A Brief History
On April 2, 2017, the people of the United States are being bombarded by a new infinitive or transitive verb, “to surveil,” and its present and past tenses, “surveilling” and “surveilled.” As a Military Intelligence officer (Go ahead, make your jokes…) I had pointed out to me early in training that the word “surveillance” was a noun and that there was no verb, to surveil. Well, so many people misused this non-word, that not only is it now in the dictionary (Merriam-Webster), but politicians and news casters seem to have made it the most overused word in human history.
Speaking of History, we take this opportunity to point out the fact that History is Words. All the tangible stuff such as buildings, monuments, artwork and all may be products of Human History in a way, but they are archaeological items. History, the story of the past, is words, whether spoken, written, or recorded electronically. Thus, History is a form of communication about the past, and to communicate effectively WE NEED WORDS!
Just when you think you know what words mean, someone comes along and uses a noun as a verb often enough that people get tired of correcting the mistake, et voila! A new word in the dictionary. Think “unfriended” is new? It was first used a couple hundred years ago. Other words such as “okay” and “spam” are more recent. There is no such thing as “right” or “wrong” “proper” or “improper” language, because language is a dynamic and ever changing thing. New words and usage become accepted as “Standard” all the time, and even sooner by the public than by lexicographers. The fact is, we would probably not understand people speaking Middle English or Old English much at all. The reason why Latin is still around is because it is a “dead” language and does not change, therefore what it means today it will continue to mean many years from now. (Probably.) Once upon a time many words were either slang or improper, but are now regularly used words. (Yeah, like narly, spiffy, bosco keeno, rad, bro, nawmean, and different uses for cool, tough, and tasty.)
All this aside, the misuse (as we define it at H&H) of words and terms DRIVES US NUTS! Here are some real-life examples of commonly misused words or phrases we have experienced.
Malinger. This does NOT mean to tarry or kill time, it means to fake an illness or injury.
Prerogative. Yes, the word has that “R” right after the “P” which seems to be a mystery to people.
Try and. For the love of God! The term is “Try to,” NOT “Try and.” Is that so hard??? (According to Yoda, there is no “try” only “do or not do.”)
Imply and infer. One person “Implies” something by what they say, the person receiving a message “infers” some unstated meaning in the message. These are too often switched.
Jealously and Envy. Just look the words up, will ya? You are not “jealous” of your neighbor for having a hot wife, you are “envious.”
Knapsack. This is NOT something to sleep in when you go camping. It is a backpack.
In lieu of. This means “in place of” or “instead of” and does NOT mean “in light of” or “in view of” or “because of.”
Yahoo. This can be pronounced “yah-hoo” or “yay-hoo” as either is accepted, except by people who think they know better! (We mean the term as “idiot” or “jerk” not the search engine.)
Cater corner. Seriously, I’m 60 years old and I have NEVER heard anyone say this. I have only heard “catty-corner,” which as it seems is starting to be accepted as standard English after decades or centuries of people saying that way anyway.
Have went. NO! Use “Have gone,” for crying out loud! Never put “went” after “have.” Correct: I should have gone to school. Incorrect: You should have went to school. See?
Feasible. This means “doable,” “probably” or “likely” and does not mean “credible” or “believable.”
There are indeed so many, many more of these such misused words and phrases that our normal article length does not allow more examples. Question for students (and subscribers): You readers can lay all your favorites on us in the comments section below this article! Thanks. (Note: Readers went berserk when I used “poisonous” snakes when I meant “venomous” snakes. Jeez! Lighten up!)
If you liked this article and would like to receive notification of new articles, please feel welcome to subscribe to History and Headlines by liking us on Facebook and becoming one of our patrons!
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Jenkins, Peter. Surveillance Tradecraft The Professional’s Guide to Surveillance Training. Intel Publications, 2010.