The fourth in a series of posts about words, taking a lighthearted look at some of the most troublesome, overused, misused, comical, or downright peculiar words in the English language.
All suggestions for words to include in future instalments are welcome—simply comment with your suggestion.
On with this week’s words…
One of those words that is so frequently misspelt that I have to pause to think when writing it. I know Facebook and Twitter are hardly the measure of society’s literacy standards, but it’s rare indeed to encounter it spelt correctly on social media. How often have you seen it written as ‘definately’? Or, my favourite and the result, no doubt, of that curse of modern technology, the autocorrect function:
‘Are you sure?’
‘Oh, yes, defiantly.’
I often find myself reading the post as if the writer meant what they wrote—there’s something almost noble about being defiant in the face of the latest photograph of someone’s dinner.
A good way to remember how to spell it correctly (at least, the way I remember) is to pronounce it in your head as ‘dee-fie-night-lee’, or to remember that it’s the opposite of ‘infinitely’. Best—defiantly best—not to rely on autocorrect.
One of my favourite words in the entire English language. I didn’t even know it existed until one day I happened across it by happy accident.*
A former work colleague—I hope she’ll forgive me if she ever reads this—came across the word for the first time when taking down a customer’s address over the telephone. The customer had called his house ‘Serendipity’. My colleague wrote the address as ‘seven dippety sendipity’. For years afterwards, I kept the yellow Post-it note on which she’d written the address and brought it out for a giggle whenever I needed cheering up.
If you’ve read my previous posts in this series, you’ll know I love words that sound like their definition. Meaning stomach pain or queasiness usually brought on by intense anxiety or nervousness, ‘collywobbles’ is another beautifully descriptive word completely in harmony with its definition.
(At the risk of destroying the magic, Merriam-Webster says the word probably derives from a transformation of the New Latin term for the disease cholera, cholera morbus, to make it sound less sinister. Hmm, that’s one of those things I’d prefer, on the whole, not to know.)
That’s all for Part 4. Don’t forget to suggest any words you find weird for inclusion in future instalments. I’ll credit anyone whose suggestion I use.
*see what I did there?