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Heidi and Frank: Grammarians (Who Would Have Thought?)

Today, I listened to one of my favorite morning drive-time radio programs, “The Heidi & Frank Show.” It was a repeat, although I had not previously heard this particular segment. Heidi Hamilton (not her real name) and Frank Kramer were talking about words and how people misuse them because they don’t know what they mean.

Naturally, I paid attention. Here are the four examples I heard:

terrific — Frank pointed out that most people use this word to describe something positive. But it means just the opposite: to evoke terror.  To illustrate the point, Frank said, you could say “9-11 was terrific” and you’d be correct.

In listening to the explanation, it made sense to me: Horrific means to evoke horror, so why wouldn’t terrific mean to evoke terror?

I looked it up: Terrific means “very bad” and “frightful.” It also means “unusually fine” and “magnificent,” so Kramer was correct. He also said it’s the only word in the English language that means opposites, but that’s not true: Left could mean someone is gone or remains.

nauseous — People use this word to describe something that makes them feel ill (I would use the word nauseating). But the word has two definitions: “causing nausea or disgust” (nauseating has the same definition) and “affected with nausea or disgust.”

In my dictionary, a usage note says anyone who thinks only the first definition is correct is wrong.

conversate —  Kramer correctly pointed out that it’s not a word. He didn’t say what was the correct word: converse.

hot-water heater — A caller brought this one up, which impressed the two so much, they gave him a prize. The point was, if the water’s already hot, why does it need heating? It should be called a water heater or a cold-water heater.

I would have liked to call in and mention first annual, but I was driving (at the time, I didn’t know I was listening to a repeat).

Until next time! Use the right words!


July 9, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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