Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fractured Words and Phrases

I like words. You probably already know that about me. Over the years, I've "collected" some that fascinate and tickle me.

I like words that aren't used often--older words, I suppose. I worked for an attorney for several years who had absolutely the best sense of humor--he and I would have each other laughing about something just about every day. And here's something you may not know: Attorneys tell the best stories! Of course, attorneys tend to be pretty good with words, so I figure it comes naturally. Anyway, every now and then, this attorney would say that something made him feel quite "giddy." Of course, it was said for effect--the thought of a grown man becoming "giddy" over something is humorous in itself. But I like "giddy." I really need to use it more often.

Then there are words and phrases that aren't quite right, or that may be a little questionable. I like them too.

I remember when I was young--like teenager or young adult young--I always thought the correct phrase was "not by a long shot" until I read in a book, "not by a long chalk." Well, who knows how each of us interprets what we hear? "Shot" and "chalk" sound very similar, don't they? We often hear things a bit wrong, especially phrases. So which was correct? I've occasionally heard the phrase and wondered: Is it "shot" or "chalk"? Which is it?

Turns out they're both right. Now that we have the internet, it's simple to find answers, and here's what I came across:

"Whether it was suggested by a difficult long shot attempted in archery or shooting isn't known, but the expression 'a long shot' first arose in British racing circles some 128 years ago as a bet laid at large odds, a bold wager. NOT BY A LONG SHOT therefore means hopelessly out of reckoning. Attempts have been made to derive the saying from the slightly earlier NOT BY A LONG CHALK, which comes from the use of chalk for reckoning points in tavern games. But 'not by a long chalk' means 'not by much,' so it seems that the phrase (long shot) derives from either archery or shooting." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997). So there you go: You learn something new every day!

In high school, we had to take a foreign language, and I took French. The only other options were Spanish and German. Not that I remember much French--come to think of it, I probably didn't even really LEARN enough to REMEMBER. I seriously don't do well with anything other than good old English. (I even failed at shorthand!) One word I do remember, though, is "Voila!" And I don't know how or when it happened, but in recent years, I often see "Walla!" written instead--it seems to have become quite common. Maybe it became popular during that time when everyone in America hated France and started calling French fries "freedom fries." Remember that? Or maybe it's like the difference between "long shot" and "long chalk." The first couple times I saw "walla!," I was puzzled, but now I know it's an American variation on "voila." I just hope that if I use "Voila!," people will understand what I mean.

The funniest "wrong word" incident--and maybe this was rather mean spirited of me--was when an attorney I worked for made handwritten revisions to a document to be filed with the court. Where she wanted to say "for all intents and purposes," she wrote "for all intensive purposes." Now you'd think that after seven years of post-high school education--in a field where WORDS are so important--an attorney would have some grasp of common phrases, wouldn't you? The funny thing is that this particular attorney was a pain in the you-know-what, and that day, she'd truly tested my patience. Perhaps, then, you'll understand when I tell you that I still get a little giddy when I remember that I didn't correct her mistake.

Here's your word for today:

gid·dy

Definition: 1. a. Having a reeling, lightheaded sensation; dizzy. b. Causing or capable of causing dizziness: a giddy climb to the topmast. 2. Frivolous and lighthearted; flighty.

Use it in a sentence. And hey! Have a giddy day!

24 comments:

Orcsmom said...

Voila is what I say when I complete a project, so that means I don't say it much! Can't wait to show you the pattern I got in Las Vegas tomorrow night at Clues in Calico. See ya then!

Pam

PS-Hope you are feeling better!

ratherbquilting said...

I love that story. That PITA attorney deserved it (Pain In The A**). I think I need more giddiness in my life!

~Kristie said...

When I began reading this post, it reminded me of a phrase that my DH said incorrectly years ago. Imagine my surprise when I saw it at the end of your post - 'for all intensive purposes'! At least DH has a good excuse, since he is originally from another country ;) Thanks for the chuckle!

Teresa said...

How about the word "moot"? I hear people saying something is moot or a moot point, meaning its no longer debatable. when I looked up the word moot, it means debatable. Which is just the opposite of the way folks use moot. So I guess you could say the use of the word moot is moot.

Teresa said...

I read my comment over after I posted it. My grammar is awful!

Teresa said...

I read my comment over after I posted it. My grammar is awful!

debby said...

I worked in a law firm back in the pre-computer days. The attorney dictated a long document about a client who had a staph infection. He took a RED MAGIC MARKER and wrote 'staff' over each 'staph'. It was pages and pages and pages on a typewriter, and I had to redo it all. Me= high school education, Lawyer = 7 years post-high school education. Grrrrrrrrr.

debby said...

I have a friend who "nips it in the butt". She's also great at mixing metaphors.

Nancy said...

We still tease our daughter about the word Congregate...

She was a junior and thought she was very worldly... Once when I asked her where the gang was going, she said they were "going to conjugate in the parking lot of McDonalds".
And when I was very young, I thought I had relatives named Oseneda. I had never met him(or her and didn't know which it was). When I finally met them, I found out my Aunt and Uncles names were Os (short for Ostell) and Eda.
Of course, I also thought that Al and Paul were two men living together. Not until I met them did I realize that Al was short for Alvateen... I was very confused as a child....LOL

Amy R said...

I am so glad you did NOT do the correction! Too funny!

dianne said...

ha ha ha! sometimes i make up words - just to see if anyone is listening ...... my oldest daughter (bachelor's degree in psych - how marketable is that - and Masters degree in sumpin sumpin) still says "opposed" instead of "supposed" as in "you are opposed to do it this way" ... and i laugh so hard that it makes me GIDDY!

Patchwork Penguin said...

It is amazing how things are misunderstood and misspelled. My husband is the Director of Research with a Foundation and he was asked to proofread a scholarship criteria. The scholarship, as written, was to help a student study in England, Scotland, and Whales. Needless to say he put a note on it and said that they didn't provide funds for large, seafaring mammals.

Hugs,

Nancy

Suzanne Kistler said...

Just the other day I was laughed at for using the word "skedaddle." Doesn't everyone use that word? Voila!, giddy...I thought those were common words as well. They are for me! :)

I LOVE your not correcting that attorney! She have should known better than to tweak her secretary - without you, she's NOTHING!!!

Nicole said...

Great post! I have always loved words as well, and get a kick out of commonly misused words. Hopefully, infer/imply, complement/compliment, farther/further. There are so many!

Yvonne said...

My younger sister used to "recommend" her children instead of reprimanding them.
And she also liked to feed them "babarian" cream pie. She has a long list of them she uses quite frequently. Loved your post....I hope you're feeling giddy. :)

Anonymous said...

I always liked the work "asinine" for it's shockk value, esp to younger kids and teens. A high sxhool teacher first exposed me to it, and I still remember the gasps in the classroom when he said it!(means foolish)Hugs, CAthy T

Jen in NY said...

Ha! That is great. Truth be told, for a long time I thought it was "for all intensive purposes" too! hee hee! My mom used to say, "supposebly" instead of "supposedly." And you know I've heard lots of people say it incorrectly.

One of my favorite "old" sayings is "How's that?" if I didn't hear what someone said. You don't hear that much anymore but I get a kick out of it.

Amanda said...

I say that things make me giddy all the time. I'm from the deep South, so I probably say a lot of things that most people don't. I don't say "fixin'" though. For example: I'm fixin' to go to the store. No, I don't say that!!!

My Aunt H. had visited an older Aunt in the nursing home one day. My Mom asked Aunt H. how the older Aunt was doing, and she said "Well. She's a little disoriental." That was years ago and we still laugh about it.

I had never heard of "shotgun". It means that you want the front passenger seat. Well, as I said, I had never heard of that before until I moved to Kentucky. My friends and I were in front of a court house one day visiting the quilt shop across the street. We were walking towards my car and my friend, Terry, yelled "Shotgun!". I held my hands over my head, squated down beside my car, and started screaming. She still laughs at me about that!

Amanda said...

I thought of something else. No, it's not funny like "shotgun"! lol

Where I live people don't have ideas they have ideals. For example, "That's a great ideal!".

Gran said...

Boy oh boy, I am laughing (to myself) so loud I woke up Roddy, my little doggie, who was sleeping across the kitchen from me. Between your post and the peanut gallery comments I don't think I am going to go to bed for a while now. Thank you for a delightful end of the day.

Voila!!

PS I do have one word that popped into my mind - oh, oh - when my DH and I first married, I noticed in conversations with young mothers that they would use the word "bougger." (You know something I do not even know how to spell it.) Well, I finally asked my DH what the words meaning was, and he of course wanted me to give him some context.... To this day I can not bring myself to call any of my children a little bougger as a term of endearment or refer to any crusted up green nasal discharge as that.

Well, I am off to figure out what to do with the extra energy I got from in-taking extra oxygen from laughing.

MichelleB said...

OMG - Amanda's story was hysterical! Too funny. I'm not sure if this counts, but what drives me crazy (and I see it all the time while reading other blogs) is the mix up of "then" and "than". Of course, I can't think of an example right now, but it drives me crazy. (Crazy - a place I drive to often, lol)

Chris said...

I guess from the time I started talking, our family always said "good night and gablesh you." I didn't know what it meant but we always said it to each other when we went to bed. Well, I finally found out when I was in my teens that we were actually saying "Good night and God bless you." I still carry on that tradition every night, but I spoke clearly when my kids were young so they would understand what we were saying.
chris

Arlene said...

My friends and I were marveling the other day about the fact that if people misuse a word long enough, it becomes a recorded definition. A case in point - factoid actually means an invented fact (oid meaning not quite true) - but it has been used so often to refer to a true fact that now it is defined also as a true fact!

Arlene said...

My friends and I were marveling the other day about the fact that if people misuse a word long enough, it becomes a recorded definition. A case in point - factoid actually means an invented fact (oid meaning not quite true) - but it has been used so often to refer to a true fact that now it is defined also as a true fact!