Author Topic: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!  (Read 15252 times)

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RebeccainGA

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Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« on: September 04, 2012, 12:56:41 PM »
We have a few Mrs. Malaprops clones in our office - the worst is our (not mourned) former big boss, but there are lots of others who are moderately educated but like to use big words to 'sound smart' - not that using inappropriate or even large words does make you sound more intelligent, but whatever floats their boat.

There are a couple of things that keep going around, incorrectly, and being repeated. Someone told someone that the word 'magnanimous' was the same as 'enormous' - I think they were going for magnificent and enormous and stumbled on a portmanteau that IS a real word with a different meaning. The usage is "Since we have such a magnanimous work load this week...." I keep picturing a beaming pile of files holding out a hand or something... it's all I can do not to giggle. I'm a word geek, and am wont to use large words if they are appropriate - but I don't use words unless I'm SURE of the meaning.

My etiquette question is twofold - one, do you say something when you hear it used wrong? Should you try to use the correct word, or use the word in the correct context so they can hear the error? the second question (and I admit, the more fun part of the assignment) - what other badly misused words have you heard?

bah12

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2012, 01:18:09 PM »
For the word in your example, I would not bother correcting them...what's the purpose?

Now, if their "intelligent" sounding words really make them (and by association your company) look like idiots in front of clients, then correcting them would be appropriate.  Just minor office talk, then no.

The only time I bother correcting vocabulary in the office is if the words mean different things legally.  For example, if we're talking about the difference between accelerated and advanced work.  Easily confused terminology, that legally and policy wise in our organization hold two very different meanings.  In that case I'm sure to correct the misuse.  Both so that everyone understands what we are actually doing (avoid some miscommunication) and to be sure that we don't accidently communicate something incorrectly to clients.

hobish

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2012, 07:40:21 PM »

I will quietly let people know that word does not mean what they think it means. It's partially selfish, because i don't want to listen to it; but also because i like my coworkers for the most part and i don't want them to sound like idiots. I try to be gentle about it. I did laugh, though, when an HR person kept using one of those made-up corporate slang jargon words in a class and someone finally busted out with, "You know that's not a real word, right?" Considering it was a 2 day class - i kid you not - about phone etiquette and how to talk to customers the use of made-up corporate slang jargon was especially grating.
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wonderfullyanonymous

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2012, 12:06:08 AM »
I have a coworker who uses tex, texing, and texes, instead of text, texting and, texts. This drives me flipping batty. DF uses pacific instead of specific, but always manages to do this where there are other people around, so correcting him is harder.

hyzenthlay

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2012, 12:13:45 AM »
Well if they are of an age to have see Princess Bride 'You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means . . . '  >:D

Otherwise I would look at them oddly and say 'Magnanimous? I don't understand?'  and then have a simple definition ready to go when they tell you it means magnificently enormous.

cicero

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2012, 01:31:31 AM »
I *do* correct people (politely, of course) but it is kind of expected of me. I am a native English speaker with a degree in English/Linguistics, in an organization that has some native English speakers and some who speak English on a *very* high level but it's not their native language. I work in a country where English is not the first language but it's a common language and I work in an organization where we use english a lot of the time (most of the time in fact.). Plus, I am the unofficial editor and communications person. so I do allow myself to correct people

If a friend of mine was using the word incorrectly, i would correct them gently. "I think you mean humungous; that's a pretty common switch that people make" or something along those lines.

We have a few Mrs. Malaprops clones in our office - the worst is our (not mourned) former big boss, but there are lots of others who are moderately educated but like to use big words to 'sound smart' - not that using inappropriate or even large words does make you sound more intelligent, but whatever floats their boat.

There are a couple of things that keep going around, incorrectly, and being repeated. Someone told someone that the word 'magnanimous' was the same as 'enormous' - I think they were going for magnificent and enormous and stumbled on a portmanteau that IS a real word with a different meaning. The usage is "Since we have such a magnanimous work load this week...." I keep picturing a beaming pile of files holding out a hand or something... it's all I can do not to giggle. I'm a word geek, and am wont to use large words if they are appropriate - but I don't use words unless I'm SURE of the meaning.

My etiquette question is twofold - one, do you say something when you hear it used wrong? Should you try to use the correct word, or use the word in the correct context so they can hear the error? the second question (and I admit, the more fun part of the assignment) - what other badly misused words have you heard?

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oz diva

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2012, 02:26:50 AM »
In my work place there is a tendency to turn verbs into nouns. So the outcome of a training session is 'learnings' instead of lessons.

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hjaye

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2012, 06:42:43 AM »
I had a boss years ago that was a real idiot.  To say I did not like him is a huge understatement.  We were discussing something one afternoon and I brought up what I thought was a significant issue, he looked at me and said "That's irreverent".  I looked at him and said "Irreverent?"  In a very condescending tone he said " Yes, it means it's not important to the discussion." 

I looked at him and said "I think you mean irrelevant, unless you feel I've offended God by not agreeing with you."

lmyrs

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2012, 12:29:09 AM »
My office environment is pretty casual and I am friends with a lot of my coworkers and friendly with pretty much all of them. In a meeting or a situation where I can do it without embarrassing them, I'll usually say "I don't think that means ehat you think it means." (Shout out to Princess Bride and hyzenthlay.) It works fine but it's definitely a know your audience situation.

FlyingBaconMouse

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2012, 07:32:53 AM »
Fortunately, a large part of my job is knowing what words mean, so if I say something like, "I thought 'magnanimous' meant something else..," people are likely to listen.

That said, I used to have a coworker who mixed up specific/pacific constantly. It was like she either couldn't hear the S or, in this one case out of all of English words, could not say the S. It drove me nuts.
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GrammarNerd

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2012, 09:59:24 AM »
Fortunately, a large part of my job is knowing what words mean, so if I say something like, "I thought 'magnanimous' meant something else..," people are likely to listen.

That said, I used to have a coworker who mixed up specific/pacific constantly. It was like she either couldn't hear the S or, in this one case out of all of English words, could not say the S. It drove me nuts.

My own mother had some sort of mental/speech block where she couldn't say some consonant blends if they were on the ends of words, but she could say them if they were at the beginning of the word.  Example: lisp.  It always came out of her mouth as 'liss'.  Yet she could say words like 'speck'.  Drove my sister nuts.  I think some people's brains just have little short circuits with some specific things like that (no pun intended, actually ... LOL). 

One of my pet peeves is the word 'escape', when people (including my hubby, grrrr) say 'eks-scape'.  I always want to grab them and say 'NO!  There's no X in it.  Divide the word between the 's' and the 'c' and then just sound it out.  It's NOT hard.'

I think I did break the hubby of the use of 'unthaw', however.  He would say, "I think there's some chicken in the freezer.  Let's unthaw it and have it for dinner." I started asking him, "So you want to refreeze it?"  But that was a family thing....his mother said the same thing, so he just picked it up from her and never really thought about it.

FlyingBaconMouse

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2012, 10:33:31 AM »
GrammarNerd's post above reminded me of my friend who pronounces "breakfast" as though the S were an X: "brekfixt." Drives me nuts, but I don't think he can hear himself doing it.

My favorite from that friend, though, was the day he was telling me, on the phone,  about someone who suffered an injury working on some "rhubarb." As the nature of the injury became clearer (the guy's ability to have children was threatened, among other things!), the light slowly dawned...

"Do you perchance mean rebar?" I finally asked.

"Right! Rhubarb!" my friend replied. 
I don't kill threads, but I do seem to stun 'em pretty good. :-)

VorFemme

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2012, 10:59:56 AM »
And I thought that someone pronouncing that word for reproduction as if it were an adjective for a religious group was bad......(sect for - well, you know) - plant name used for iron reinforcing rods is worse (rhubarb for rebar). 

The mind boggles.

How do some people get through their day while managing to communicate when they speak in near-homonyms?  And ones not all that close in sound, either...
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lowspark

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2012, 11:00:49 AM »
Unthaw... I have a friend who always says "dethaw". Never really understood the reasoning behind it but I never bothered to correct her, probably because I've known her since we were kids so who knows how old we were when I first heard her say it.

I will usually correct someone on the misuse of a word if it's egregious or if the misuse can potentially lead to embarrassment for the user. I tend to say something like, "magnanimous, do you mean enormous?" Or "Magnanimous, I'm not sure what you mean by that".

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with correcting someone on word usage, as long as it's called for (a situation where it actually makes a difference, not just for the sake of trying to prove that I know more than someone else) and as long as it's done politely.

SamiHami

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Re: Misused words in the office - propogating bad word use!
« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2012, 11:07:38 AM »
When I was in college, a guy in our study group habitually replaced words he didn't know with other words that started with the same letter. For example, if the correct word was "salient," he might replace it with "serious." Used to drive me straight up the wall.

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