Say What You Mean
[SING – like Mary Poppins]
When trying to express oneself, it’s frankly quite absurd,
To leaf through lengthy lexicons to find the perfect word.
A little spontaneity keeps conversation keen,
You need to find a way to say, precisely what you mean…
Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious!
If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious,
I’ve always liked that word – “The biggest word you ever heard….”
My Mother taught all of her children to love words. She didn’t teach her “kids” – that would be baby goats! And even though I’m a Capricorn, that doesn’t count!
My Mother also encouraged all of her kids… er… children… to read. When we ran across a word we didn’t know, we’d run to Mom to ask what it meant. “Mom, what does “Flatulence” mean?” At times she would answer, but more often she sent us to the dictionary – the giant Merriam Webster Dictionary – that sat on its own stand – a music stand, I guess – that held it when opened. And it was always opened! Mom made us look up the word and then report back, using it in a sentence – like a Toastmasters self-introduction – and sometimes she would make us learn the word on each side of that word in the dictionary!
flat•u•lence (fl ch -l ns)
1. The presence of excessive gas in the digestive tract.
2. Self-importance; pomposity.
I think this has something to do with politics.
1. something that flatters
2. insincere or excessive praise
I think this definitely has something to do with politics.
1. laundry that can be finished mechanically
2. Nowadays it means “concrete” – like a sidewalk.
But look at how effective this is – not only did I learn the word I wanted to learn, but I learned two others! Words. Grammar.
My Mother has been dead 11 years and still she corrects my grammar. [*look up / over shoulder ]
I have a friend who channels my Mother. When I say “Isn’t that sumpin’?” – she reminds me “Did you say ‘sumpin’’?” And I say – yep, I said “sumpin’.” And on it goes, like an Abbot and Costello piece.
So proper use of words bugs me. Does it bug you? “You could care less?” Well, You never mean: Could care less – You always mean: Couldn’t care less
Why: You want to say you care so little already that you couldn’t possibly care any less.
Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics is quoted as saying, “God could care less whether I can shoot a jump shot,” we know he meant exactly the opposite because 1) God has other things on his mind, and 2) God is a Miami fan.
You say you wanna – er… “want to” go: “Mano a mano”, do ya?” Well, you might mean: Man-to-man.
“Mano a mano” means literally, “hand to hand” and usually refers to a knock-down, drag-out direct confrontation.
You might say: Less; You might mean: Fewer
Why: In general, use fewer when you’re specifying a number of countable things (“200 words or fewer”); reserve less for a mass (“less than half”). So when you’re composing a tweet, do it in 140 characters or fewer, not less.
You never mean: Hone in; You always mean: Home in
Why: Like homing pigeons, we can be single-minded about finding our way to a point: “Scientists are homing in on the causes of cancer.” Hone means “to sharpen”: There was a Virginia senator who said, “We’ve got to hone in on cost containment.” He wasn’t exactly sharpening his axe. If you’re unsure, say “zero in” instead.
You almost never mean: Try and; You almost always mean: Try to
Why: Try and try again, yes, but if you’re planning to do something, use the infinitive form: “I’m going to try to get this right.”
You almost never mean: Supposably; You almost always mean: Supposedly
Why: Supposably is, in fact, a word—it means “conceivably”—but not the one you want if you’re trying to say “it’s assumed,” and certainly not the one you want if you’re on a first date with an English major or a job interview with an English speaker.
Use farther: for physical distance; further: for metaphorical distance or time.
We ride our bicycle “farther.” We are going to discuss this “further.”
compliment: nice thing to say, or complement: match – you might give a compliment to a beautiful woman saying: The dress really complements your beauty.”
affect: typically a verb, meaning “to act upon or cause an effect”; or effect: typically a noun, meaning “something produced,” like a special effect.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. And my Mother will quit haunting you.
In the words of the immortal Bee Gees:
“It’s only words, but words are all I have, to take your heart away…..”