Saturday, February 28, 2009

For the Want of A "U" . . .

First of all, my new bugaboo: gauge. This word has given me hell for years. I never seem to remember where the "u" is supposed to go. Sometimes it comes out guage, or even gague, and I don't know why. So here we go:

gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge gauge.

That might work. But I can tell gauge is going to take a lot longer to nail down than antenna. I'll keep at it.

Now, speaking of "U," here's something I stumbled across perusing the web earlier this evening (emphasis added by me):

"Harvey was indicted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and in 1992 received the Paul White Award, the highest honor presented by the Radio-Television News Directors Association."

Now, the name Paul Harvey and the idea of an indictment are not something I ever expected to hear in the same sentence, so this one startled me.

What the author means, of course, is that Harvey was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, not indicted. The words are very similar -- only one vowel different -- but the meanings are utterly distant from each other:

indicted: To be charged with a crime.

inducted: To install in an office, benefice, position, et cetera, especially with formal ceremonies.

While a person may be inducted into Sing-Sing due to being convicted after an indictment, it's hard to believe that the National Radio Hall of Fame is indicting its inductees unless, of course, the hall of fame now has judicial powers and the state of radio has declined to the point that icons like Harvey are misbehaving.

Many is the time that someone hears a twenty-five cent word, likes the sound of it, and imagines that he or she knows what it means and how to use it. Unfortunately, many of the twenty-five cent words in the English language have cousins that are phonetically similar but definitionally dissimilar. Get the wrong word in the head and, well, you get indicted by the Grammar Nazi.

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