Word Lore and Word Play

Hi there! My name's Ann and I love to play with words. My second teen fantasy novel, Brondings' Honour has been published and you can buy it on the Web at Amazon as well as in your local bookstore (I hope). Both it and my first fantasy book, Firedrake, reflect my love of words and languages.

My degree is in linguistics. If you enjoy these pages and would like a quick fun lesson in linguistics, I highly recommend Steven Pinker's book, The Language Instinct.

Messed Mixaphors

I heard the first of these great quotes a long time ago now, and most of the rest have been supplied by readers. Many of them come from the workplace, which seems to be a rich source of mixed metaphors. Here's the collection so far:

If anyone else has any funny mixed metaphors or business quotes to share, write to Ann and let me have 'em.

Australian movie reference

Here's an interesting tidbit from Rachael:

I was just enjoying your page on messed mixaphors and misheard phrases, and it reminded me of the Australian movie "Welcome to Woop-Woop", which is about three extended families that live in isolation at an abandoned aesbestos mine, and rarely leave.

In this movie, the collection of three generations of offspring all gather together of a Saturday night to watch a well-loved Rogerson movie, such as "South Pacific" or "The Sound of Music". You know, "Rogerson Amerstine"??

Musical virgins!

Tammy sent me a truly wonderful story about a misheard phrase.

A few(!) years ago, on most every news show they were talking about a historic alignment of planets. It hadn't happened for so many thousands of years and it wouldn't happen again for so many thousands of years (I don't remember the details.) Any way they kept using the term "harmonic convergence." They would show all these people out doing their chanting and what not. My mother and I watched one of these segments and she asked me what that had to do with it. I explained about their beliefs and the planets, and to everything I explained she would say, "I know THAT." I finally stopped. She said, "I want to know what all that has to do with harmonica virgins?"

I laughed until I made her mad. When I was able to control my voice I enunciated the phrase for her and we both laughed. I couldn't blame her for misunderstanding. It's an odd phrase and she hadn't seen it in print like I had.

Doing something druckly

Tammy also has other interesting memories of mishead words.

I was raised on a farm in Kentucky and there are... words I can think of that I didn't realize until later that I knew them in another form. They all had to do with the country accent. The first one was druckly. If my father meant he would do something a little later or immediately after what he was doing now, he said he would do it druckly. My mother told me when she heard me say "directly" that it was the same word. I didn't believe her at first. To me, "druckly" meant a little later and "directly" meant immediately.

One time, Mom caught me downing a soft drink (soda, pop, coke, I don't know what they're called in Canada), and she told me not to drink the very last of it. She said "no you don't want the drugs." For years I thought there were drugs that collected in the bottom of soft drinks until I realized she was saying "dregs."

Since I was raised for the most part in Canada and my parents were English, I can definitely understand where Tammy's coming from. For years I thought there was a swear word "blimmin." My father used it only when he was very angry. If he hit his finger with a hammer, he would shout, "The blimmin thing!" and my mother would frown at him. It was years before I realized he was saying "blooming" and no one in Canada would consider it a bad word at all.

Led Poisoning

Has anyone noticed how often the past tense of "lead" (which is "led") is getting spelled as "lead" these days? I think it's partly by analogy to "read," and partly because of the metal "lead" which is pronounced like the past tense of "lead." I've caught it on the net and in magazines, and twice recently I've red it in the local newspaper.

Speaking of common spelling mistakes, I've also noticed that the present participle of "lose" seems to have become "loosing" for a great many people. It's actually "losing," which is a letter shorter. Keep in mind that "loosing the dogs" doesn't mean the same as "losing the dogs." Don't be a looser.

Sigh. As a linguist I know that the language is constantly evolving and that it's sometimes going to evolve in ways I don't like. If these forms get popular enough, future dictionaries will start to include "lead" as an "alternate form" for the past tense of "lead" and "loosing" for the present participle of "lose."


I received an interesting addition to this page from Rosemary in the U.K, who wrote:

I thought for years that "restauranteur" was a word and even 'corrected' my adult students who 'mistyped' it as "restaurateur". I was an IT Tutor and taught proofreading as part of the course and I even included this word and then penalised anyone who didn't 'correct' it!. I have always been a good speller and rarely need a dictionary. How bad did I feel when I found that I had it wrong, after one student argued quite strenuously with me and I looked it up! I will never forget that sometimes I'm wrong even when I know I'm right.

Rosemary taught me something as well, since I also thought the word was "restauranteur." I looked it up in the OED and Rosemary is right. But in the way of all misused words, it is gradually being accepted, and my Webster's now gives it as an "alternate spelling" of "restaurateur."

I'm thinking the next addition will be "flaunted" as a synonym for "flouted," since I've lately heard of people "flaunting the rules," even on the news where the speakers should know better.

I could tell that Rosemary was from the U.K. because of her spelling of "penalised," which I would spell "penalized." Here in Canada we use some British and some American spellings, but our spelling is consistently Canadian and I'm fond of it. My second novel is called Brondings' Honour (with the Canadian spelling)! :-)

Small, medium, and large

A Swedish reader, Johan J�nemo, tells me that in Sweden, the words for small, medium, and large are as follows:

So what does an L or an S in a piece of clothing in Sweden actually mean? :-)

Now take a look at these words. Which one would you say is big and which one is small?


The answer to the question above is that the Swedish people are internationalized enough to use the English abbreviations.

From this page you can take one of these links to explore more oddities of our language.

Are there pheromones from an anemone? One or the other must be wrong!

- Check out Ellen's page! She also collects warped sayings.
- Check out my two fantasy novels.
- Read about innumeracy, or sleight of number.
- Go back to Grannus' circle.
- Return to the front gate.

Page maintained by Ann.