Thursday, April 30, 2009

Two New Mishears, a Borrow from the Brits, and a Bass Ackwards Usage

This post comes in the spirit of some recent word-related entries -- some of the great expressions, some of the neat ways expressions get misheard and then gain life of their own (i.e. 'all intensive purposes'), and of course my all-time favorite, Cockney rhyming slang. Here are a couple recent ones that have come my way:


(1) World wind. "I've been driving around all day between here and Rhode Island getting all my stuff together before the PCS move. I'm at this office, I'm at that office, I'm with the Personnel's been a real world wind."

(2) Taken for granite. This was sent in by a reader who teaches elementary school in, of all places, the Granite State just to our north. It came from a student essay about parents and kids, and it reminds me of the 'self of steam' essay from before. If you think about it, just like 'world wind,' it totally makes sense -- I wouldn't want to be taken for granite, either. I googled the term and apparently this is a pretty popular play on words used in sitcoms and any chance that a quarry or other rock-related organization gets to make puns.

From our cross-Atlantic mates:

Switched on. A Master Chief who has spent plenty of time doing various things with the British and Australian navies was telling me about 'switched on' today. Apparently, in the British and Australian militaries, 'switched on' is just about the highest compliment you can give someone, and it's most often used in third-person descriptions. This seems like a great expression because it summarizes the qualities you'd want in a colleague -- attention to detail, focus on the mission, dedication, etc. To the degree that I can, I'll try to use it here.

And a Bass Ackwards Usage:

My friend Nick, a reader and occasional commenter on this blog, was telling me last night about how the expression "know-it-all" is often ironically misapplied. What happens is that someone who likes to debate and discuss things gets glibly slapped with the "know-it-all" label, typically by people who don't enjoy partaking in -- or especially listening to -- said activity. The irony, of course, is that if someone were an actual "know-it-all" they probably wouldn't be so willing to explore new ideas. Think about it -- if someone just started and ended all political discussions with "The Republicans suck" or "The Democrats suck" and would brook no more debate about the parties, they would qualify much more as a "know-it-all" than someone willing to engage and banter about policy nuances, but would probably be much less likely to be labeled that way.

Nick and I weren't exactly sure where a better term could come in. A "Know-Nothing" would be a fairer characterization, but the term hearkens back to a not-so-nice nativist period in American politics. Maybe a "discuss-it-all" would be better.

But if -- like me -- you enjoy discussing new ideas, and -- like me -- sometimes get hit with the "know-it-all" label, I definitely wouldn't recommend countering with the "No, really, I'm just a discuss-it-all."

Why not?

Because it just might make you sound more like a know-it-all.

No comments: