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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

OUR COLORFUL AND CONFUSING LANGUAGE

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I have been embarrassed several times lately because of errors in some of my articles. For example, I put the Thornton Autobank on the wrong corner of Austin and Lynn. I also started the word psychiatrist to identify our friend, Candice Moore, and my fingers ended up typing psychologist. (I got the first five letters correct anyway!) There are probably some others that I hadn't heard about or didn't spot myself when it was too late to correct them. But these mistakes are really nothing to write home about. They are just par for the course for someone who is meeting deadlines.

Dealing in words constantly I have become very aware of the problems between generations, or regions when using our colorful language.

For example the phrase I used earlier about being nothing to write home about completely confused our great granddaughter. Who do I write at home? Aren't you already at home?

Par for the course is very clear to golfers, but means little to those who have never learned about the sport. Even the word, deadlines, doesn't ring any bells for those not familiar with publishing.

It's hard to explain the phrases that many of us grew up with, to a generation who communicate instantly through electronic devices. But we still can't let them go.

Another thing I have noticed is the use of prepositions. For those who understand directions only as "right" or "left" there is no problem with saying "down to Kansas City" when they are in Nevada. But for us north/south/east/west-oriented folk it jars our sense of direction.

We go "up" when we are heading north. We go "down" if our destination is south. We go "back" east and "out" west.

We live just west of highway 43. When we go to Nevada we go "to" town. But when we have business in Deerfield we go "over" to that town.

If we are already in Nevada, we go "downtown" to the area around the square. But we go "out" to investigate the new restaurant coming in where Greenfield's used to be.

When we start using the preposition "up", there is no end. We get up in the morning, meaning we rise up. But after we have eaten up all our cereal for breakfast we get in our car and back up to get out of the driveway. If we have a big day ahead of us we are probably all charged up, but if things don't go well it is easy to get fed up with the whole thing.

It probably looks better to us if we clean up our desk and then take a few minutes to rest up. That often is interrupted by someone who calls us up on the telephone and wants us to dress up and meet up with a friend or a business client. It's up to us to decide if we want to join up with them or if we will just own up to the fact that we are already up to our ears with duties, so we will fess up that we aren't really up to joining them.

That would be a good time to grab a cool drink, if the supply hasn't already been all used up. If there is some more left, then just sit down and drink up.

So if it were up to me to clean up the English language, I would have to decline because life would be too drab if we didn't have these phrases to cough up every now and then.

I hope I haven't messed up with an error again today.

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus