Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Irritants: a series less occasional than I would like

*Clears throat, rings town crier bell, unrolls parchment*

'Disinterested' does not mean 'uninterested'.

'On Ermintrude's behalf' does not mean 'on Ermintrude's part'.

'Cohort' does not mean 'mate'.

Irritating as these and their constant and egregious misuse may be, they pale into insignificance beside the moment when a young person employed by the Channel 7 News referred to 'Michael Jackson and his panache for plastic surgery.' It took me several minutes to work out that the word this 'journalist' should have been groping for was penchant and that's not really right either.

*Rolls up parchment, retires to Ladies' Lounge for a medicinal brandy*


Barry Leiba said...

Well, I don't know: if he really did it himself, and flamboyantly, at that... it could explain a lot.

Lea said...

Heard on gossipy TV program at the local laundromat - Michael Jackson referred to as a recluse, pronounced "wreck loose".

Deborah said...

And you haven't even been marking undergraduate philosophy essays.

"Elucidate" does not mean "illuminate".

With respect to Michael Jackson and plastic surgery, perhaps "predeliction" would be the word to use.

But "cohort" and "mate" - I'm finding it hard to understand how these could be substituted for each other. Could you give us the offending sentence or utterance?

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

'Cohort' was in one of the online papers this morning, can't remember which. As in 'Molesworth's cohort, Fotherington-Thomas, said that he was resting up this morning after a rough game of foopball against Hogwarts.' (Red herring: that's where JK Rowling got it from.) This mistake is more usually made in the plural, e.g. 'Molesworth and his cohorts played even more badly than usual.' (I think, in fact, on reflection, that I saw it in some article about football. The subconscious is a wonderful thing.)

'Predeliction' may indeed have been one of the words the young telly person had in mind, but the subtext seemed to be 'some French word with a 'p' and a 'ch' (pronounced "sh") in it'. There is often more than one word lurking behind an infelicitous choice, as I realised while struggling to keep a straight face once years ago when I'd asked my doctor's receptionist whether I should do X or Y and she replied 'I don't know, Kerryn, Doctor didn't stiplify.'

Regarding marking, I think I would be quite heartened to see the use of 'elucidate' to mean 'illuminate' -- it would suggest to me that the student realised that both were to do with light and the shedding thereof, and therefore had some dim grasp of the notion of Greek and Latin roots.

WV = crids, which suggests all sorts of things.

Don Arthur said...

'Cohort' does not mean 'mate'.

I think it's time for another brandy. This one's not going away.

In American English 'cohort' can now mean companion or colleague. Even Merriam Webster's recongises this usage.

You can now find it in respectable magazines like the New Yorker. Eg:

"The underground hero Mike Watt brings his Missingmen trio to New York ... Staying true to his hardworking ethos, Watt and his cohorts are also in town for a mid-tour recording of their opera."

Naturally the latest edition of Fowler's complains about this but even Burchfield seems resigned:

"Our language becomes vulnerable when the majority of its speakers forget major sections of Western history, in this case the fighting arrangements of Roman armies."

I'd say it's a lost cause.


I'm guessing you read this:

"Only weeks ago, when Richard Pratt was still alive, Elliott had an open invitation into the Carlton dressing rooms from his old cohort, who reinjected the swagger and cash into the pair's beloved club."

Helen said...

And a "draw" is not what you keep things in, Matt Preston!!! (Expected better!)

eleanor bloom said...

Of course, as is often the case, it depends how far you go back...

"In traditional usage, disinterested can only mean "having no stake in an outcome," as in Since the judge stands to profit from the sale of the company, she cannot be considered a disinterested party in the dispute. This usage was acceptable to 97 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2001 survey. But despite critical disapproval, disinterested has come to be widely used by many educated writers to mean "uninterested" or "having lost interest," as in Since she discovered skiing, she is disinterested in her schoolwork. Oddly enough, "not interested" is the oldest sense of the word, going back to the 17th century. This sense became outmoded in the 18th century but underwent a revival in the first quarter of the early 20th. Despite its resuscitation, this usage is widely considered an error. In our 2001 survey, 88 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence It is difficult to imagine an approach better designed to prevent disinterested students from developing any intellectual maturity. This is not a significantly different proportion from the 89 percent who disapproved of a similar usage in 1988."


But what's most annoyed me re Michael Jackson has been the lawyer who keeps talking about how MJ was going to "wake up dead" one day.
Now that would have been clever.