Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Misused words and terms

My fellow netizens, we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier -- the frontier of misused words and terms...

The language is highfalutin but the concern, or more accurately the peeve, is plain enough: the continual (not continous, mind) misuse of simple words and terms in the English language.

And so we launch a new series on this blog: the inauspiciously titled Misused words and terms.

Take the word "obviously" which is derived from the adjective "obvious". "Obvious" means "easily discovered, seen or understood" or "plainly evident". Notice the qualifiers: "easily" and "evidently". Possible synonyms for the adverb "obviously" are "clearly" and "evidently". Now, think: When was the last time you heard someone using the word "obviously" correctly? I'm willing to bet that you can't remember (and I'm not a betting man except when the odds are one to nothing). The word "obviously" is almost always used to mean the exact opposite, i.e., to refer to something that is: (a) not easily discovered (if it can be discovered at all, that is) (b) not easily seen (if it's at all visible in the first place) (c) not easily understood (if at all, even by the speaker or the writer, never mind the hearer or the reader) (d) plainly non-evident.

Or take the term "taxpayers money" which is frequently used in public debate to vilify other, equally legitimate, or perhaps even more legitimate, taxpayers. Consider the attacks on private corporations that are so fashionable these days. These corporations are often accussed of, in one way or another, stealing or squandering "taxpayers money". The fact that private corporations are among the highest taxpayers, both directly and indirectly (through their employees), somehow gets lost in the wash.


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