Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I speak run-on fluently.

Co-worker, as I make a (very) sharp turn while going (alarmingly) fast: Look at you careening around!

Me: Yeah. Hey, interesting thing about the word careen: it's so similar to the word career, as in "careering down the street," that some people use the two words interchangeably but they actually mean different things. Career means to go swiftly, careen means to go swiftly while also swerving or teetering. So you can be careering without careening, but you can't be careening without careering. You used the word careen appropriately because I was actually swerving around that turn. Pretty interesting, huh? The two words are so commonly interchanged that it might be priggish to insist on separate definitions but if you understand the origins of the words, it makes sense to distinguish between them. I mean, that's the whole point in having definitions for words: to reduce ambiguity. Right? So why would we want to strip away the distinct meaning of words which could bring greater clarity to the sentence? I don't know, maybe I am priggish but I don't see anything wrong with trying to keep language precise. I mean, sure, I'll admit that language is always evolving and definitions change so that might be the struggle of all language purists: insist on the original definition or allow what is commonly accepted?

Pause.

Co-worker: Kim. (sigh) Sometimes you make my brain hurt.

Me: I know. Sorry.

6 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I didn't even know that career could be used in that way. I learn something new everyday.

Celestial Soldier said...

Tell us about the words nauseous and nauseated.

Kim said...

Aaahh! Jacob, you know exactly what drives me crazy!

"I feel nauseated" means "I feel like I'm going to throw up."

"I feel nauseous" means "I feel like I make other people throw up."

Jen said...

so you could say "that thing is nauseous"? What about "nauseating"? Is that just another option?

(always wondered about this too)

Kim said...

Exactly!

Nauseous and nauseating mean the same thing: causing nausea.

Ex: Mushrooms are nauseous. They make me nauseated. The smell of them cooking is nauseating.

Aren't we all so smart now? Yay!

Rachael said...

Hi! Didn't know you had a blog. Interesting--I didn't know that careering was a word, though I knew careening was. I love what your coworker said--hehehe!