21 July 2013
Lucked Out

A long time ago a buddy and I were at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia thoroughly enjoying the cricket match due to the amazing location of our seats.  I turned to my Australian companion and sad “Man, we really lucked out.”  He looked at me in disagreement and said “What do you mean?  These seats are great mate”.

It turns out the phrase “lucked out” means “unlucky” in Australia.  And for Americans, it means the exact opposite.  

If one examines these two words, “luck” and “out”, it seems logical that the Australian interpretation is correct.  Luck is no longer present.  It is “out”.

I’d say this is a case where we say it wrong.

11 June 2013
There’s

"There’s three of them inside." 

When written, it’s more obvious that use of “there’s” here is incorrect.  ”There’s” is a contraction and is short for “there is”.  One would never say “There is three of them inside.”

And yet, for some reason, Americans almost universally say “there’s” when they mean “there are”.  Every time I hear this it drives me nuts.  And sometimes I catch myself doing it too.

Now there’s something I need to work on.  Don’t say it wrong.

26 May 2013
For all intensive purposes

People, your IQ drops by a point every time you say “for all intensive purposes”.  Slap yourself when this slips out of your mouth, then remind yourself that you meant to say:

"for all intents and purposes".

Have a good day.

26 August 2012
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My wife and I spent some time in Nice, France, a few weeks ago.  We stumbled upon a creperie called “La Voix De Son Maitre” and ate lunch there.  The proprietor rolled out an old record player (pictured below) and played French music from the 1920’s and 30’s.  I recorded a raw moment where we listened to the music and enjoyed our crepes.  You can hear us talking as well as the conversations of some French people seated nearby.

La Voix De Son Matre

4 January 2012
New Years

New Year

"What are you doing for New Years?", or "Happy New Years!" - it drives me crazy when I hear this.  Folks, there aren’t several new years, only one, and it happens every year. 

Yes, people get easily confused because we say “New Year’s Eve”, and have started omitting the “Eve” part.  But some people sincerely believe the holiday to be called “New Years”.  In fact, I once said “Happy New Year” to a Californian buddy of mine, and he said, “What, is that how Australians say it?”.

Dude. You say it wrong.

18 December 2011
Gusting

disgusted

In English, when we deem something to be repulsive or revolting, we often use the word “disgusting”, as in “those lima beans are disgusting”.  If we were to analyze the word we’d find two parts, dis and gusting

"Dis" is a Latin prefix that reverses the word that proceeds it.  Words like dislike, discontent and disbelief all have opposing forms - like, content and belief, respectively. 

But what about “disgusting”?  Is “gusting” a word?  Yes, while it’s true wind can be said to be gusting, is there a version that means the opposite of disgusting?

In Spanish, people say “me gusta" when wanting to express that something is pleasing.  And they say "no me gusta" when expressing displeasure with a thing.  So was there ever a time in English when folks said "that food sure was gusting" after having a delightful steak dinner?

No.  We have to go all the way back to Latin to find the connection between gusting and disgusting.  The English etymology of disgusting comes from the French verb desgouster.  And that comes from the Latin word gustus.  Similarly, the Spanish verb gustar also originates from the Latin gustus

Leave it to romance languages to confuse us all.

8 October 2011
Often

This one is bound to be contentious.  I pronounce “often” as “off-ten”, as the “t” is written.  And this pronunciation is endorsed by Merriam Webster, as you can hear in this clip

But, surprisingly, Merriam Webster also endorses the other pronunciation, “off-en”, as heard here

Digging into historical pronunciation of this word, it seems to have morphed over the years.  In the 15th century, English speakers stopped pronouncing the “t” due to a cultural preference toward vowel softening.

But then in the early 19th century, some people started pronouncing the “t” again.  This is largely because the literacy rate began rising at this time, and people realized that “often” was spelled with a “t”, and started to pronouncing it. 

In 1926, H. W. Fowler in Modern English Usage wrote

[the pronunciation of the t in often] is practised by two oddly consorted classes—the academic speakers who affect a more precise enunciation than their neighbours…& the uneasy half-literates who like to prove that they can spell….”

Yes, we don’t pronounce the “t” in words like hasten, soften, listen and Christmas.  But maybe we’re wrong there too. 

In the spirit of literacy, I declare “off-ten” the correct way to say the word.

(Source: dailywritingtips.com)

24 September 2011
Endemic

If you ever hear a business person use the word “endemic”, you can rest assured he or she works in the Marketing department.  Count the number of times you hear this word the next time you’re in a Marketing meeting.  I’ll bet it’s more than ten. 

Dictionary.com defines this word as meaning “belonging exclusively or confined to a particular place”.  It is often used in medical circles to describe disease origin, as in “malaria is endemic to tropical regions”. 

In fact, the word is used most often in scientific circles, i.e. “the fish is not an endemic species of the lake, and it is rapidly devouring the native trout population” (merriam-webster) or “chicken pox is endemic to young children”. 

Some marketer somewhere picked up on this word, started using it, and now it has become “endemic” to the whole industry.  While its use is applauded and is indeed fitting, it’s out of context for the non-marketer and, in this writer’s opinion, is an attempt to sound fancy when many other more common words suffice, such as “niche” and “specific”. 

Come on marketers.

13 September 2011
Realtor

No folks, the lady in the picture above is not a “ree-li-tor”, she’s a “reel-tor”.  There is no “i” in “realtor”, and yet about half the people I hear say this word seem to think there is. And looking at the word again, just to double check, I can confirm the “i” is simply not there.

The kind folks at Merriam-Webster reinforce this truth by offering only one pronunciation of the word.  It’s “reel-tor” people.

5 September 2011
Caramel

caramel

This is perhaps one of the most hotly disputed words ever featured on yousayitwrong - “caramel”.  I grew up in Southern California and have always pronounced it like “kar-mel”.  But I remember being surrounded by those who were just as entrenched in the “ka-ra-mel” camp.  People become very passionate about defending their position with this word. 

Merriam-Webster seems to give equal weight to both pronunciations, citing “kar-mel" and "ka-ra-mel" being correct.

But I ask you, dear reader, what you call this?

carmel corn

That’s right.  It isn’t “ka-ra-mel korn”.  It’s “kar-mel korn”.  And that is how debates are won.