I Wish I Had . . .

. . . Studied Latin.

I have a long list of things in my past I wish I had done differently, and my depression has to do with a lot of them. When I was depressed, I limited my options.

I thought I’d share some of those I Wish I Hads from time to time. Here’s the first one.

In high school and college, I studied French and Spanish. I didn’t study Latin.

French and Spanish are based on Latin. So is English. English was my best love and my strong suit in high school, and I knew I would be an English major in college.

It is said that to understand and use the English language well you really need to know Latin. But I never studied it. I thought I could get by without it. For an English major, how stupid is that?

If you study English language or literature, sciences, the law, medicine, government, et al (Latin for and others), you will be awash in Latin words and phrases.

In 17th and 18th Century, all educated English speakers would have known Latin. Our founding fathers were among those educated speakers. Our national motto, e pluribus unum, (out of many, one) is Latin.

Latin is supposed to be a “dead” language now, but it thoroughly permeates our English language. (Permeate, from the Latin permeare, to pass through.)

We use a lot of Latin words in every day English. Here Are Just A Few:

Agenda, bona fide, consensus, de facto, et cetera, facsimile, habeas corpus, incommunicado, media, non compos mentis, onus, per capita, quantum, renegade, semper fidelis, terra firma, ultra, versus.

Pretty good for a dead language, huh?

I read more non-fiction than fiction these days (biography, history, medicine, politics, science), and I frequently find myself having to stop and look up a Latin word or phrase I’m unfamiliar with. I’m reading the redacted Mueller report now, and it’s full of academic and legal Latin.

So yes, I kick myself regularly now that I didn’t learn Latin.

Peace and joy, and I hope your “I wish I hads” are few.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

On Language: Are you anxious or eager?

Today’s post is about the words Anxious and Eager.

Mary was anxious to buy a new car.

Sid was anxious to meet her.

We anxiously awaited the train.

All three correct, because anxious and eager mean the same thing, right?

Well, no.

Our language, being a living language, is always changing.

The English language would be much poorer today if the Norman French hadn’t invaded Saxon England in 1066 and brought with them a whole new vocabulary: words like ancestor, attain, bachelor, boutique, chevalier, clarinet, cul-de-sac–to name just a very, very few. Look up a list of English words of French origin and you will see just how thoroughly the French language embedded itself into English beginning with the Norman Conquest.

Similar things happen on a smaller scale whenever English-speaking peoples come in contact with people from other civilizations and cultures: From Greek, we get atlas, chaos, muse, and democracy, the very foundation of our government,

Mogul and Mantra from Hindi,

Algebra and Coffee from Arabic,

Angst and Kaput from German,

And last but not least, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and eight other U.S. state names, plus hundreds of county, town, river, and creek names from the Native American people displaced from their lands by their European invaders.

It seems early settlers loved Indian places names, but Indian people themselves–not so much.

Okay, back to anxious and eager.

The foundation of modern English and the Romance languages (Spanish,PortugueseFrenchItalian, and Romanian ) is Latin.

The word Anxious comes from Latin, and means uneasy, greatly troubled by uncertainties. The origin of Eager is also Latin, and means enthusiastic, wanting to do or be something very much.

Now go back to the three questions above.

Was Mary uneasy or greatly troubled about buying a new car? Or was she enthusiastic, wanting to do it?

She could have been either, depending on circumstances, but most likely the prospect of buying a new car made her enthusiastic and very much wanting to do it. Thus, she was eager .

The same could be said of the next two sentences: The desired word probably would be eager.

Yet nine out of ten times these days when you hear someone say anxious they really mean eager.

Language purists like me get their innards all twisted when they hear these meanings commingled. We don’t like perfectly good words taken over by other words that don’t really mean the same. We want anxious to mean troubled about something and eager to mean looking forward to something.

ALAS,

Language purists like me are fighting a losing battle on keeping words as they are. Because here we come to another truism about our living English language:

Over time, word meanings change.

Once, awful used to mean awe-inspiring. Now it means really bad.

Meat was once any solid food, as opposed to drink. Now it refers to animal flesh.

Not that long ago, if you said something was dear, you meant it was expensive. Now if you say something is dear, you probably mean it is loved and cherished.

This meaning migration is one of the things that makes English such a rich, vital language. Popular usage makes it happen, over and over again. We can’t stop it.

Anxious and eager could have different meanings to future English speakers. (Assuming there will be future English or any other speakers, given what we have been doing to our planet. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

HOWEVER,

In our lifetimes, I’m still a language purist. I’d still like to see us use anxious to mean uneasy or greatly troubled about something, and eager to mean greatly enthusiastic about it.

That’s my two cents’ worth.

As always, Peace and Joy,

And thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

On Language: Are You Uninterested or Disinterested?

1. If you were on trial for murder, would you rather the judge were:

A. Uninterested

B. Disinterested

2. If you were giving a speech and you saw most of your audience yawning or nodding off or staring at their smart phones, would you conclude your audience was:

A. Uninterested

B. Disinterested

The answer to Question 1 is B, Disinterested. The answer to Question 2 is A, Uninterested.

Here’s why:

Disinterested means  unbiased, unprejudiced, impartial, neutralnonpartisan. All qualities you would want in a judge trying your case. 

Uninterested means unconcerned, bored, distant, uninvolved, aloof. Exactly what you would not want in the audience to your speech.

Here’s the problem:

Increasingly, Disinterested has overtaken Uninterested as the universal word for unconcerned, bored, aloof, and for unbiased, unprejudiced, impartial, as in “He was disinterested in the magazine article.” In this example, it’s possible the person was taking a neutral, impartial stance on the magazine article, but it’s much more probable he was just bored by it.

Some dictionaries have given up and are now accepting disinterest and uninterest as meaning the same. Do not follow their lead! Stand up for precision in using these two words. Use Disinterested when you’re standing before a judge. Use Uninterested when you’re standing in front of a bored audience.

You’ll be a language pro.

You Can Say Something Sucks Now

I’m showing my age. Once upon a time the word “suck” was shorthand for something you weren’t to say in polite society.

In my high school and college days, I was very much into folk music. I subscribed to Sing Out! Magazine, must-reading for folkies back then. There were many folk music album reviews.

In October 1966, Simon and Garfunkel released their brilliant album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Not really a folk album, but for some reason it was reviewed in Sing Out! I thought the review sucked, and decided to write a letter to Sing Out! saying so. I considered myself rather a social rebel at that time, but being shy, I rebelled mostly in writing.

The letter was short and to the point. I don’t remember the reviewer’s name now, so I can’t quote the letter exactly. Here it is.

     Dear Sing Out!

Your review of  Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme sucks. Perhaps Mr. (reviewer} just doesn’t understand poetry?

Well, they published the letter. But it read, in publication:

     Your review of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme . . . .  Perhaps Mr. (reviewer) just doesn’t understand poetry?

Such language delicacy wouldn’t happen now. People say something sucks all the time. I still say it sometimes. People say “fuck” all the time now, too. I say it sometimes, but only with people I know won’t be offended. I don’t consider “suck” and “fuck” my always go-to words, as many people seem to these days. Those words are meant to have shock value, and I think they just get boring when they’re used all the time.

Well, times change. As I said, I’m showing my age.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

 

Flawless Documents

I have not posted for a while because I have been setting up my new business, Flawless Documents Proofreading and Editing. I invite you to visit my website, http://www.flawlessdocs.com, if you would like to learn more.  I serve clients in the Eugene-Springfield, Oregon area and online nationwide.

Here is one of my local business ads:

Flawless Documents Proofreading and Editing

Marjorie Beck, Eugene, Oregon

I help you create Flawless Documents: Letters, Manuscripts, Term Papers, College Application Essays, Resumes, Dissertations, Family Histories, Memoirs, Whatever. I love to work with your words.
I can work with online text editors, old fashioned typewriting, handwriting. (I taught 7th and 9th grade English classes; I can read just about anybody’s handwriting.)
I am a meticulous proofreader and editor. At minimum, I will guarantee your document is free from grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word use errors. If you feel your writing needs a little more help, I will edit as much or as little as you want. I enjoy helping non-native English speakers with their writing.
I charge $20/hr, with a minimum of $20, and a 20% first-time discount for new clients. For really long documents, I will negotiate a maximum charge. I guarantee my work. If you don’t like my editing, you don’t pay.
Call 541-913-1370 or email marjoriebeck@flawlessdocuments.net to tell me how I can help you with your writing. I also invite you to visit my website, http://www.flawlessdocs.com.
Thanks for reading my blog. 
Marjorie Beck

 

He goes, I’m like, Well I mean

Today’s post is about language. I’m usually a pretty mellow person, but when it comes to language use I’m a curmudgeon.  Like all people growing up, I was surrounded by the slang of my generation, and much of that slang I liked and used. For instance, you’ll still hear me saying the  “Far Out!” when I really like something.

Slang is creative. Slang is imaginative. Slang is playful. I’m all for that. One of my favorite epithets is “God’s teeth!”, introduced to me in a novel I read in graduate school. I think it was Kingsley Amos’ Lucky Jim, but I’m not sure. The origin of the phrase is apparently Elizabethan.

What always gets my dander up and awakens my inner curmudgeon is hearing “I’m like” and “he’s like” (which seems to have replaced “I go” and “he goes”) for “I said” and “he said”.  It started as teenspeak, and now it seems damn near universal as those teens have grown up. To me it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

My latest outrage is hearing professional journalists and commentators on news talk shows start their comments with “I mean,” or sometimes “Well, I mean” or “Yeah, I mean”. Where the hell does that come from? More teenspeak? These are professionals  who ought to know better. God’s Teeth!

Thank you for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

Marjorie Beck