Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some Musings on Language

A turn of phrase my mother-in-law used the other day got me to thinking – what an odd language we have. That is if you speak English. The phrase that got me thinking was, “leave the dog out.” Now for me at least, “leave the dog out” means that the dog is already out and we are not allowing the dog back in. My mother-in-law, a Cleveland native, means the process of opening the door and allowing the dog to go outside. Drives me nuts every time I hear it!

Another of my favorites (in the negative way) is the “hot water heater.” Why on earth do we need to heat hot water? Is there some reason we want to take hot water and make it even hotter? Why not just heat water to the temperature we wanted in the first place?

I could understand a “hot water cooler” which might be useful in some application where we are cooling down water to be reused as part of an industrial process (like a nuclear power plant), but a hot water heater? We don’t call a water cooler a cold water cooler. After all, what’s the point in cooling cold water?

Then there is the “driveway” – where we park. And the “parkway” – where we drive. What drunk dreamed those up? My list and expertise are not exhaustive as far as languages go, but I haven’t found any other languages where one can park in the driveway and drive on the parkway. It seems only possible in English.

The “near miss” – is really a hit. Think about it. If something almost missed, it’s a hit. Should it not really be a “near hit” if we are meaning to say that it almost hit?

Just some musings. Hey, it’s tax day…after enduring the crunch to corporate tax time, I then had my own to do…so now I’m just taking a deep breath.