A taxing Monday and other mischievous stuff…


It’s one of those very cold and very bright winter days, and Carolyn and I have managed to spend most of it in the car, taking care of necessary business. Up and out by 8:45 this morning, she and I drove the hour to the man who does our taxes. All went well, and the hour we spent there was well worth it, and we’re happy to be done with all of that for another year.

While listening to the radio on the drive in, I heard some words and their usage that immediately caused me to make mental notes to include them in my next blog post (this one!)

I have shared my feelings regarding words and phrases and how they are used (or overused) a few times previously. And today is another one of those occasions that I simply cannot refrain from reiterating what I think about how our language is abused and mangled by those who don’t know any better, don’t care, or simply aren’t all that bright.

First, can we please give the expression teaching moment a rest? I was in the classroom for 34 years, and my days were full of teaching moments. We all know what it means, but everything that happens isn’t some crucial, timely learning opportunity. Sometimes, it might just be human nature doing what it’s supposed to do and someone learning from his mistake.

Soon after, I heard a newsreader say, “It was very mischievious behavior.” (Putting the extra vowel sound in “mischievous”) This misspelling causes the non-standard pronunciation, and it’s annoying, especially when coming from the mouth of a professional announcer. Of course, over the years, I heard this misuse uttered and written many times by fellow teachers who should know better! The same can be said of should of and would of instead of the correct should have and would have.

If these instances of language abuse weren’t enough, one more popped up to brighten my long drive to the tax man: Asterick instead of asterisk. (The word comes from the Greek asteriskos-“small star”) As with every word or phrase, each deserves to be spelled and pronounced the right way. I am aware that the more words are used—correctly or incorrectly—the greater the chances of acceptance for both ways of spelling and pronunciation. Alas!

If nothing else, this cavalcade of language butchery made the drive to the tax man pass quickly and it was good for my Monday morning brain, kick-starting it and getting me to thinking about other words and phrases that seem “problematic” much of the time: Ice tea rather than iced tea; corn beef for corned beef; snuck instead of sneaked, to name but a few.

It doesn’t take very much for a word or phrase to convey a completely different meaning. For example, I will never forget a brochure announcing the cost of attending a summer camp. One section titled Room and Broad drew a mental picture I still laugh about! I often wondered what sort of “broad” would come with the room. 🙂

And then there is the story of a newspaper reporter who was sued because a space inadvertently had been inserted in a word in his news article. The sentence should have read: “John Doe, therapist, will speak at the convention.” Instead, it was printed as “John Doe, the rapist, will speak at the convention.” Oops! Perhaps this could have been a “teachable moment,” one that stresses the need to be careful with all aspects of language.

Our language is certainly a wonderful thing, especially when people take time to use it correctly.


10 thoughts on “A taxing Monday and other mischievous stuff…

  1. I am smiling at this post, since being raised by an English/Spanish and World Lit teacher, my Mom was big on saying some expressions were overused and others were misused. My friend took forever to understand how to ask for me to come to the phone…. when she would ask, “Is Robin home?” My Mom would say, “Yes,” and hang up. I know this example and the next one don’t directly apply, but they are fun memories, to share here. If my friend would spend the night my Mom would ask her, “What would you like to drink?” She would then list the choices. My Mom would hear her say, “I don’t care.” My Mom would sit down and not get her anything to drink. I liked your examples but my feeble and tired mind could not think of anything more complicated. Mark, this was funny!

    1. Robin, I love the examples you shared of your mother’s literal reactions to language uttered by your friend! Thank you for stopping by and reading and commenting. I always look forward to reading your thoughts. Stay warm out there! 🙂

  2. Oh that poor therapist. That’s definitely a time where extra proofing is in order!

    I’m with you on all of these, especially “mischievious.” Another one that irks me is when people say, “I could care less.” It should be, “I couldn’t care less,” because to say I could care less implies you indeed COULD care less. Little things but over time they peck at one’s patience. 🙂

    1. Hi, Carrie! Yep, “I could care less” is another on my long list of words and phrases that needs to be eliminated! Like you, I’m growing tired of having my patience “pecked at” by those who don’t know better, don’t care at all, or don’t make any effort! I always told my students that it doesn’t cost anything to use correct grammar and pronunciation. 🙂

    1. Luanne, I’m always amazed how often catch-phrases are grabbed onto and used tiresomely by broadcasters, reporters, and other purveyors of words. While such bits of language may have been good initially, they wore out after being used over and over. Now, when I hear someone label something a “teachable moment,” I can’t even imagine what lesson it is that is being learned. But then, I’m an old and cranky non-hipster! Take care…:-)

  3. Unfortunately I do my own taxes…but I’ll leave that for the moment. I laughed when reading about the mischievous misuse because when I was in high school I used the word mischievous during an oral recitation and the teacher corrected me. He said the word was mischievious not mischievous. I assumed he was correct and changed the way I said it. Of course in fiction we writers use all kinds of misuse and misspelling of words and phrases in dialogue, otherwise our characters would sound like automatons. Stay warm, Mark. 🙂

    1. You’re right about our characters, but sadly there are far too many folks who can’t distinguish between the correct and incorrect way to use words! And I’m always left scratching my head when teachers are guilty of this. So it goes. You stay warm, too! 🙂

  4. Oh, and sadly, Mark, I love the words, “teachable moment.” So, is that a variation on what you cannot stand? ha ha! Smiling as I know this is also an annoying expression to my brother, too.

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