Saturday, March 03, 2007


When people express a mistaken notion, others can correct them. Otherwise, people might take their mistaken notions to the grave.

A friend will tell you your zipper’s down, or your slip is showing.

Here are three examples of words I used incorrectly and was told so by people who knew more than me.

Pensive. I thought this word means “really tense, jittery.” It actually means “thoughtful.”
1 : musingly or dreamily thoughtful
2 : suggestive of sad thoughtfulness

Fulsome. I thought the word meant abundant, as in meaning #1 below. In this sense it’s a term of approbation. The other three senses are all negative. My friend who corrected me told me the usual meaning among educated people is “smelly.”

1 a: characterized by abundance : copious
2: aesthetically, morally, or generally offensive
3: exceeding the bounds of good taste : overdone
4: excessively complimentary or flattering : effusive

Presently. I, like most people, took this as a synonym for “currently.” Of course, in these cases you have to ask why we would have both words. The two uses contradict each other. The first use, the one still used by educated people, means “soon,” or very soon, in other words, “not now.” The second meaning is “now.”

1 a: archaic : at once b: without undue delay : before long
2: at the present time : now
In summary, those of you dreaming of some day writing for SF WILLIE’S BLOG, as far as we're concerned "pensive" means thoughtful, "fulsome" means smelly, and "presently" means soon.

And, never use the phrase, “begs the question” without explicit approval from the editorial board.

[Definitions are from Mirriam Webster Online. ]

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sfmike said...

And remember, that when you want to write "it is," the contraction is "it's." Otherwise, the usage is always "its" without an apostrophe.

See how easy that is.

sfwillie said...

Thanks Mike. I thought you were being bitchy but I couldn't find that error in this article. I'm trying to proofread better, but for me it's (it has) always been hard for me to proof my own stuff.

Another wierd one for me is:

Who's going to the store?
Whose store do you patronize?

I really have to tighten up on Jesuit Watch.