Sunday, May 1, 2016

Li'l Language Lady again admits to being wrong.

Recently I boasted about the list of words that I, unlike the author of the article that inspired me, have always pronounced correctly. Not to make you think I'm some kind of linguistic egomaniac, I am now here to list some words that I have had the wrong idea about.

Quite a long while ago (long enough that I should have forgotten, but I didn't, because it was embarrassing!), I claimed quite adamantly that "informatory" was not a real word. After all, we already have "informative" and "informational"—why would we need yet another variation of the same adjective? But sure enough, according to Webster, "informatory" is legit. This reminds me of the time that I smugly (and wrongly) believed that "problematical" was a made-up word.

Now onto a topic that is only related in the sense that it's also a word I had no idea of the meaning of—crudités. I knew it's a food, because I read it in stories where fancy people are serving finger food. It sounds like a food that would be fried, or at least crispy, but not very tasty really, just a bland cracker-like thing. Turns out it's really raw vegetables. Bonus! It's always spelled in the plural, even when used with a singular verb! I only learned that last year.
And lastly, here is a word close to my heart. It has become so familiar to me that I hardly believe I was once so wrong about it's nature, but indeed I was—Serif. 
This word is used extensively throughout the design (and web development world) but I had been confused about it for a long time before I was finally set straight. While I was aware of which fonts were serif fonts (those like Times New Roman, for example, with the little crossbars at the tops and bottoms of vertical lines) and which were sans serif (those like Arial, without such ornamentation), I could not wrap my head around their names. Why would serif fonts — the ones that were all fancy and covered with extra fiddly bits – have such a simple name, while the simple ones have the longer, more complicated name? Finally, all was made clear to me: serif is the word for the extra fiddly bits, and "sans serif" means "without serif(s)." At this point in my life, I had yet to figure out that "sans" is the French word for "without." I don't remember when I learned this valuable tidbit, but I do remember that it was quite a revelation to me, since I'd been so confused for so long. And it doesn't stop there. At the same time that I learned the proper meaning of serif, I also learned I had been pronouncing it wrong in my head (fortunately I'd never had cause to pronounce it out loud) as "sir-EEF" when it's actually pronounced "SARE-if."
So there you have it. We all make mistakes, but when I learn I have made one, I'm probably going to share it on my blog so no one else can make the same one!


Anonymous said...

I see you still don't feel like owning up to caramel...