Sunday, June 26, 2016

All Muddled Up

There are those times when you're trying to dash something off on a social media site and in the back of your mind you sense that the word you're using isn't the right one. In the alternative, something tells you it isn't spelled properly - you're using the homonym for what you really want to say. But there you are trying to dash off a quick response to something. You ignore that instinct that I affectionately call "My Muse" and click Post. No going to Dictionary.com to check the spelling. No tolling the benefits of spell check. Auto-correct! Isn't that a four-letter word!?

So eight different instances of using the term in different posts (and a couple of other terms) that My Muse started nagging you about that are also generously sprinkled about your social media home (still without checking the spelling or usage of the terms), and

lo and behold!

You come upon all of them in a news headline - spelled correctly. And you've been telling people you have perfect spelling and are a quality proofreader. Would you like this plain paper bag to cover your head - and embarrassment?

In the alternative, you wrote it one way. Then you reasoned through whether that was the correct version of what you wanted to say. Let's say the word was about courage and fortitude. You know that sword metal needs to be tempered and tested. Does that, therefore, mean that the character's "metal" is being tested or is the character's "mettle" the subject of the passage. You go with "metal" because the result will be the strongest possible. It would be so much wiser to double check which spelling (thus, which word) is the one that should be used. Two days later you decide to double check. That's when you're reminded about the other homonyms, "medal", "metal", "mettle", and (just for good measure, "meddle"). Are you slapping your forehead with the palm of your hand? Here's an ice pack. Your face has a few blue marks and I don't think they're from an editor's - or copyeditor's, for that matter - pencil.

Maybe you can make an argument about the location of Briton and how it's related to Britain. (And we won't even get into whether either one is spelled with one "t" or two.) Of course, the person listening to the rationale won't tell you that one is a person from the region whereas the other is the region. They'll simply hand you a mental shovel as they walk away with that strange smirk on their face.

Their loss. They don't know about your sharp wit and mounds of awards for public speaking and debate.

Besides, there are all of those new words that are becoming part of our lexicon these days because of global language blending, colloquialisms, and idioms that allow all (global all) of us to speak in emoji and Twitter-speak. Remember those good old days? You know, the ones where we were scrambling to keep up with computerese? That time from the 1980s when computers were becoming every person's language as we evolved from "every man's" language.

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