Yesterday, a flight layover in Tennessee stretched from seventy-five minutes to two-and a half hours but proved almost enjoyable for my daughters and me. Memphis barbecue deserves some of the credit, and words did the rest.
My kids are word wonks and come by it honestly. Apparently, fascination with language is as genetic as eye color and ear-lobe shape. That's not to say me and mine are word perfect. Far from it. We inadvertently misuse, mispronounce, and garble phrases in our struggle to do right by our mother tongue.
Because my girls had updated themselves on the Kardashians, Duchess Catherine, Jen, Suri, and Sandra on the first leg of the trip and couldn't bear to look at another magazine, I emailed them "Ten Phrases to Purge from your Writing," a guest post written by Nancy Ragno for Jane Friedman's blog, Being Human at Electric Speed. Read the post here. (Go on. I'll wait.)
After reading the post, Older Daughter mopped up barbecue sauce with French fries and moaned that she'd misused hone in on for the correct home in on.
I've misused heart-wrenching for heartrending hundreds of time. What's more, rending doesn't have the visceral flavor of wrenching, so I foresee gut-wrenching in my future.
Younger daughter revealed she has a co-worker who promises to nip scheduling problems "in the butt." Her sister and I advised her not to turn her back on the guy.
Card shark or card sharp? asks Older Daughter.
She's not happy with our mealy-mouthed responses so pulls out her phone and Googles the term—only to find compelling etymological support for both expressions.
"If I'm a good sport and hard worker, am I trouper or trooper?'" asks Younger Daughter.
"You're a trouper and the show must go on," I say.
"You're a soldier-like trooper," says Older Daughter.
Again, there's etymological support for both expressions.
Harebrained gets the nod from dictionaries today, but hair brained loped onto the scene because the animal that acts scattered during mating season was written as hair early on.
Oxymorons might have kept us entertained for another half hour, but our flight was called.
How do you cope with airport delays, long waits in doctors' offices, and lines that stretch out the door and around the block?