Welcome back to “Best of Anything That Strikes Someone’s Fancy” series. This is from 2012. It’s a pleasure to feature former Writers Forum newsletter editor and wordsmith extraordinaire, Jennifer Phelps.
by Jennifer Phelps
These days everybody seems to be “loosing” things. It’s as if the entire English-speaking world has forgotten how to spell the word “lose.” This problem is most likely perpetuated by the fact that spell check doesn’t balk at “loose.” It’s a word, just the wrong one in many instances.
I should probably consider the possibility that these are not typographical errors and that everyone has taken a detached, carefree attitude toward life. Maybe they have simply started cutting things loose. They loose their keys. They loose their wallets. They think that they may be “loosing it.” I think of the lyrics of that old hit song by 38 Special: “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” Perhaps everyone has taken this to be gospel and has started loosing things. It’s a paradigm shift of epic proportions.
Spell check may be in part to blame for the prevalence of “loosing” (if one rejects my paradigm shift theory), but the “autocorrect” feature on smartphones, Facebook, etc., is often responsible for other, even more amusing incorrect word substitutions. If I’m not careful about meticulous proofreading, these things will get by me. What’s interesting is how “autocorrect” seems to choose bizarre words that are far less common than the one that was intended. The other day someone mentioned the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz, but autocorrect exchanged “wicket” for “wicked.” This created a whole new villain. Everyone taking part in the exchange (on Facebook) appreciated language, and we had fun speculating about this “Wicket Witch.” Someone suggested that perhaps she takes pleasure in (gasp) seeking out and ruining croquet games!
I recently saw the words imminent and eminent mixed up with entertaining results. Substituting eminent for imminent, like this offender did, can be funny (an eminent disaster, for instance), but what if imminent were substituted for eminent? Is an imminent leader one who is sure to be elected? I have to wonder.
These sorts of errors happen in the context of technical language, too. In my medical transcription work, I’ve seen people mix up discreet and discrete, transcribing in all seriousness a “discreet nodule in the axilla” or a “discreet lesion seen on CT scan.” It is reassuring to think that although these findings may well represent some unfavorable pathology, they are at least being discreet about it.
It really isn’t nice of me to assume such a snobbish attitude toward those among us who aren’t acquainted with the finer nuances of the English language. I have to remind myself often that it’s their language, too. They are as entitled to misuse it as I am entitled to use it correctly, but I do take a sort of “wicket” satisfaction in these language blunders. I am not “loosing” my manners, though; when an “imminent” member of the writing community has made the error, I try to hide my amusement whenever possible. It always pays to be “discrete.”
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