Thursday, September 21, 2017

Precision from the Heart

Zestful Blog Post #230

One of my dearest friends had trouble with language. She couldn’t pronounce ‘hierarchy’ properly; the best she could do was ‘hyarchy.’ The word ‘weaponry’ became ‘weapondry.’ There was something about the mid-word ‘r’ sound. She would occasionally use words she’d picked up without being entirely clear on their meanings. She wanted to be thought of as a literate person. And therein lay danger.

One night she invited all of her top friends to a party at her house. I got there in the middle of the evening, grabbed a glass of wine, and went to find my hostess. She was standing with a circle of half a dozen friends, talking. When she saw me come up, she smiled and opened her arms and said—loudly, clearly: “Everybody, this is Elizabeth!” And then, in a very serious, approving tone, “Elizabeth is a pseudo-intellectual!

I stood there silently, as did the crowd. Then I realized that, very possibly, my friend did not understand the term. I murmured, “You just called me a phony.”

“Oh! That’s not what I meant at all!”

“The prefix pseudo means fake.”

“Oh! Everybody, that’s not what I meant! Elizabeth is very smart! She writes for the paper! I’m sorry, hon.”

“That’s all right.” And it was, because I loved my friend, and everybody understood.

However, it does bug me when somebody uses a word in an attempt to be linguistically impressive, especially in print. Not long ago, I read an essay in a magazine about a distinguished, prizewinning novelist. The writer of the piece referred to the author as “prosaic.” Instantly, I knew the writer meant “prolific.” But the writer probably thought about “prose,” and figured, vaguely, yeah, a lot of prose. Prosaic. Yeah, put that in.

This kind of mistake, passed over, I must painfully emphasize, not only by the writer but by the editor of the magazine, and possibly a copy editor and proofreader, in a literary magazine, makes me sigh deeply. It does not make me want to set my hair on fire or throw a hatchet through a window, but it does make me sigh deeply.

Prosaic means commonplace; literally like prose, with the implication that there is no poetry or artistry there. “My wardrobe is pretty prosaic: just jeans and polo shirts.” To be prolific is to be abundantly productive. “He’s prolific, having written ten books in five years.”

Another error I’ve noticed from time to time is the use of ‘ascetic’ for ‘aesthetic.’ They are different words. Ascetic, pronounced ass-HEH-tic, means to practice severe (usually religious) self-denial. Aesthetic, pronounced ass-THET-ic, means having to do with beauty, or the appreciation of it. “The aesthetics of the building will be important, as it will be situated on a promontory for all to see.”


Now you understand. One more for today: the increasing practice of using ‘discomforting’ to mean ‘disconcerting.’ The word that’s mixing them up is ‘discomfiting,’ which they’ve heard somewhere, and they want to use it, but at the last second they bail out to ‘discomforting,’ because they’re not really sure about ‘discomfiting,’ and ‘disconcerting’ is entirely beyond them.

To be discomfited is to feel uneasy or embarrassed.

To be disconcerted is to feel more deeply uneasy; disturbed.

To be discomforted is when somebody steals your pillow.

I am, as always, yours in the love of precision.

What do you think? Any linguistic lapses bugging you today? To post, click below where it says, 'No Comments,' or '2 Comments,' or whatever. [amazing sketch by ES]

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hurricane Thanklist

Zestful Blog Post #229

Today I’m thankful for:
The National Hurricane Center.
Mike’s Weather Page / spaghettimodels.com.
Tropicaltidbits.com.
Neighbors John and Fred.
Local pals Marj and Mark and Rick and many others.
My 22-year-old Lexus 400LS.
My mechanic.
My sister, whose diamond/platinum/uranium status in a hotel chain’s system secured me a room in a safe place at the eleventh hour. Actually, it was the fourteenth hour.
My brother.
All other family units.
Almonds.
The Manatee County Emergency Alert System.
Waze.
GasBuddy.
McDonald’s.
Two angry rednecks in a patched-together maroon Chevrolet Lumina who were trying to force me off the road but chose not to at the last second perhaps because I smiled incredulously.
Other rednecks who were even nicer.
Hilton Garden Inn, Pensacola.
Publix liquor store, Pensacola.
Dunkin Donuts, Pensacola.
A waiter named Chuck.
24 linemen and their trucks from Oklahoma, en route to the staging area in Lakeland, ma’am.


This particular line-repair convoy, snapped while driving back home, was from Alabama.

New paperback edition of The Sun Also Rises, supplemented with early drafts and deleted chapters.
The Microsoft electronics company.
Florida Power and Light.
The Frito-Lay snack company.
The Samsung electronics company.
Weather satellites and all the shit they do up there.
Google.
Adidas.
L.L.Bean.
Socks in general.
Portable soft-sided cooler technology.
The Florida state highway system.
The U.S. Interstate highway system.
Workers who clean and maintain interstate rest stops.
Katy & Steve.
Ann & Margaret.
Other good friendships too many to count accurately. But my gratitude may be measured by the metric ton.
Spiral-bound notebook technology.
Graphite and those who mine it.
Double-walled paper cup technology.
Costco gas, Tallahassee.
The Florida State Building Code of 1980.
Rachmaninoff.
Poulenc.
Anonymous Four.
The Shaggs.
Marcia.

Do you have a Hurricane Irma Thanklist? What’s on it? To post, click below where it says, 'No Comments,' or '2 Comments,' or whatever. Photo by ES.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Beautiful Challenge of Detachment

Zestful Blog Post #228

Living in Florida gives you lots of opportunities to learn to live with ambiguity. The storm may come and kill you. If it doesn’t kill you because your shelter was adequate or you got the hell out of the way, it may destroy your dwelling, all of your stuff, your neighbors’ dwellings and stuff, and maybe even the whole town.

Or it may not.

It could veer away in a little gust and leave you with a few palm fronds in your yard to clean up. Such it is with so many things. It could go wrong. It could go right. One must watch, wait, make decisions, and act.


[Graffiti in the bathroom stall at John King Books, Detroit, 2016. I think I used this photo once before. Wouldn't it make a good tattoo?]


Detachment is a powerful ally. We can’t take any of those cool possessions along in the end, anyway. Well, then! What if we detach now? We find ourselves with everything else, which is to say, everything: love, honesty, and freedom. It's a beautiful world.

What do you think? To post, click below where it says, 'No Comments,' or '2 Comments,' or whatever. Photo by ES.

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