Guaranteed to improve your English

“Naked Photographs” and Other Misspoken Words

A guy walked up to me at a networking meeting and told me the words of the day were “naked photographs.”

Given the fallout from Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louie C.K., John Conyers — the list keeps growing, doesn’t it? — Bill O’Reilly, Al Franken, Donald Trump, Roy Moore and Charlie Rose, I thought the words of the day (week? month? year?) were “sexual misconduct.” But I listened.

He explained that it the photo itself isn’t naked; it’s the person in the photo.

I’m guilty of using the term “naked photos,” too. It never crossed my mind that I’m really looking at “photos of a naked person.”

I’m also sure that it never crossed the minds of the people who spoke the following that they were misspeaking.

I like to say … — And then you did.

They may not be able to resuss you — The person meant resuscitate. “Resuss” isn’t a word, although there is a British-English word suss, which is slang for “investigate or figure out.” It usually is followed by the word “out.”

Like many have said, it’s December — He spoke this on Nov. 30.

Thanks to Richard C. for the words of the day. Later, he emailed a question, “How do you separate yourself from the competition?”

I responded, “I usually walk away. Sometimes, I drive.”

Until next time! Use the right words!


December 5, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Even Netflix Isn’t Immune to Caption Confusion

Despite the high price, I pay for Netflix’s streaming and DVD services. I recently finished watching “House of Cards,” and while Kevin Spacey always gives a good performance (he deserved his Emmy nomination), the caption writer(s) did not.

In the fifth episode, a character says that something “peaks my interest.” I naturally thought that was wrong, that what the caption should have read was “piques my interest.”

So I looked up the words.

My dictionary’s definition of the verb peak read in part, “to reach a maximum (as of capacity, value or activity).” This makes it sound like the caption writer(s) got it right.

But the definition continued: “often used with out.”

Peak out? I’ve never heard the word used that way.

Pique, meanwhile, means “to excite or arouse by a provocation, challenge or rebuff.” That sounded right to me, so I was ready to conclude Netflix got it wrong.

But that was the secondary definition. The primary one read: “to arouse anger or resentment; irritate.” That certainly did not fit in with the scene’s mood.

What I learned here was the usage’s context determines what word would be correct. I still think Netflix got it wrong, but I’m not definitive anymore.

Until next time! Use the right words!


August 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

July 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: