Wherever the Road Leads

Misappropriation of Words

Or, you can led a horse to water but you can’t unthaw a bouillon cube.

I was well into my thirties before it was pointed out to me by a woman who shall remain nameless although her initials are Bones Malone, that you can’t take some thing out of the freezer to “UNthaw” it.  If the food is frozen, it gets ‘thawed’, not ‘unthawed’, even though I had used that term all my life. If there was such a word as ‘unthaw’, then I guess it would mean, ‘to freeze’.

There’s an old story that a man who speaks three languages is trilingual, a man who speaks two language is bilingual, but a man who speaks one language is English. And, it appears many of us don’t master even a single language very well.

Worse than ‘unthaw’, perhaps, is that it wasn’t all that many years ago that I thought ‘lead’ was past tense for ‘lead’, just pronounced differently. “Today, I lead a horse to water. I lead (led) one yesterday as well.”

‘Lie’ and ‘lay’ I am simply too old to ever understand. On my tombstone will be engraved… ‘Here lies Gordon, or is it ‘lays’?”

To give my boil-in-bag rice more flavor, I throw a chicken bouillon cube into the water as it boils. I looked at the jar with the cubes the other day. It’s not spelled ‘bewl – yon’ as I have pronounced it all my life. Look to see where the letter ‘i’ is… b-o-u-*i*-l-l-o-n. It should be pronounced ‘bwee-yon’.

So, those of us with a knowledge of French shouldn’t be too smug when we hear the town in Ohio, ‘Bellefontaine’, pronounced ‘Belle Fountain’.

I know  I’m guilty of this… ‘I was suppose to have returned my library book yesterday.” ‘Supposed’, with a ‘d’ is correct. Similarly with ‘used to’ and ‘use to’. Although, I’m pretty sure the Southern expression ‘usetacud’… “I usetacud climb four sets of stairs without getting winded”… is grammatically correct.

This one irks me… ‘supposably’. As in “Supposably you learned English.” ‘Supposedly’ would be the word that is actually a word.

‘Nuclear’ can get mispronounced. Some people say ‘nu-kew-lar’. Remember it this way, “The only difference between ‘unclear’ and ‘nuclear’ is the U.N.

Not a pronunciation problem but while I think of it… an easy way to remember which is desert/dessert the tasty treat following dinner and which is desert/dessert with all the sand: You’d want to cross a ‘desert’ only once , but you might want a second helping of ‘dessert’.

However, this is my personal, award-winning mispronunciation that in the worst way, grates on my limited grasp of the English language……

In English Common law, real property, realty, or immovable property is any that has been legally defined and the improvements to it made by human efforts. A Real Estate agent sells Real Property from a Real Estate office. S/he is known as a ‘Realtor’ a ‘Real – tor’.

It is not Real-ah property nor Real-ah Estate sold from a Real-ah Estate office. Therefore, s/he should not be known as a Real-ah – tor.

I was taught grammar and English by a little old white-haired lady who was ancient in the early sixties. Biggest load of malarky I ever tried to absorb. I never dreamed that fifty years later she’d be proud of me.



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  1. Iceman Ogre  January 16, 2013

    And that is why English is SUPPOSEDLY the hardest language to learn in the world. I was told by my English/Grammar college professor that it is easier to learn Mandarin(the language spoken by the most amount of people in the world), than English. So if all the languages in the world, English is the hardest, no wonder 75% of the people in American cannot speak it correctly.

  2. elayne  January 16, 2013

    Gordon, Mrs. Fader would be soo proud. You have hit upon one of my pet peeves.. – unthaw. I had a wonderful member of my team who used this term on a regular basis.. I tried not to cringe whenever I heard it but as you well know, Leo’s cannot always ignore indiscretions. I finally explained the proper use of the word thaw and she asked me to point out to her any other grammatical errors I noticed. To this day, we are friends and she credits me in helping her in the success she has gained in her career. I can only hope that it is true at least in a small way. I know her success is definitely due to her efforts.

    • Ian L. Wilson  January 18, 2013

      …enjoyed this blog entry Gordon. Who could forget Mrs. Fader ! At work, I seemed to be always correcting the use of ‘me. myself and I’ and would receive documents for approval or signature with “Please send it to myself” or “Please send it to Mary and I”. I would have to return them to the originator for correction and sometimes sat down with the person and tried to explain the reason why. They don’t teach grammar like they used to. Start talking about the ‘subject’ or the ‘predicate’ or ‘this is the object of the preposition’ and the employee glazed over… Frankly I liked being a member of the ‘grammar police’.


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