The sixth 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…
Thanks to an old school friend, Simon Evans, for this suggestion. Simon says he can’t pronounce this word without a long ‘o’. So, something like ‘in-ohh-vative’, with presumably the ‘a’ in ‘-ative’ being short, as in ‘superlative’.
This could be a case of the Avid Reader’s Curse.
If Simon has mainly seen the word written down and seldom heard it spoken, it’s understandable that he might pronounce it incorrectly. I still come across words that trip me up when I try to pronounce them because I usually only encounter them in written form. A recent one was ‘lieutenant’—I had to remind myself that the correct British pronunciation is ‘leff-tenant’ and not ‘lew-tenant’ as our American friends say.
But back to innovative. It means, of course, featuring or introducing new ideas, methods or devices. And it is properly pronouced with a short ‘o’: ‘inno-vative’ where the ‘a’ in ‘-ative’ is longer, as in ‘native’.
We’ve all smelled it, that earthy (and, to me, metallic) odour which rises from the pavement when it rains for the first time after a dry spell. It’s a distinctive smell that really deserves its own word. And wouldn’t you know…
It’s only fairly recently that I became aware that one existed, though it seems to have only gained official recognition more recently still.
See this BBC article from 2018 about the word. And here’s another article from around the same time from Merriam-Webster, which I’m including because it’s interesting. Yes, it is. When the article was written, the American dictionary compilers were watching ‘petrichor’ with a view to including it in their dictionary, but it did not then qualify. As the addendum notes, the word was accepted into the dictionary in April 2019.
There you have it. Next time you’re out and it rains for the first time in a while, sniff deeply and say to a passing stranger, “Don’t you just love the smell of petrichor?”
Thanks to fellow writer Mike Van Horn for this suggestion.
What a splendid word this is. It’s another of those words which sounds a lot like its meaning:
—to leave immediately, especially in the sense of to flee in a panic.
When I noticed the snake slithering towards me, I skedaddled in the opposite direction.
The folk at Merriam-Webster included the word in a list of ten common words with military origins. If you find words and their origins interesting, it’s well worth a read: civilianized military jargon.
That’s all for Part 6. Don’t forget to suggest any words you find weird for inclusion in future instalments. I’ll credit anyone whose suggestion I use.