You Don’t Say – Vol 15 – by Ray Hudson

Ray Hudson

Sounds Like It Should Mean Something Else!

Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

The English language is pretty strange when you get right to it.  Probably because it is made up of many other languages on earth (I seriously generalize) so sometimes words don’t mean what they say and don’t say what they mean.

It’s hard enough for an EMT – that’s my acronym for English as a Mother Tongue – let alone someone who started out with a different language altogether.

Over the past week I was hooked by the sound and meaning of a number of words which I thought I would share with you this week:

Outlier: pronounced out-liar. The reason it is spelled lier, is because it means someone or something that is unusual, something that stands apart from the mainstream.  It could refer to an individual or group with differing beliefs or behaviours.

Bemused:  The word amused sounds similar, so when we see bemused, we tend to apply a similar sense or meaning. The word muse means to consider something thoughtfully.  (musicians and poets muse a lot). Amuse means to occupy oneself or someone else pleasantly, causing a smile, laugh.  Bemused is closer to the intention of ‘be’ in beheaded meaning that the bemused person is puzzled or confused – the reverse of considering something thoughtfully.

Inflammable: If you put ‘in’ in front of discrete, digestion, or attentive you end up with a meaning that is opposite to the basic word, so you can be forgiven for thinking inflammable might mean something that will not burn easily.  This is one of those unexplained language issues because flammable and inflammable mean exactly the same thing. The burning question is, why?

Nonplussed:  Very strange word that pops up occasionally that sounds like, and is often misused to mean indifferent or not caring. The meaning is much more specific than that. It comes from the latin words non plus  which mean ‘no more.’ In the context of someone who is surprised or stopped in their tracks, it begins to make sense that to be nonplussed is to be surprised or confused to the point that they cannot act.

Restive: It would seem to have something to do with resting.  A resting person is said to be restive.  But that isn’t the case. The word originates from the French word rester,  which means ‘to stop’.  The meaning has become, to be agitated as to not be able to sit still. Perhaps we should use the word fidgit instead.

And now, about the TransLink funding vote: is it a plebiscite or referendum?
Both terms originate in latin which refers to a vote by the electorate on an issue.  There are many differences among the many sources I looked at, but in our situation, the difference between the two seems to be that a plebiscite is a vote where the result is non-binding on the government whereas the result of a referendum is binding. The vote for the funding of TransLink is non-binding so it seems one may call it a plebiscite.   How about a Referendiscite?

As they say – vote early, vote often, stay calm and carry on!

See you next week,