What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

On being misconstrued

There are a group of words that seem to be tainted when one tries to use them in everyday conversation. I knew a gentleman who became quite offended when I noted that he had an “unfortunate predilection” following his comments about his dieting woes. I believe that he thought that I was accusing him of being a pervert. When, in fact, I was only commenting on his consist choice of cream filled pastries during the morning coffee breaks. Words like prediliction are often misconstrued.

Even the word, misconstrued, seems to be in this camp. Rather than simply being another way of describing a misunderstanding, it sounds more like a painful medical procedure that is being performed on one’s nether regions without benefit of anesthesia. News release: “After being misconstrued for nearly eight hours, he is in stable condition. His doctors are confident that he will suffer only minor scarring as a result of the operation.”

I am not sure how I would label this group of words. Perhaps, I could classify them as “words that undeservedly hint of unpleasantness”. (Unpleasantness is another one of those words like dreadful. You need to say these words with an upper crust accent while slightly pursing your lips.) The problem seems to be that most of these words sound like words that have negative definitions. They sound like “bad” words, so they must be “bad” words.

Mellifluous is a word that seems to be affected by it’s “mel” prefix. It sounds like and is misspelled to resemble many of the words in the dreaded “mal” family. Words like malefic, maladroit, malfeasance, malingerer, malign, malaise, malicious, and (for some of you) males all have horrible connotations. Poor, sweet mellifluous is found guilty by association with these brutish brothers.

Speaking of unwarranted guilt by word association, until very recent times, one had to be found guilty in a court of law in order to be labeled as a perpetrator. Now, however, one only needs to be accused of a crime and walked in front of a camera in order to be stained with this verbal taint. Hence, we now have the "perp walk" of the recently accused, but not convicted persons. This would be an instance of a "bad" word being used to unfairly label someone who had not yet been found to be "bad". They are only guilty of sounding "bad" on the evening news.

In the future, I am going to try to be more careful when I use this class of words. I wouldn’t want to be accused of being perpetually malapert.


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