Tag Archives: language


I have a strange (to me) short-sightedness when it comes to the underlining meaning of certain words. I have no idea if this problem is common. I feel quite foolish when I realize what I’ve been “missing.” Here’s the most recent one. It only occurred to me this week that the word vacation must be derived from the word vacate, as in vacating one place for another. Right? Before I simply thought of vacation as a word unto itself.

Cavity, as in your tooth, is another such word. I hate to tell you how long I had no idea a cavity in a tooth meant a HOLE in the tooth. To my thinking, cavities were just undesirable mysterious tooth troubles, possibly caused by too much sugar. Um, not exactly.😐 I failed to think of the actual definition of the word. No one ever showed me a picture of a cavity in someone’s teeth, let alone my own, so it simply never clicked. I grasped that cavities were treated with “fillings” but I didn’t comprehend what was being filled, especially since the end result was always the whole tooth being filled not a tiny hole or tiny cavity.

My last example is also a toothy one. After orthontia, a patient wears a retainer. I had one that I wore but ultimately threw out some decades after receiving it. It never occurred to me that the device was intended to retain the shape of the corrected teeth. Once again, the connection simply didn’t happen. To me a retainer was just the name of the item. Oh geez, braces is another, of course. They “brace” the teeth, something that never crossed my mind till this moment!

I don’t know what this tendency is but I’m sure I do it with many other words too. My vocabulary isn’t too shabby but something about taking a word out of its context or applying it a different way can make it unrecognizable to me.

Short Thought 160 (language)

Due to language issues, ad copy on Amazon can be unintentionally funny. I was looking at winter boots and saw a listing for traction cleats that slip over shoes. Among its attributes was this:

“reduce risk of slipping down, especially for the old and pregnant woman.”

Well now! We certainly don’t want that! It’s one thing for an old woman to be slipping down, but we can’t have an old AND pregnant woman falling all over the place.


What’s your problem?

Nobody takes as profound an interest in my problems as I do. Once in awhile I need to remind myself of that fact.

I have problems. I don’t have solutions-waiting-to-happen or challenges or any other buzz phrase that waters down or redirects the focus to a brighter, happier place. Where is George Carlin when I need him? He wrote wonderfully of the softening of the English language. He made obvious how insidious it’s become. I think time will remember him as one of the great social critics.

When someone says, “I have a problem,” we all know what they mean. It’s the moment to listen up and offer sympathy or help if needed. Unless’n what they really mean is “I have an objection.”

We say, “Well, that’s your problem,” if we are unsympathetic and/or somebody is jerking us around. Or “I have enough problems of my own, thank you very much.”

I’ve had problems all my life and I expect to have problems for the remainder of my life. They’re like little pets. They change, as in they’re not always the same ones, new ones come in, old ones go away; some drop into the background for a while and then come roaring back, and some just tag along all the time like a cranky best friend.

I used to think problems could or should get solved. I mean all of them and be done with the whole affair. Yes, well. That’s my problem.