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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Things I Don't Understand

1) Misspelled tattoos

You hear on occasion funny stories about poor suckers who got a word tattoo only to find out later that it's misspelled. My Legal Lunacies day calendar recently told the story of a man who sued his tattoo artist because both of them couldn't figure out how to spell "villain" (they settled on "villian", and the tattoo artist was not found liable for this misspelling).

It's wise to think long and hard about tattoos -- the design, coloring, placement, and, of course, spelling, because tattoos are forever. How hard is it to find a dictionary, or open a spell-checking word processor on a nearby computer, or ask someone who isn't dumb as dirt about the spelling before getting inked? Idiots with misspelled tattoos get what they deserve, in my book.

Incidentally, I dreamt last night that I was in a spelling bee, and my word was "cacciatore" (which I just spelled correctly the first time, even though I couldn't come up with it to save my life in my dream). I tried to object to the word on the grounds that it is Italian, and this was an English spelling bee, but the judges wouldn't hear of it. They used my own argument against me saying that since this word is indeed used in English, it is indeed an English word, despite its etymological roots. (I once argued this point in the UofU's Daily Chronicle, in response to some PC-loving idiot who declared that "Entrepreneur Week" was sexist, and that the feminine form of Entrepreneusse ought to be used as well (I probably misspelled the feminine form, because [1] it's French [not English, like Entrepreneur], and [2] French spelling is completely illogical).


(2) People who insist upon walking around naked in the locker room

Call me a prude, go ahead, call me one, but I don't want to see your naked body walking around in the locker room. How hard is it to put a towel around you? How hard? Seriously, is it hard? Does it inconvenience you so? Your flabby pear-shaped body and furry nether regions inconvenience me by making me have to wash my eyes out with soap.

I'm reminded of a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry sits across from a fat naked man on the subway. The naked man asks Jerry, "Do you have a problem with the naked body?" and Jerry answers, "I have a problem with yours!" That's me. I have no problem with the general naked human form. Bring on Venus in a half shell and the mighty David. I'd gladly walk into a locker room full of the entire naked cast of the movie 300, especially if hot blue-eyed Scottish king Leonidas is full frontal and center. I'm ok with that. But, let's face it, let's be completely honest: most human bodies ought never to be seen naked outside the privacy of home.

It's one thing if you're standing by your locker and getting dressed. Then your naked parts are going to be showing to one extent or another. But when you're walking around the halls in the locker room, or when you're walking to or from the showers or sauna, then you ought to put a GD towel around you! Please, for the love of my ability to see, wear a towel! Do it for me before I have to burn your image off my retinas by staring into the sun.


(3) The saying "by and large"

"By and large"... what the hell is that supposed to mean? Well, I understand that it means "on the whole", but where the hell did that saying come from? It doesn't even make any sense.

First of all, let's look at the construction:

by - a preposition
and - a conjunction
large - an adjective

Now the job of a conjunction is to join two like elements -- say, two nouns, two verbs, two adjectives, two sentences even. But a preposition and an adjective? What are those two non-like elements doing in a conjunctive relationship? Doesn't make sense. My language parser simply can't handle that construction.

I've also heard people say "by in large". But that doesn't make any more sense than the first form. Now, instead of a preposition and an adjective being joined by a conjunction, you have a preposition and an adjective being joined by... another preposition. That makes even less sense than the first form. I think this form only exists because people often say "and" as "n", and that could be misheard as "in".

If anyone has knowledge about the roots of this inane saying, please enlighten me. Otherwise, I vote we kick it out of English.


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4 comments:

Loralee Choate said...

All the freaky towel-less people are at my gym, I swear.

Ewe.

heidikins said...

Hahaha! This is a fantastic post! Thanks for the morning giggles!

xox

Adam said...

from the "online etymology dictionary" (which, let's face it, no one knows exists until they find it by accident) states that the phrase By and large (1669) was originally nautical, "sailing to the wind and off it," hence "in one direction then another."

now i'm even more confused.

Sra said...

That's a load of help, isn't it?

So, like, where does the "large" part come in? And the "by" part? I can see where "and" comes in, though.

My dad called me up yesterday after I posted this, and also told me that his dictionary puts "by and large" back to 1669. So I think we can agree on the date.

I think both these dictionaries are missing the point of etymology. It's not so much about when words and saying came from, or even the context in which they are said (though those are part of etymology), as it is about the roots of the meanings of the words.

Lousy dictionaries.

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