I don’t do any of these weekly memes, but I do have a slight voyeuristic soft spot for this TMI Tuesday thing – and this week, it’s prim enough that I can do it without giving any of my former students, well, TMI.
1. What is your language pet peeve. (example ‘hot water heater’, why would you heat hot water)
Other than a missing question mark where one is clearly needed? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) My biggest pet peeve would have to be “nucular,” as pronounced by George W. Bush in his loathsome twang. It might make a good drinking game to watch the State of the Union address and take a swig every time Dubya mangled it – except I’m too old to think getting slobbery drunk is a good idea. One of the pleasures of seeing Obama’s Berlin speech last week was that he actually talked about “nuclear” containment.
2. What is your favorite word? Both dirty and clean?
Hmm, I’m not sure how to interpret this question. If the word has to be both dirty and clean at once, then I think lick does great double duty. (And here I was trying to hard to keep this from turning naughty!)
I love words that are onomatopoetic. A lot of the “dirty” words fall into that category. Fuck is overused as an all-purpose cuss word. But when you think about it, when it’s used literally and in a friendly way, it really does capture the force and friction and suction.
3. What is the one word you cannot spell?
Indispensable and irrefutable and irresistible all give me trouble. I can’t remember which ones end in -able and which in -ible. By almost random chance, I got ‘em right this time, but I rely pathetically on the spellchecker for them and their ilk.
4. What is the one word you always pronounce wrong?
I do pretty well in English, and I’m compulsive enough (see my initial response to #1, above!) that if I knew I was a serial mis-pronouncer, I’d fix it.
But oh, German! A couple of years ago, my son the Bear – then only six – said to me, “Mama, your Rs are getting better.” I’m just vain enough to believe that most Americans have a more noticeable accent than mine, and I got all puffed up once when a German guy initially mistook me for Swiss for about 60 seconds. That hasn’t happened since and surely never will again.
5. If you could erase one popular catchphrase from the english language, what would it be?
This isn’t technically a catchphrase, but you know the newish tendency to use periods for emphasis? I. Wish. It. Would. Stop.
Bonus (as in optional): The late, and very hot Michael Hutchence (INXS) once sang, “Words are weapons, sharper than knives” . What is the most hurtful thing you have ever said to anyone? Was it deliberate or accidental? What was the most hurtful thing ever said to you? Do you think it was deliberate or accidental?
Oy, I think this does cut too close to home, so I’m only going to give a partial answer. I’m pretty sure that the most hurtful statements have passed between me and the people I love best, just because we have the most power over each other. I’d bet that’s true for most people.
I’ll confess to just one thing: When I say hurtful things, it’s usually been with some degree of awareness and intent. I think I’m reputed to be a fairly nice human being, and that’s mostly true; but I also pretty tuned in to my own motives and to the nuances of language, and so if I say something unkind, I have a hard time claiming ignorance.
This isn’t quite the same thing, but as I’ve gotten older and often see faraway friends for only short snippets of time, I’ve gotten much more blunt and willing to ask potentially nosy questions. I’ll usually preface them with “I don’t want to pry, but …” I’ve noticed that when there’s only a little time to reconnect, it’s easy to just skate along the surface and not actually make those connections at all. A dose of bluntness can really help get past the superficial level. But I’m sure one of these days, I really will offend someone. (If I already have, they were gracious enough not to tell me!)