In the February, 2010 edition of the Reader’s Digest, there was an article by Melissa Demeo and Paul Silverman entitled, “How to Sound Smarter.” It was subtitled, “The Reader’s Digest Version of those rules for talking and writing – the ones you missed in high school.”
The article starts out with the following exchange of thoughts.
You almost never mean: Hopefully
You almost always mean: I hope
Why: Hopefully means, in a hopeful manner. “I hope the boss lets us out early” and “Hopefully, the boss lets us out early” aren’t the same thing.
I did a search of all of the posts on this blog (R2) and found over fifteen of them contain the word “hopefully” and almost all of them should have the word hopefully replaced with the words, I hope. Ouch! I’m not going to replace them, but it does illustrate that what I write is not always what I mean. BUT, what I mean to write is what I mean! :-)
Ok, so the next exchange of thoughts in the article was:
You almost never mean: More importantly
You almost always mean: More important
Why: More or most important is probably what you want. Only if you’re a pompous blowhard do you say things importantly.
Again, I did a search on my blog (R2), but this time, I found only one post where I used the “bad” phrase, more importantly. I did not want to come across as a pompous blowhard, but here I am using something (more importantly) when it wasn’t what I wanted it to mean. Ouch, again!
Hopefully, you can see… OOPS!
I hope you can see the point of the title of this post, “Do I really mean what I say or write?” I mean what I mean to say or write, but the unfortunate aspect of my writing is that I sometimes don’t know how to correctly say or write what I mean. It reminds me of the line from the 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke, “What we got here is a failure to communicate.” Until I read this article in the Reader’s Digest, I didn’t realize how I wasn’t, at times, writing what I meant.
I found a few of the “you (almost) never mean” phrases very interesting and insightful. Here are few examples.
You never mean: Chaise lounge
You always mean: Chaise longue
Why: People have been getting this wrong for at least a century. The proper phrase is French and translates as “long chair.”
You almost never mean: Orientate
You almost always mean: Orient
Why: Orientate is a word, but it means “to face east.” The tour was designed to orient new students.
You never mean: Everyone has their grammar hang-ups
You always mean: Everyone has his or her grammar hang-ups
Why: Everyone, everybody, and close cousin each are singular, so words that refer to them should also be singular. Or, since we all have our grammar hang-ups, you could just rephrase the sentence.
There are many other words and phrases discussed in the article, but I am going to mention only one more. It has to do with redundancy and how sometimes, even though I know what I have written isn’t correct, I leave it so. Here is one of the redundancy “phrases” mentioned in the article and that I have (mis)used.
You never mean: ATM machine, PIN number
You always mean: ATM, PIN
Why: Redundancy (“automated teller machine machine,” “personal identification number number”).
So, do I always mean what I write?
Before I answer that question, I need to use my PIN number at my local ATM machine to get some cash and orientate my chaise lounges before everybody brings their food for today’s party. :-)
Do I always mean what I write? I sincerely hope so!
I would love to read what you write as a comment.