Category: WOTD

Word of the Day.

Obviously it’s not a daily thing. Doing that would drive me nutso.

Word of the day: half a dozen

half a dozen

Numeral
Pronunciation: /hɑːf ə dʌzən/

Half of twelve (12), i.e. six (6).

Let’s talk about this phrase for a moment.

It is wrong. Just… wrong. Okay?

It is wrong on the following counts:

  1. First off, it is three excess syllables where saying simply “six” will do the job just fine. I don’t know why people would ever say “half a dozen” for this reason alone. Surely the concept of “six” existed before the word “dozen” came along.
  2. “A dozen” is an outmoded way of saying twelve. But even then, you would never say “half of twelve”. If you’re a sensible human being, you’d never describe the number of anything as being half of another number, you’d use the actual number!
  3. When you say “half a dozen”, you’re really approximating the number, because saying “I just saw six birds flying over” sounds anal and overly precise in your head. In that case you could just say “five”, or even “about five”, because (a) that’s just about as accurate, (b) the number is rounder, and (c) it’s still less syllables to say than half a bleeding dozen.
  4. Contrary to what some mathematicians would prefer, we do not use a base-12 (dozenal) system for counting. It might be of some use in that instance, but in this age of metric measurement and decimalization, “dozens” are not used nearly as often as they once were.

This phrase makes me wince with how unnecessary it is. Can we get the people who despise the word “moist” to set up a petition to phase out actually pointless phrases from the English language like this one? Don’t get rid of the word “moist” – otherwise how are we going to describe the pleasant almost-wetness of chocolate cakes and towelettes?

No, get rid of phrases like “half a dozen”. And for that matter, “baker’s dozen”. Who uses that phrase these days? Do actual bakers even use it? Who employs twice as many syllables as is necessary when simply describing thirteen of something? …Come to think of it, I’m not even sure that thirteen of something ever arises in day-to-day life. When does one see exactly thirteen cows in a field, or need to order exactly thirteen donuts to go? Thirteen is a number that we actively avoid because of its unevenness, indivisibility and supposedly “unlucky” nature, so who needs to use “baker’s dozen” unless they’re petrified a 13-ton weight will fall from the sky and crush them in a Pythonesque blaze of misfortune as soon as they leave the house if they mention the word “thirteen”?

Wow, I get really hot under the collar about these things.

Word of the day: apophthegm

apophthegm

Noun (plural: apophthegms)
Pronunciation: /ˈapəθɪm/

A short, witty, instructive saying; an aphorism or maxim.

Who thought this word was a good idea? For one thing, it literally looks like a sneeze. It’s one letter away from having all the letters of “phlegm” anyway.

It’s a word for a saying or maxim. But how many people have you heard say:

Adam: Oh, you know the old apoffthathegum… if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Bob: …What was that word you just used?
Adam: Oh, apopothaffathegum? It’s just another word for saying.
Bob: It sounds like some horrendous creature from the Dungeons and Dragons universe.

Why not just say “saying”? Or “maxim”? Or “adage”? Or even “cliché”? Those words might be spelt oddly, but at least when you say them for the first time you don’t sound like a Danish person trying to eat his own face.

Actually, the above example is inaccurate, because the word “apophthegm” shares its pronunciation with the far more simplistically-spelt “apothem” – a word used in geometry to describe the distance between the side and center of a polygon.

So… what’s with all the excess letters? Are the weirdos who conjured up the logic-defying cholmondeley behind this? Did the inventors of this word think that all 26 letters in the alphabet had to be used wherever it might be vaguely possible?

I usually dislike US spelling conventions, but the Americans actually have the right idea omitting the “ph” from this word. At least it alleviates some of the brain ache this word inevitably induces. Not all of it, mind you, but at least some of it.

Word of the day: dearth

dearth

Noun (plural: dearths)

  1. A period or condition when food is rare and hence expensive; famine.
  2. (by extension) Scarcity; a lack or short supply.

I literally only just discovered this word a few weeks ago, but since then it seems to have been popping up everywhere in the articles, forums, video clips and whatnot that I’ve viewed.

I discovered it first on a forum, so, with it being in text format, I wasn’t sure what it meant. I looked it up on Wiktionary and found that it was another word for “famine” or “lack of”. To an extent, it describes how dear (i.e. rare or, by extension, valuable) something is, but it doesn’t feel quite as abstract as “dearness“.

Example: There is a morbid dearth of intelligence among the cast and crew of Jersey Shore.

It wasn’t until Gabby Logan spoke it on an episode of Room 101 I was watching, that I discovered (much to my horror) how it was pronounced.

derth“. To rhyme with “earth“.

That’s terrible. It’s such a lovely-looking word – I mean, it combines the word “dear” and the phoneme “th”, one of the softer sounds in the English tongue – and it’s pronounced like the noise you make when you collide face-first with a lamppost.

Example: So, Barry, what did you say to that lady from the bar yester- DERF! Ow!! What dickhead put this lamppost here?!

“dearth” also looks like the word “hearth” – which is a lovely, warming word, probably because it contains (and sounds like) the word “heart” – although if it rhymed with “hearth” you’d get a distinctly Sith-y word, so in many ways that’s a far worse pronunciation.

Example: Darth Vader sat in front of his hearth and contemplated the darth of good aim among his stormtroopers.

I’m going to pronounce it “deerth” just out of protest. That’s just how it looks it should sound.