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Have you ever heard a word used by someone who clearly didn’t understand it? Sometimes, it is the pronunciation (corpseman, obgynie), sometimes it’s totally the wrong word. And sometimes, the wrong word almost makes sense — those are my favorites.
One of my first examples was in the 6th grade when the teacher was explaining the circulatory system. He kept talking about the “Red Blood Corpsuckles.” I was in my wanting-to-be-a-doctor phase, was pretty sure that was not right, and did my best to correct him. (I’m still in my obnoxious-kid stage.)
My first boss in “the real world” was taking a weekly Dale Carnegie self-improvement course when I first started working for him. I could always tell what the lesson for the week was. For example, in the “get to know your coworkers” week, he took me to lunch. During “improve your vocabulary” week, he told me he was being “undulated” by paperwork. I thought the visual image was actually pretty good.
A co-worker used to talk about getting “to the crust” of the matter and sometimes, he would argue that an item was a “mute” point. In both cases, the wrong word sort of made sense.
At the same company, a line supervisor used to talk about someone coming up with a “good ideal.” I think she was the same one that one that once referred to the roots of her hair as “hair fossils.”
It is pretty common for one of our dogs to figure out what we are about to do before we even talk about it. At one of these times, my wife turned to me and said: “He must have ESPN.”
Sometimes, I worry that I am guilty of this mistake at times. I’ve always heard “it’s time to go to the mat” with respect to fighting a particular issue. That made sense to me; I was a wrestler in high hchool and “going to the mat” had a specific meaning. In the last two weeks, I’ve heard the phrase “go to the mattress” at least three times. I am no longer sure which is correct.
What about you — have you come across any of these? I’m particularly interested in the ones where the wrong word almost makes sense.Published in