staedler and waldorf

We’re entering Curmudgeonland this week. A place where grumpy people (i.e. me) gripe about the stupidity of others. But let’s politely call it a public service to help everyone avoid an embarrassing faux pas, and no one will get hurt. Agreed?

Affadavid – not sure who this guy is, but even if you’re being sued by a bloke called Dave, the word is ‘affadavit’.

Antartic/Antartica – I read a tip somewhere that suggested you think of an arc of ants. But really, if you can’t remember Antarctic/Antarctica, just stop talking about it. And avoid conversations about penguins at parties, just to be safe.

Aks – No, you may not aks me a question. Now step away.

Card shark – if someone is good at playing cards, and dupes you into laying down some serious money against them, they are a card sharp. Unless they are dressed as a grey nurse, then the water is muddied somewhat.

Chomp at the bit – I have nothing funny to say, but please just know it’s supposed to be ‘champ at the bit’. That is all.

Esculator – just take the stairs. You don’t deserve modern day conveniences.

Excetera – Etcetera is a lazy thing to say in the first place. Can’t be bothered finishing your own sentence? Don’t start it. But if you must, please say ‘etcetera’.

Expresso – the word is espresso. I’m not sure who came up with ‘expresso’ but it feels like it was invented by McDonald’s. It’s not a word.

For all intensive purposes – I love this one. Sounds like those purposes sure are, well, something. I’m not even going to insult you by telling you the correct term here, because you know, right?

Forte – if you’re talking about a stronghold or something you are particularly good at, it is pronounced ‘fort’. The ‘e’ is only pronounced (as ‘ay’) if you are talking music. I’m ashamed to admit, this one was news to me too. Let’s all agree to pronounce it correctly from now on and never mention it again. You first.

Mischievous – I don’t know how it started, or why, but someone somewhere put an extra ‘ee’ sound in there after the v and now the whole world seems to be on board. It’s mischievous. Three syllables.

Nother – ‘that’s a whole nother thing’. If you do this, I have no words for you. Keep it up. You’re doing super.

Old Timer’s Disease – I know you’re just trying to be funny, but Alzheimer’s Disease affects people of all ages. And if you are trying to be funny, please know that seven hundred thousand people have said this before you, somewhat blunting the comedic effect.

Orientate – I guess this comes from what they like to call ‘back formation’. Orientation is the noun, so orientate must be the verb. It isn’t. It’s orient. Orient. Oriented. Orientation. Learn it, otherwise, ‘disorientated’ is a word and then the world will explode.

Pacific – it’s an ocean. It does not mean ‘clearly defined or identified’. If you have ever worked in an office with me, I’m talking ‘pacifically’ to you. Stop it.

Pronounciation – I enjoy the irony of people not being able to say ‘pronunciation’. But it does sound dumb, so please save yourself. And if my darling (and otherwise highly intelligent) husband is reading this, yes, I’m talking to you.

Prostate/Prostrate – one is a gland, one means lying face down. Sure, they can be related, but still, it’s handy to know the difference.

Snuck – not a word; never has been. Sneaked is the past tense of sneak. Schmuck, on the other hand…

Supposably – if you use ‘supposably’ and ‘pacific’ in a sentence together, you can be arrested in all mainland states of Australia. Fact.

Tact/Tack – if the conversation isn’t going your way, change tack and use some tact. Thank you.

Tenderhooks – sounds uncomfortable but tenterhooks are used to hang cloth while it dries. That’s what you want to be referring to.

And an honourable mention goes to a website I found (sorry, I didn’t keep the link) that advises its readers about all things Australian. Clearly they haven’t spoken to Pauline Hanson.

Don’t say: Ostraya | Do say: Australia
Comment: This pronunciation particularly bothers Australians themselves, most of whom can manage the [l] quite easily, thank you.

Over to you, fellow curmudgeons. What have I missed? Or does anyone want to defend any of the above?

And finally, a wee reward for reading this far. Check out this fun little list of English mistakes by English as a Second Language students (remember, we’re laughing with them, not at them). I actually laughed out loud in the State Library reading these and drew unwanted attention to myself.


6 thoughts on “21 things you say that make you sound stupid

  1. Thank you my friend for this wonderful didactic elucidation. It is long overdue, much needed, and most welcome. I do have one to add. It is of grave concern to me that t.v. and radio journalists, most notably your beloved colleagues at the ABC, constantly and consistently mis-pronounce negotiation. It must be negoshiation not negotiation. Or am I wrong?

  2. enormity – means extreme evil not bigness. Used most correctly, albeit not deliberately, by George Bush when he talked of the enormity of their efforts in Iraq. Yes. It was a case of extreme evil. I like to speak of the enormity of Tony Abbott, and I don’t mean his ears.

    burglarise – not even sure how to spell this nonsense. It’s burgle. He burgled the house. See also pressure/pressurise.

    wrought havoc – no, so and FFS NO! The past tense of “wreak” is “wreaked”. “Wrought” is the past tense of “work”…. as in wrought iron.

    running amuck. Seriously, stop speaking now. It’s amok – don’t you know basic Malaysian?

    Curse you, lady, I’m now in a bad mood and have to go back to marking!

  3. Hone/home. You hone skills, you home in on a target.

    Literally – means something actually, really, positively, definitely did happen. One of my favourites was on Master Chef last year when a contestant said he “literally served his heart on a plate to the judges”.

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