I got a pretty strong response to my post First, a Word From Our Sponsor. It turns out that lots of people whom I know and like are language buffs too. So, maybe we’ll keep a side thread going with language news – facts and factoids. Feel free to correct me. You’ll be wrong, but I’ll be gentle.
My cousin Jeff (the super-smart engineer) wrote to say that people who confuse data (plural) and datum (singular) drive him crazy. I am with him on this. Similarly, a reminder that media is plural and medium is singular. Television is a medium. Radio and newspapers and blogs are media.
My friend Nan asked if I knew the plural of octopus. I thought, based on the high school Latin grammar which I barely remember, that the plural would be octopi. But then I looked it up (and heard from Jeff) and learned that the plural is octopodes, although most Americans just call them octopuses. I prefer octopodes because it’s spelled like Antipodes, but is pronounced differently. Octopuses sound like malformed cats.
Jeff also has a problem with people who cannot distinguish the usage of “nonetheless” at the beginning of a sentence from “however”. You can tell that Jeff and I are first cousins, can’t you?
“Nonetheless” means in spite of the previous information, while “however” introduces a phrase that is going to disagree with what came before. These are signalling words so that you can get your brain ready for what is coming. Kind of like, “you suck,” but subtler.
Any other language issues out there? I am very slowly learning American Sign Language so that I can better communicate with my friend and classmate Manuel, who is deaf. He is AMAZINGLY patient with my incompetent and sluggish finger-spelling and has taught me some cool signs. Here’s me doing my favorite: “Star Trek” (you have to imagine that I have flown my hand through space).
My last pet peeve for the day: entomology (the study of insects) versus etymology (the study of word origins). NOT THE SAME!
Your turn. Send me what bugs you – etymologically speaking, of course.