By ANNE DONNELL
I think I saw a word misused recently. It was a reference to a museum’s showing a borrowed “exhibit” of a variety of items. Isn’t this an “exhibition”? Are we commonly misusing other words or reading and hearing on radio and TV and in movies these misuses? I believe we are and am interested in your comments.-All for Accuracy and Precision! Our QP of T (Question Person of Today) is correct. He or she has sharp eyes and sharp ears. Most of us don’t. Prominent, repeated misusage, as on television, particularly news coverage where we seem to accept anything that’s said, in the words of old Bible Belt residents, as Gospel, blunts our sensibilities. We’re not thinking about the language of what we hear and read (true in more ways than language); soon we start using the misuse. It sounds fine to us because well paid “experts” say or write it.
An exhibit is one item among many in a courtroom or in a collection, perhaps a museum collection. An exhibition is a collection of items. It’s murky, though, because museums slide around on this, also. Perhaps it’s a lost cause. Thomas Parrish, author of The Grouchy Grammarian to which I referred last week, thinks so.
ONLINE DEPARTMENT (Thanks, DW) “CREATIVE PUNS FOR EDUCATED MINDS” • The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.• I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .• She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.• The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.• No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.• A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.• A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.•. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie. • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. • A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it. • Atheism is a non-prophet organization.• Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, You stay here; I'll go on a head. • I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me. • A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass • A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, “No change yet”• A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion. • The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.• The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran. [I recently finished a detective novel (Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear) which detailed the horrific effects of using mustard gas in World War I. Even the passing of so many years can’t blunt that.] • A backward poet writes inverse. • In democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism, it's your count that votes. • When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
Parrish also points out the lost distinctions between healthy (possessing good health) and healthful (promoting good health). How many times have we heard “healthy life style” or “healthy eating habits”? Both should read healthful in place of healthy.
Masterful or masterly? Masterful means “dominant;” masterly means “characterized by skill.” “A masterful presentation” should be expressed “a masterly presentation.”
Every day or everyday? Every day means “occurring daily.” EXAMPLE We hold swimming classes every day during the week. Everyday means “ordinary.” EXAMPLE Communication via satellite is an everyday occurrence.
Every one or everyone? Every one is used most commonly for things; only sometimes, for emphasis, for people. Everyone is used only for people. It’s singular, by the way, even though its meaning could mislead you into assuming it’s plural. Anything referring to it (using it as an antecedent) must also be singular. Everyone scurried to find his or her umbrella. [NOT their umbrellas, the sort of thing we usually say.]
A while or awhile? Not everyone agrees on this, but one standard says awhile is an adverb used like this: She worked awhile after her break. The expression a while means “for an indefinite time.” Often, it’s part of a prepositional phrase. EXAMPLE The family lived for a while in his grandmother’s house across town. Some authorities suggest awhile belongs in the grammar garbage bin. Well, that’s a stinking mess already – right, ain’t sayers?
Classic or classical? Calling something classic means it’s an outstanding example of its kind be it book, painting, film, music, architecture, or more. It has stood “the test of time” or is predicted to do so. (Comfort to all struggling authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, architects: those predictions are often spectacularly wrong.) Classical originally described anything relating to ancient Greece or Rome and has been extended to include cultural “products” of at least the early nineteenth century. However, in music, about anything that’s not country, pop, folk, rap, blues, rock, bluegrass, Gospel, Broadway, or easy listening can be labeled classical whenever it was written. Whew. Brainwork is slippery business.
BW (Bigtime Word) idiotropic – turned in on oneself. I like that the first letters spell i-d-i-o-t. So many out there.