September 11, 2015 ➳ Pedantry
We were in Florence correcting a waitron’s word choice. As we calmly and eruditely unpackaged our displeasure with being served “momentarily,” another patron saw fit to poke their nose in our direction and dub your author a “grammar Nazi.”
Offense was certainly taken. There is crucial distinction to be made between the vile protagonists of WWII and those seeking to help the feeble-minded moderns who misuse words today.
We pedants are optimists at heart. These morsels of education we ladle out every so often are meant to stave off the hunger of ignorance — and it is hoped—to prevent the large-scale mass murder of dumb-dumbs rather than perpetuate it.
Here are six more words you are using incorrectly.
While the phonemes in peruse are light and sultry, like a blown kiss, its meaning is demanding and burdensome, like blown glass. Peruse does not mean “to browse” or “offer a cursory glance.” It means the opposite: to read carefully or examine with great care.
You may have been hoodwinked by a resemblance to “amuse” but it does not mean the same thing. Bemuse is a synonym for confused, bewildered or stupefied. Efface that “bemused smile” from your face.
Having turned the stomach of your author, the gravity (and unceasing quality) of your error-prone ways might be called “nauseous.” Put another way: that which is nauseous causes nausea. Those afflicted are said to be nauseated.
We were brought to nearly a whole chuckle when considering the enormity of your momma, but don’t worry. This word does not mean large. It refers to “The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness.” That is to say: your momma’s a ho.
This term cannot be exemplified by a short video of Larry David shrugging, for it does not mean unperturbed or indifferent. It describes being stunned, puzzled or bewildered. Like this:
“I’m compelled to get the soup,” you blat to a first date that we’re incredulous you managed to land. To compel is to exert a strong and irresistible force upon. This passive use as a self-motivated whim or urge is senseless. It’s the power of Christ, not caprice, that compels one, in this case, to order the soup.
We’d also contend that this is a poor choice of appetizer on a first date, but that is a matter for another time.