The Interesting Ways That We Use Words

bird with glassses looking at a dictionary
Image by MonikaP from Pixabay

As bloggers, we play with words. Some of them are more fun quirky than others. Here are a few of the interesting ways we use words.

The pond that separates us

Despite speaking the same language, there are a lot of differences between British-speak and American-speaking, with Canadian-speak thrown in there somewhere in between. Blogging has brought me into more regular contact with Brit-speak than ever before.

I always have to pause and think when I hear “half ten”. Is it 9:30 or 10:30? I know it’s 10:30, but I need an extra second to be sure about that.

I still haven’t gotten used to “GP’s surgery.” I know what it is, but it still doesn’t make sense. Unless they’re performing surgery, why is it a surgery?

Speaking of healthcare, what on earth is with the nursing sister and matron job titles in the NHS? Most of the world is moving away from gendered job titles, but not the NHS! The term “modern matron” in particular seems like rather an oxymoron.

What’s up with the pronunciation of lieutenant and colonel? The American pronunciation of lieutenant is fine; it’s a reasonable anglicization of the French. But why in Canada and the UK are we throwing an “f” sound in there?

Then there are words and expressions I’ve learned from fellow bloggers across the pond. Ami of Undercover Superhero introduced me to the phrase “got on my tits,” which creates some interesting imagery. Rory of A Guy Called Bloke introduced me to cracking and, more recently, pootlings.

Dis-/-less

If someone can be discombobulated, does that mean that they were combobulated to start off with? What about someone who is disgruntled? Did they start off gruntled?

It turns out that gruntled is actually a word. Combobulated, on the other hand, is not. However, if you’re going through TSA screening at the airport in Milwaukee, there’s a designated recombobulation area. That’s not an actual word either, but at least people have been making it up with somewhat greater frequency than combobulated.

Normally, “-less” gets tacked onto the end of a word to make it mean “without”. Except there is no “normal” in English. A couple of exceptions are feckless and shiftless; there are no fecks to be given, and there are shifts, but they have nothing to do with shiftlessness. Oh, and irregardless? Not a proper word. Regard-less does the job on its own; no ir- required.

Words & phrases from TV

In my mind, Seinfeld will always be the best show to ever be on TV. Aside from that, though, it’s contributed many sayings that are still well recognized, including soup Nazi, low talker, shrinkage, anti-dentite, and not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And chances are the word “pivot” will forever be pronounced in your head the way Ross shouted it in an episode of Friends.

Me or her?

Some people like to refer to themselves in the third person. I find it rather strange, but that’s just me. I used to work with someone who did this frequently. His girlfriend also worked with us, and she said she tried to break him of the habit, but she had no success.

The versatility of swear words

Talking about emotions coming and going, Paula of Light Motifs II said “Sometimes it’s a long-ass train.” In general, swear words can be added on to either the beginner or end of most words to add a nice bit of emphasis. A long train is just so much less interesting than a long-ass train or a long as fuck train.

A few assorted others

The word “up” is the most versatile two-letter word going, e.g. get up, speak up, screw up, line up, dress up, open up, close up, etc. (University of Arizona). Then there’s up for and down for, which perhaps should be opposites, but they’re not.

You may also have noticed there’s no ham in hamburger, no apple or pine in pineapple, no egg in eggplant, and no sweets or bread in sweetbreads (while sweetmeats have no meat).

Some people say “I’m on my period,” but I’ve always said “I have my period.” I’ve tried to look up this difference, because I’m curious that way, but I haven’t figured out if it’s a regional thing, something else, or just random.

Canada has some quirky regional terminology for men’s underwear. Gotch and gitch are used in central Canada, and gonch and ginch are used in western Canada. My dad is from central Canada, so I grew up in a gotch household. I despise the word almost as much as I despise the word panties.

Personal quirks

I’m not that big a fan of Batman, but there are some gems from the Adam West era, such as “Holy purple cannibals, Batman” (and yes, that’s a real example). I was particularly taken by this about 20 years ago, but rather than being creative enough to come up with the word(s) in the middle of that sentence, I just shortened it to “holy Batman!”

I’ve gone through assorted other idiosyncratic phrases over the years. A current one is “grates my rutabagas” (annoys me). Perhaps it stems from my brother’s prolific creation of his own words when he was a kid.

Do you have any personal favourite odd or interesting expressions?

an assortment of idioms for describing people

43 thoughts on “The Interesting Ways That We Use Words”

  1. Having a blog on here is great! You get to know awesome people who don’t judge you for being silly. ; )

  2. I would have no idea if “half ten” is 9:30 or 10:30. I’d intuitively think the former. But, fortunately, we Americans are an easily confused lot and just add on “half past ten” or “half of ten” to straighten things out. But somewhere along the line I picked up “good on you.” And, that gets me some odd looks sometimes. It’s such a great phrase, though, with such fun ways of shading its meaning through stress and intonation.

  3. I laugh when my family in America tell me the time. We use 1/4 past, half past, or 5 past 10 and so on lol. ‘Getting on my tits’, I love, and ‘gets up my nose’, or ‘laughed my head off’ but my American brother-in-law just thinks “How can you laugh your head off?”

    He laughed hilariously when I told him to “f*ck off, and when you get there, f*ck of some more!”

  4. Hehe, made me chuckle! Thanks for the mention 🙂 my grandad used to have a phrase which I still don’t really understand to this day, “You give my arsehole the headache’… words are fun but confusing! 💚

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