LOGOPHILE TRIPS & FALLS – Words That Drive Me Crazy!

I truly am a lover of words – all words.  But just like loving people, some are easy to deal with and and others just drive you crazy!  Though my writing journey has been long, that journey is filled with adventurous steeps and valleys. Sometimes I struggle making the climb – writing and rewriting trying to find my way to some unknown place.  Always, always there are pebbles along the way that make me stumble.  But pebbles are just pebbles and should never make me fall.

It’s interesting that the smallest things can be the very things that trip you up. In the English language there are so many little words (no matter how much we love them) that can be a writer or editor’s nightmare. We writers are all familiar with them. As good writers we must keep them under control or they could ruin a great piece of work we’ve done.

For example:  

  • Then  vs Than – Then is used in reference to time: Go through this light, then turn left at the court house. I worked there ten years ago. The building was brand new back then;  Than is used to show comparison – She is taller than her sister.  OR Than is used to show preference – I would rather walk than catch the bus.
  • Lie vs Lay – Lie is the present tense meaning recline or rest – I am going to lie down to take a nap.  Lay means to place something in a horizontal position – Please lay that book on the table.
  • Let’s vs LetsLet’s is a contraction of ‘let us’ – Let’s go to the movies today. Lets means to allow – Her mother lets them stay up as late as they want.
  • Peek vs Pique vs PeakPeek means to take a quick glance at – I peeked in her window to see i she was home. Pique means to excite or arouse – Her book really piqued my interest in Civil War history. Peak means pinnacle or highest point – We finally reached the peak of the mountain.
  • Affect vs Effect – Affect means something which brings about a change- Her face lift had a strange affect on her personality.  Effect means a change that happens as a result of – The storm had a horrific effect on the town’s economy
  • Defuse vs DiffuseDefuse literally means to remove a fuse – He was terrified when he defused the grenade.  Diffuse means widespread – The open discussions between countries continue to diffuse tensions around the world.
  • Their vs There vs They’reTheir shows possession – That was their house. There means the opposite of here. They moved over there.  They’re is contraction of ‘They are’.  They’re come to dinner late.
  • Passed vs PastPassed means to move by – I passed her as I walked down the street.  Past means before the present time – I knew her brother in the past.
  • Mine vs Mind – Mine shows my possession – That book is mine.  Mind refers to part of person that thinks. It also means excavation under the earth, i.e. coal mine.
  • Allude vs EludeAllude means to indirectly refer to sometime – She alluded to having been at the party with my sister. Elude means to avoid. He eluded the police by running into the alley.

These are only ten examples of words that drive us crazy.  The English language is full of them so be very careful as you write.  Your brain will tell you that you are using the right word but when you look at it it’s oh so wrong. Therefore, you must check your work several times. Even when writing a simple letter or e-mail it is important to check our word several times.  A simple mistake in a word could change the entire meaning of what you really meant to say. Texting has allowed us to cheat so much in sending message that we now more often misuse proper English wording.  Let’s all get back to basics. Fast Food, fast lane, and fast track thinking will sometimes get us in trouble.

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Our World of Words

“When I feel the beauty in words,
I am sensing the logic of heart.” >
Toba Beta

American English language is a tough language to conquer – even for those of us born and raised in America. Now throw in slang, colloquialisms, urban expressions, cultural linguistics and now instant messaging shorthand and we are spending more and more time trying to interpret what we hear on TV or overhear in passing conversation.

As old school as I am, I attempt to keep up with the almost minute by minute language changes that range from interesting to obscene. I am amazed at how,  with just a quick turn of a phrase like “I’m just saying…” , a new word change becomes a standard phenom in this complex world of words in which we live. And half the time people are using a new turn of a phrase of which they may not even know the true meaning — “I’m just saying…”. This particular one just happens to be one that I love and I smile every time I hear it. It is just so diplomatic – it says:  “come on now… can’t you really see what’s going on?”.  At least that is what I think it is saying.

When new words, phrases, and slang come along I am oh so curious as to who really was the first person to coin the phrase. Was it just a group of guys standing on a corner, or two people in a private conversation overheard by a stranger? Somewhere in life’s transitions, words, phrases and slang are just passed on like kudzu on a Georgia Pine. Some stick to us like Kudzu as well, seeming to never die — like “keeping it cool”, “Wuzzup!”, and “OMG!!!” Can you imagine how very confused those coming to our shores for the first time – not speaking one word of English – must be as they attempt to make sense of what we are really trying to say to each other

I heard one of my friends recently say “Don’t catch a counterfeit”, which had a very poetic ring, I must say. Just those few words said so much  to me — be careful that what you end up with is genuine.
Wow – I just love it! As a lover of words I truly appreciate how creatively words can be woven and twisted to send out a thousand different messages. It’s poetic, it’s musical, it’s artful how inventive we can be with just a word — “Word Up!”