Sunday, August 8, 2010

Three Words and Replying To A Comment

Here we have three words I hear and see misused quite often.


People think it means:
To skim over or browse something.

Actually means:
Almost the opposite of that.

Peruse means "to read with thoroughness or care." If you peruse a book, you leave no page unturned. This makes sense when you consider the Middle English per use, meaning "to wear out or use up." Unfortunately, if you "consider the Middle English" very often when speaking, you're probably not exactly the life of the party.


People think it means:

Actually means:
Not a darned thing.

This is not a word. Now, we have no problem with making up words. That will be apparent with the addition I will make to this post. The problem with this one is "regardless" already means something isn't worth regard (that's why the "less" is there) so adding the "ir" to it means... it's worth regarding again? Who knows?


People think it means:
Mildly amused.

Actually means:
Bewildered or confused.

If you were to say "I was bemused by your dead baby joke," you wouldn't be saying the joke was funny. You'd be saying that you completely failed to understand it. It's hard to blame people for getting this one wrong, the word just sounds like it means, "sort of amused."


An added thought...

My recent post "A Word And An Expression" brought an interesting comment from reader Lorraina. She commented, "Just a there a word for what we hear when someone talks loudly on their cell whilst in a public place and whom we don't want to hear but can't help but hear without their consent?

I know it isn't eavesdropping because the conversation is not secretly listened to and is actually forced upon us.

There must be a better word than overheard.


I did not know of any such word either but I tried to find one. 7 emails to various sources brought no help - all the replies were similar to this -

"Thank you for writing to Merriam-Webster. There is no word to our knowledge for the phenomenon that you describe other than, perhaps, the verb' overhear,' which certainly applies to much more than cell phone conversations.

I'm sorry we couldn't be more helpful.


Neil S. Serven
Associate Editor
Merriam-Webster, Inc."

So Lorraina, and other readers, it looks like our language is in need of a new word! That got me to muddling about in my mind. I like "forceheard" but I still wanted to come up with something else. I know that Sotto voce, literally "under voice", means intentionally lowering one's voice for emphasis. And vox populi is a Latin phrase that literally means voice of the people, is a term often used in broadcasting for interviews with members of the "general public".

From that line of thought I came up with "vox obnoxioso" for obnoxious voice. Grosso voce, perhaps?

Any other thoughts are always welcome. After all, a word farm should, at least occasionally, grow a word or two. No?


  1. Hey, I like the idea of growing words. Do we have to start from Latin? Or can we just start where we are? bemused......

  2. So glad I read this a day after I used the word peruse correctly in my blog! LOL and just for the record, i love the word wilst!
    have a great day Stan!