Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

Proper English — Myth and Mirth

Posted on: November 14, 2012

My next blog post will be titled “Less Is More (and other conundra)“. I’ll let that post explain itself. This post is an explanation of my selection of the word ‘conundra.’

I like words and I like to use them properly. My thinking is that proper usage promotes clearer communication. But I am not a word snob; I’ll throw a “mis-remembered” into the mix just to lighten things up.

My next post will draw contrasts: then versus now, cost versus value, new versus newer … you get the idea. All of it will have to do with The Oil Patch, and little of it will make clear sense. Hence, conundra.

We all know that a conundrum is a paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma — unhelpfully mitigated with the use of a pun. If I’m losing you here, don’t worry; “Less Is More” will be far less obtuse. But since I will be illuminating several issues in one post, I need a plural for the singular conundrum. Is it ‘conundrums’? or ‘conundra’? Does it originate from the Latin or from the Greek? Do you want cole slaw or fries?

Naturally, I went to the dictionary to Google for my answer. What should have been a 30-second exercise turned into a 30-minute diversion filled with snobbish laughter. Usually, when you read an article online, it’s followed by comments. Usually, these comments are written by trolls who still live in their mother’s basement. Inasmuch as I don’t appreciate troll syntax, I don’t read the comments. This time, I did. And what I got was a full dose of overbearing word-snobbery intermixed with word-snob creativity. You can enjoy this too. Here’s the link.

My baby brother – with whom I will someday write a book – isn’t a word snob. What he is is a college professor, so he has to grade lots of papers. And what’s the fun of grading papers if you can’t eviscerate the writer’s use of words? Michael recommends a resource called Plain Language to keep things on the up and narrow.

Quite obviously, none of the snob commenters on the aforementioned weblink have read Plain Language or anything approximating plain anything. As verbose as I can sometimes be, I’m a piker when measured against these word-heads.

Hilarity ensues from the second comment, but it’s educational. We learn things like the plural of octopus; like ‘Matters are complicated by a further convention that the 2nd declension nominative masculine ending omicron sigma is Latinised to “-us”‘; like the plural of hocus pocus is ‘hocii pocii’ which, of course, causes us to put the right foot in and put the right foot out…; like when not to wear a diphthong. Call me crazy, but this is laugh-out-loud stuff. Humorist Dave Barry would guffaw in his grave (if he were dead).

And what of the premise of this dissertation? I no longer care. I have laughed, and that makes me happier than a hexadecapus (plural for octopus). (Obviously!)

6 Responses to "Proper English — Myth and Mirth"

Wow, that is a lot of fodder by well-meaning folks — I think I will tackle this after Turkey dinner next week.

You’ll be sleepy from all the L-tryptophan. Tackle the fodder after a good nap. 🙂

I’m still working on “then” and “than”.

A famous ex-president we know may still be wondering what ‘it’ is.

That is absolutely a stitch! It was so addictive that I read every comment carefully… all the way to the bottom.

And you are now the wiser for it. You’re welcome.

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