by Sarah Holdt
For left-brained, numbers people it is
downright jejune (look it up) to hang
around with wordies. We can spend a lot
of time creating entendres, disputing
spellings and discussing meanings while
our counterparts yawn and scratch behind
their ears, utterly bored. Lately I've
been having word conversations with fellow
vocabulary enthusiasts, also known
as word nerds, while there are no
bankers, accountants or mathematicians
within earshot so we've been able to expound
to full contentedness.
For example, while enjoying ice cream
cones at a picnic table, my friend Debbie
asked us to spell the word discreet. Easy
enough: d-i-s-c-r-e-e-t. What does it
mean, she asked? Careful of one's speech
or actions. Yes, she confirmed, but discrete
is also a word, not a misspelling.
Discrete means individually separate and
distinct, as in, there are seven discrete
P.E.O. chapters in Estes Park. Who knew?
I sure didn't. I mean, I knew about the
seven P.E.O. chapters, all discreet, but I
didn't know each chapter was discrete as
Debbie didn't stop there. What do you
call bat poop, she wanted to know? Why,
guano, of course. Surprisingly, no, Debbie
told us. We have become accustomed
to calling bat excrement guano but the
original definition of guano is specifically
seabird poop. Today, however, you
can get away with using guano as the accepted
descriptive for bat poop. Whew;
off the hook! Whatever it's called, we
can't figure out how bats deposit it when
they're hanging upside down!
Icky. That's what I call it.
Knowing what we now know, do we call
bat poop guano or not? It's a moot point,
meaning it is up for debate. Yessiree Bob.
For some reason it is generally understood
that when we've been discussing a
topic that has reached a dead end, we call
it a moot point. In reality, a moot point
is just the opposite. So do we continue
to misuse the phrase because that's
what people construe or do we use it
correctly and be misunderstood? I consider
this a moot point. Now you decide
what I mean by that.
There are myriad words and phrases
in the English language that can lead to
misunderstanding. Take the word myriad
as an example. Some people think I
mistakenly forgot to use an article in
front of myriad in the beginning sentence
of this paragraph. They think I
should have said, "There are a myriad
of words..." But myriad is not a synonym
for plethora, but rather for several.
Discussions like this one leave leftbrainers
lukewarm. I wonder, what
type of conversation would make them
lukecool? Ha! There is no such word.
So why is there a lukewarm but no
other luke temperature?
The word toward does not end in the
letter s-in America anyway. In England
they put an s on the end of toward.
If you want to say towards, move to
It's enough to bring tears to yours
eyes, isn't it? At school, my seven-yearold
nephew was asked to use the word
crying in a sentence (the second
graders were learning how to add ing to
words that end in y.) Here was his answer:
"I am allergic to crying. It makes
my eyes water." I think he's becoming a
wordie like his aunt. A witty wittle
Last night my husband Mark, a numbers
man who won't admit he has a bit
of wordiness in him, asked what this
week's column was about. When I told
him, he replied without hesitation,
"Just remember there's a whole lot
more to the English language than a
bunch of words."
You may let The Thunker know what
you think at her e-mail address, email@example.com.
Next Great Decisions Meeting
Energy Geopolitics is the topic for the
next Great Decisions meeting. The energy
markets have been shaken by the
instability of Middle East oil and the vulnerability
of nuclear power. Moreover,
developing countries like China are becoming
bigger energy consumers, while
energy producers like Russia see the opportunity
to widen their influence. In
this changed landscape, how will the
U.S.'s energy needs affect its relations
with other nations?
Come and discuss the global energy sit-
uation and how it will effect the United
States. We will meet in the Wasson
Room of the Estes Valley Library at
11:30 a.m on October 16 th . Come and
let your voice be heard. Read the background
material and be ready to discuss
the topic. See you there!
Great Decisions discussions will resume
in February with the 2013 topics.
Please contact Sue Magnuson 970-214-
0319 to order a book. Cost approximately
$23. Go to www.fpa.org for information
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