usingtherightwords

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My Geometry Teacher’s Difficulties With English


At my high school, the students found the math faculty weird, to say the least. One teacher wore some sort of hairpiece (we called it a toupee but it might have been more like a wig) that fooled no one — especially when it was hot and the glue dripped from his head. Another teacher was Middle Eastern (I think Egyptian) and spoke with a thick accent that many couldn’t decipher.

Then there was my geometry teacher, Mr. Morrison. He had half of a middle finger on one hand (we had been told it was a war injury but no one dared ask him about it) and his thumb on the same hand bent inward (sort of like Kevin Spacey’s character in “The Usual Suspects” — look it up). Plus, he pronounced “geometry” as “jometry.”

But what really bothered me the most — even then — was his mangling of the English language. I had always been taught the correct word was regardless, but he said irregardless, which is a double-negative (ir- meaning “not” and regardless meaning “in spite of”), and proper English does not allow for double negatives as Latin-based languages do. My dictionary lists irregardless as a nonstandard word meaning “regardless.”

The other one that drove me nuts was his misusing leave and let. He would always say, “Leave it be” instead of “Let it be.” AC/DC gets it wrong in “Highway to Hell” but the Beatles get it right in “Let it Be.”

As always, the definitions explain the usage. Leave means either “to go away from” or “to remain;” let means “to permit or allow.” So, if one replaces leave with the definition, “remain it be” makes no sense.

By the way, I got an A in geometry. Both semesters.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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July 24, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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