Archives for posts with tag: Words

I often see the words stationery and stationary mixed up. It’s an easy mistake to make, and is only an issue in the written word, since both words are pronounced identically and the context is usually clear.

Stationery is a noun, meaning office and desk-type stuff. Think millinery, machinery, that kind of thing.

Stationary is an adjective, meaning motionless. Think customary, arbitrary, and so on.

And of course, because this is English, you get nouns like anniversary and adjectives like blustery :-).

So, remember to keep your stationery stationary and you’ll be fine. Good luck!

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I was reading a software manual the other day – I know, very rock and roll – and a sentence began ‘To do so, go to…’. All quite legitimate and grammatical. Also, written by an organisation that doesn’t use English as a first language and whose author was Eastern European, betrayed by a few other incidents of phrasing elsewhere in the document.

It got me thinking about our fabled, ancient, and multi-rooted English language, and how impenetrable it must seem to learners of the language. Not of the spoken language, but of the written language. The dictionary must be constantly at hand.

We don’t even think about it as native speakers, but right there you’ve got five two-letter words, all ending in ‘o’. In order, one’s a infinitive prefix, one’s an infinitive verb, one’s a kind of adverbial thingummybob that can mean a bunch of things depending on where it is in the sentence, the next one’s an imperative verb and the last one’s a preposition. Phew!

Not only that, but two of the words have completely different vowel soundings to the others.

They’re testimony to how the language has evolved over the years.

Congratulations to the writer for getting it right, but, boy, we don’t make it easy. I won’t even get started on two, two, sew and sow…

As a marketer, writer and communicator, I love words. They’re what I do.

The other day I was flicking through a daily mood flip board that my wife gave me a while back. It has a huge range of one word, one emoticon options that sum up – and signal to others – how you feel that day.

I eventually settled on ‘subversive’ – it was a Friday after all – but I digress.

I came across the word ‘copacetic’. Ever seen or heard of it? Me neither. With my background in Latin and Greek I can sometimes figure out a word’s rough meaning from the roots, but not this time.

Turns out it’s a North American colloquialism meaning ‘OK’, with an unclear heritage.

Great word, isn’t it? A new one for us European English speakers to throw into the conversation.

 

Last year a colleague of mine said: I’m never using the word ‘just’ again.  The more I thought about this, the more I realised how right he was.  It’s a nothing word, an excuse of a word, a word that devalues what you’re trying to say.  It’s practically a synonym for ‘erm’.

Consider these examples:

“Hi there, just a quick call to find out when you’re making a decision on our deal.”

“I’m just saying we shouldn’t do this.”

“I was just wondering what will happen if we get this wrong.”

‘Just’ belittles the worth of our contribution.  It negates us.  It’s a signal to the other person in the dialogue that subconsciously we don’t feel up to it.

Don’t use the word.  Just Do It®  🙂