deli proclaims to create its fare with “only the freshest” ingredients … you know, to differentiate itself from the scores of eateries that serve up cuisine concocted from the oldest crap that they can find laying around. Chew on that next time you’re watching an ad from The Olive Garden.
Why is it that Autumn is the only season that has a second name—Fall? I suppose that comes from the leaves falling, but then why don’t we also call Spring “Grow” or “Renew” or even “Warmer”? Then we could call Summer “Hot” and Winter “The Death Season of Cold, Ice and Misery That Only The Mentally Ill and Kate and Steve Frank Could Like.”
Let’s talk about how actors and actresses are almost always referred to as “stars”—stars are supposed to be the brightest lights in the night sky, but there are other heavenly bodies up there, too. So if the leads or the most famous actors and actresses are the stars, doesn’t it stand to reason that the supporting or character actors that revolve around them should be referred to as planets? Like, “Curtis W. Armstrong and Clint Howard are two of the finest planets that Hollywood has to offer.”
On a completely different subject: If you’re for something, you are “pro” that issue—pro-life, pro-abortion, pro-capitalism, pro-cannibal … Yet, a “protest” is something staged when you’re against something. Interestingly, a “contest”—which it seems like what you *should* call it’d when you’re staging an event against a particular issue—is a competition staged to bring about a positive resolution. Really, the “con” is sort of superfluous and it could just be called a “test,” which is already a competition of sorts. I suppose a contest then is in the same vein of conjoined twins in that it involves two … but then shouldn’t it be called a “bi-test,” if we’re sticking to proper prefixes?
Speaking of proper language and grammar, I always remember my high school English teacher Mrs. Scinto used to point out that although many people are described as “uncouth,” not many (like myself) are complimented for being imbued with oodles of couth.
I also find it interesting that when we describe something as “awesome,” it’s usually because it’s got more than “some” awe in it, but yet if it was completely full of awe—and thus “awe-full,” or “awful,” well, that’s the opposite end of the spectrum. I mean, when we’re regretful, we’re full of regret, or beautiful, full of beauty, but this just doesn’t follow.
Not hard to understand why so many who immigrate here prefer to keep English as a second language—because it’s been proven to be crazy.
But it’s the only language I know … so I guess I’ll keep using it.