...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Words, Words, Words
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Words, Words, Words*

The late Terry Carr had a thing about the word "hopefully". Thanks to Terry, I suspect, dozens of his friends use it correctly and while we don't necessarily correct people who misuse it, we wince when it happens. I try to do the right thing - who wants to be visited by the Wrath of Terry (whom I do miss, darn it and it's really hard to realize he's been gone almost 20 years) - but I won't go out of my way to write "it is hoped" or some other circumlocution (oooh, nice one!) in order to get it right.

We all have 'em, don't we? The word/phrase that just BUGS us because, dammit, common usage has changed it. I read one this morning that made me almost howl, because it's SO badly used and the user made a common error that meant, in fact, that he meant the exact opposite of what he meant. In an article on (no let's not go there, hmm?) whether fetuses feel pain, that was in today's Seattle papers (I'm currently getting both - fascinating to see the difference in coverage of events, both local and national, and the way headlines skew) a scientist (I know, he's a SCIENTIST, not an English major but dammit, neither was I and I still think we ought to use words correctly when possible (trans: when we're being quoted in the national news - No,not really ) "They have literally stuck their hands into a hornet's nest."

No, in fact, they most assuredly did NOT literally do so, I'm willing to be a fair amount money that these researchers FIGURATIVELY put their hands into the nest of hornets, stirring up a major controversy. To literally do so would be a) really stupid on the part of anyone and b) really REALLY stupid on the part of researchers who must have better ways of figuring out how to rile up a hornet. Especially assuming these guys are entomologists (or etymologists and woo, are we being fancy shmancy here today, huh?) I went and checked "" on this one (I find them pretty reliable) and according to that site this misuse goes back a hundred years - that people use it to mean the exact opposite, citing, among other uses, a 1926 book where "30,000 Unionists will be literally thrown to the wolves". Eu.

One of the other wince-worthy words is apparently one for which I will fight a losing battle; is "decimate". I think it's a fascinating word because the origin of it is found in a specific historical time and place, but it now means close to the opposite of that original intent. Again, according to, "decimate" has come to mean, in common usage "to destroy or kill the large part of a group". The (at least for me and for Stu) interesting origin of this word goes back to ancient times when in order to keep mutinous legions in line , the leaders would kill, as I recall it, rather randomly, every one in ten soldiers. "Deci" mate. See why we find the word interesting? Who'd come up with such a specific? But when the tsunami hit, parts of Sri Lanka were decimated, leading Stu and me to respond" no, it' was far WORSE than that." It's hard to let go of erudition sometimes, what can I say?

Now I'm not saying there aren't typos and grammatical errors in this blog entry and possibly in most things that I write; I write casually and try to be clear but I've done it from "This sentence no verb" to "This sentence has has two verbs" to being unclear and I'm grateful to my editors - especially to Linda and Sally who've caught amazing blunders - for making me look good. And no, I didn't deliberately slip anything in this post, but I don't doubt someone could spot grammar goofs; I'm big on repeating myself, I speak far too often in italics and write in sentence fragments. So be it. But words are magical, and once in a while, when someone messes with them, I just start squeaking. Or squawking.

Okay, anyone else have a favorite?

*And extra points for giving one of two references I had in mind for "words, words, words" - hint - one's musical, one's not, just dramatic

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