Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Erik Gets Pretentious: Ten More Words People Need To Stop Misusing

Certain things drive me nuts.

Many of those things involve people misusing words.

I'm ready to throw whatever I'm holding at someone who uses the phrase "I feel nauseous."  The correct phrase is "nauseated."  You feel nauseated.  Unless you're actively making other people feel sick.

You monster.

"So, like, we feel nauseated?"  "No, in your cases, stick to the old way."
So let's look at more words people really need to stop misusing and confusing.  Yes, there will probably be more than ten words, but that's because you need to know what you're confusing a word with.

10) Peruse

We've all used this word.  We've all perused at least once in our life.  You peruse the book store, you peruse shelves, you peruse blog posts to see if anything catches your eye.

Except you're not.  You might be skimming things, but here's the definition of peruse:

"Read (something), typically in a thorough or careful way; examine carefully or at length."

If you're perusing, you're putting a lot of attention into what you're looking at.  So stop using it incorrectly.

9)  Altitude vs. Elevation

Okay, this one isn't as common, but I've been on a lot of airplane rides in my life, and it's easy to hear the pilot interchange the words when describing how high up the plane is.  In case any airline pilots read this blog, here's the difference.

"Elevation" is the difference between the surface you're currently on (whether it's land or water) and sea level.  "Altitude" is the difference in distance from an object to the ground underneath it, but not necessarily sea level.   The first is your distance to the surface of something, the other is the distance from the surface to sea level.

Pilots, stop telling us what "elevation" the plane is currently at unless the plane is sitting on the tarmac on a mountain or in a valley.

8)  Compelled

To people who enjoy using this word, I feel compelled to tell you that you're using it wrong.  See, "compelled" doesn't mean to coax, urge, or otherwise lean someone towards doing something.  It's when a force willingly or unwillingly forces you to do something.  "His addiction compelled him to play one more hand of cards."

"Erik's need to feel superior compelled him to keep putting out lists of words that he feels people don't use in the right way."

7)  Blatant vs. Flagrant

For many people, "blatant" simply means "obvious, not trying to conceal."  This...isn't quite correct.

Usually "blatant" is offensively loud and/or noisy, either visually or audibly.  A "blatant" disregard for the law would be to have a soundtrack blaring while you jaywalked, possibly while wearing a giant peacock costume.  "Flagrant," on the other hand, usually means the act itself is conspicuously bad, offensive, or reprehensible.  "Shooting the six rival gang members in the head next to the church was a flagrant act."

Think of it this way, an act can be both flagrant and blatant, but the act's attempts at concealment would be blatant, the act itself would be flagrant.

6)  Enormity vs. Enormousness

I don't get as frustrated with this one.  The words sound so alike, it's easy to mix them up.

Enormity doesn't mean "large."  ...well, okay, it kinda does, but not in the "size" sense.  Enormity has to do with social boundaries and levels of wickedness.  The "enormity" of an act of terrorism, for instance, might not be something as huge as 9/11, but it could be extremely morally reprehensible.  Pol Pot's regime had the word "enormity" applied to it a lot.  A Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon would be "enormousness" used instead.  ...unless the balloon did something really terrible to the other balloons,

5)  Utilize vs. Use

This one's tricky.  "Utilize" essentially means "to use."  But "use" doesn't necessarily always mean "utilize."  "Utilize" usually has some kind of context that means "able to use in a productive or gainful way."  You could swap out the two words in the sentence "He utilized the tools in the kitchen to make a fancy cake."  You couldn't really swap them in "The teachers were unable to utilize the computers in their classes."  In that sentence, "utilize" tends to mean "use in a beneficial way" where "use" would just mean, well, they weren't able to use them.  At all.

4)  Bemused

This word doesn't mean "pleasantly amused" or "smugly amused" or any kind of "amused."  It means "confused."  People who keep using it the other way bemuse me.

3)  Scrimp vs. Skimp

This is another one that doesn't happen a lot, but I've heard it a few times lately.

"Scrimp" means to be thrifty, but it also has a gathering aspect to it.  You pull your resources together and then hold on to what you can.  To "skimp" means to use fewer resources than you need to attempt to get something done.  If you "scrimp" for a while, you can afford a nice dinner.  If you "skimp" on the check, you underpaid the waiter the standard tip.

One's economical.  The other makes you a cheap bastard.

2)  Accuracy vs. Precision

Okay, this is another one that I think only I care about.  Picture someone with a bow and arrow set.   If the person shoots five arrows and they all land somewhere in the center dot, the person is accurate.  If the person shoots five arrows and they all hit the exact same spot but not necessarily the center (say the tree fifty yards behind the target), the person is precise.

Accuracy is measured to a standard.  If you're supposed to measure out six inches of a dowel for a project and you need twenty dowels, being accurate would give you twenty dowels six inches long.

Precision is a measurement compared to other measurements.  You might have all of your dowels come out at five inches instead of six, but your cutting was very precise if you got the same measurement each time.  Sure, they're wrong, but they're still precise.

You can be precise without being accurate, and you can be accurate without being precise.  If those arrow shots filled the center dot but none were in the exact same position, you could easily be accurate without being precise.

1)  Who vs. Whom

Let's make this simple.  If someone is doing something, you'd use "who" in the sentence asking about them.  If someone is having something done to them, you'd use "whom."

The Oatmeal had a great explanation to go along with it.  If you're attempting to figure out if your question should use "who" or "whom" in it, figure out if the answer could be "he" or "him."  If it has an "m" in the answer (and you're willing to be sexist and not use "her" or "she") then you want "whom."

"Who thought it was a good idea to write another English column?"  "He thought it was a good idea to write another English column."

"Whom is this intended for?"  "It's intended for him, because he keeps thinking it's okay to say "I literally died laughing" and it makes Erik want to push him into a bumper car pit."

"Help, I'm laying down and I can't get up!"  "...swing around for another pass, and don't let up on the gas this time."

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