Friday, February 15, 2013

Language Barriers

Hi, everyone!  It's not quite time for me to do another post (I was going to do that over the weekend) but I came across this article today, and just had to share it.

Anyone who knows me well can tell you: I get crazy over the butchering of the English language.  How many times have I shouted "hanged!" when some TV program announced that a thief had been "hung" for his crime? You don't feel bad. Bad what? It's badly; it's an adverb.  Maybe you should have went, but I should have gone. (Mother pounded THAT one into me, having been a youthful offender.)

I come by this mega-focus honestly.  My mother's father only went to the "third book" in his schooling in Sligo, but prided himself on speaking English better than The British people who surrounded him when he worked in England. He impressed the need for clear, concise speech upon my mother.  She, in turn, passed it to me.  I have always been thankful for that.  If the English forced us to speak their language, we would out do them at their own game.  Besides, it helped us acclimate better into the American melting pot when we were forced by famine, poverty or prejudice to leave our sacred isle.

I love when folks don't quite get the saying, or song lyric, right.  That's given rise to such cute books as "Olive, the Other Reindeer". .. or people singing "You're the tea in my coffee.." (??? It's cream, by the way).  Even my own dear, sweet Gary has fallen into the trap.  He would sing along with the car radio when our station played "Grovin" by the Lovin Spoonful. (Look them up, children):

 "Life would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie grovin'..."

Leslie?  Who the hell was Leslie?

(The actual line is " and me endlessly grovin'.)  Yes, brats, I know. Grovin' - not an actual word. Complain to John Sebastian....(sigh)...look him up.

With that said, may I present:
Ten Commonly-Misused Expressions From British English

By Fraser McAlpine | Posted on Thursday,
February 14th, 2013

Mustard unpassed

Language is a liquid constant. Its only job is to communicate and, really, so long as it does this reasonably efficaciously, none of us have any reason to complain about the rights and wrongs of other people’s communication. I mean, so long as I get what you mean when you say “pacifically how many people are coming to dinner?” or “I could care less about your new jumper,” does it really matter if you’ve used the wrong term, or got a little confused with your idioms? I mean REALLY?
OK, OK it matters! Stop shouting…
For you, then, here are 10 expressions that people commonly mess up, and the reasons why they are the way they are:
1: Pass mustard
 So, first of all, the expression you’re aiming at is pass muster – a state of being where you’ve been tested and come through with flying colors. There is also the expression cut the mustard, meaning the same thing. However, there is no pass mustard. And cut the mustard is thought to be derived from a mishearing of pass muster in the first place, so this whole thing is just a mess of badly applied condiments.
2: Tow the line
Unless you’re a shire horse, pulling a barge down a canal, your opportunities to tow the line will be few and far between. However, if there’s a line that you cannot cross – real or figurative – it’s your feet that will need to be kept in check, just ask Johnny Cash. Therefore, the thing you need to do is toe the line.
3: Chomping at the bit
A frustrated or excitable horse will sometimes mouth his (or her) bit, in frustration that they can’t just get on with, y’know, running around the field or kicking a stable-boy (or girl) in the ribs (or groin). This mouthing and biting action is called champing. So the expression for someone in a state of high excitement or frustration is champing at the bit. The horse isn’t chomping at the bit, because while chomping also means biting and chewing, the inference is that the act of chomping breaks the chomped item down into bits for the purpose of swallowing. And a horse that swallows his (or her) bit is not a healthy horse.
But, given that none of us is a horse, it’s close enough to be a forgiveable error, surely?
4: Nip it in the butt
Please don’t nip things in the butt, you’ll only get a slap in the face for your trouble. If you’re nipping anything in the anywhere – ie you want to prevent situations from growing into bigger and worse situations – the correct thing to do is nip while those things are in the bud (ie, before they flower). It’s about gardening, not sexual harassment.

5: Just desserts
The idea that some idiot is about to settle down, after a hearty meal and fork a mouthful of revenge pudding into his gob may be highly appealing, but that’s not the expression, it’s just deserts. In this case, deserts means “that which a person deserves,” with just deserts being a more righteous version. Granted, there is no other context in which anyone uses the word deserts to mean that, but that is what it means.
6: Ice tea
It’s iced tea. See that rapper Ice-T? Well he’s not only got himself a curiously frou frou name for his street poetry persona, but he didn’t even get the reference right. So much for keeping it real.

7: Wait with baited breath
Another expression that requires specialist understanding of the words involved, without which, any similar-sounding and familiar will (and have been) thrown in there instead. If you’re holding your breath waiting for someone, your ability to breathe has temporarily been abated, so to wait with ‘bated breath means to forgo breathing, not to dangle maggots from your tongue.
8: Deep-seeded
Now, if a thing is buried deep, like a seed, that’s one thing. But that’s not what the expression you’re thinking of means. To have a deep-seated objection, or a deep-seated conviction of any kind, you’re describing something that is not only deep but firmly rooted. In nature, things that are firmly rooted tend not to be seeds any more, so even if the mis-heard version of the saying was correct, it’d be wrong.

9: Anchors away!
Seamen! Seawomen! Do not throw your anchors away. You will need them. But if you want to raise them from the sea bed, so that you can start your journey, your anchor will become a-weigh, meaning its full weight is clear of the bottom. This confusion is one of those things that sounds like it makes more sense when it’s wrong, but doesn’t.

10: A tough road to hoe
Any road would be tough to hoe, what with all that tarmac and concrete. But you don’t hoe roads, you hoe rows.


What can I say? RUE BRITANNIA!!!

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