Hello, hello, hello people of blog-land! J Monkeys here, wishing you another happy Saturday! As a writer, I know that words are a sacred thing, however, the ADD part of my brain has been telling my mouth to open and my foot to be solidly inserted therein for as long as I can remember. It doesn’t help that the dang English language has so many words. Nobody seems to have done an exhaustive count because it’s difficult to do, but there are easily a couple million words in English – maybe many more.
A couple of articles I read suggest that the average person uses a few thousand words a week (likely the same-ish bunch of words, week after week) and an “educated person” may use and understand 20,000 words or something like that. With so many words out there, it is easy to understand how people can occasionally misspeak, like I did at lunchtime, today.
I was talking about my new…well, “favorite TV show” is a strong phrase, but suffice it to say that I really like Lizard Lick Towing. See last week’s post for info on the show. But I was telling my sister that I didn’t think I could be a Repo-man. They are always getting hit and beat up, to say nothing of the occasional weapon being flashed their way or the crazy guy who threw Mazel Tov cocktails at them and set their truck on fire.
That would be when my sister spewed her Sprite across the table.
“Did you say Mazel Tov cocktail?” she choked out between bouts of snarfling laughter.
I hung my head – she had me. Of course I know the term is molatov cocktail, but I was thinking about a bunch of things while I was talking, packing for my family vacation (which means packing for at least 4 people,) the novel that I’ve been slacking off, the housework to be done before leaving on said vacation, the job I applied for, the bills to be paid, the blog posts to be written before leaving at dawn. You get the idea. I mispoke. There is no such thing as a Mazel Tov cocktail, and of course I hope I haven’t offended anyone, but I thought it was funny that somehow my brain mixed those two words together.
I used to be a recruiter and people would often slightly misuse words during job interviews in what I thought was an effort to seem smarter. And I once had a nurse at a local children’s hospital demand to know if my (then) 2-month old infant had been incarcerated. I know some people would say that society has gone to hell in a handcart, but we aren’t so bad that we put babies in jail!
Now on the other end of the spectrum, what might it be like to live in one of those cultures where there is only one word for red? We have easily 20 words for shades of red: red, scarlet, burgundy, cardinal, chestnut, crimson, fire, brick, lava, flame, fushia, magenta, maroon, redwood, rose, ruby, rosewood, cherry, rust, terra cotta, vermillion. That’s just a quick wikipedia search. I’m sure I could easily find a bunch more.
But what would it be like if all shades of red and pink were simply called “red”? We have so many choices for things here in the good old US of A that it only makes sense that we have lots of choice when it comes to words, too. Back when I taught writing to Accountants, I used to call this the adjective heat map. It’s the subtle variations between words that give English so much flavor. But maybe, some times, we have too many words and our tongues get tied up or our brain stumbles and we end up with the Mazel Tov Cocktail. Sigh.
Today’s Secret: It’s okay to misspeak occasionally. In fact, it’s funny! But when you are interviewing for a job, stick to words you really know. 🙂
Today’s Question: What’s your best gaffe?