Questions About Words

I have some questions about words.

1. Why is the word “ubiquitous” so obscure, and the word “obscure” so ubiquitous?

2. Why is every murder reported as a “brutal murder”? What would a non-brutal murder be?

3. Isn’t the term “war crimes” redundant?

4. Why does “assumedly” imply a deceitful nature but “assumably” imply an obvious truth?

5. Who will win out in the end, the people who combine “incidents” and “instances” to create “incidences” or the people who are irritated by it?

6. If we can “bike” somewhere on a bike, why can’t we “car” in a car? Or “plane” in a plane? – especially since after we fly we can “de-plane”.

7. If the cops come after you, why would you “book it” if you are trying to avoid being “booked”?

8. Why is “man” used just as a noun when “woman” is used as an adjective? That is, why can there be a “woman dentist” but not a “man dentist”?

9. Does the difference between “colored people” and “people of color” confuse speakers of French and most other languages where the distinction makes no sense? In fact, try this: Go to Google Translate, write “colored people” in for English and translate it to French. Then take the French translation and translate it back to English. You get “people of color.” Are “people of color” French?

10.  Shouldn’t “White” Americans be called “European Americans”? This would promote the understanding that they are not ethnicity-free.

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5 Responses to Questions About Words

  1. Joe Nickell says:

    Ten audible laughs in ten questions. You got me. Thanks! Unfortunately I can’t answer any of these questions. Your second question sparked another pet peeve of mine that may be a bit too local to translate….Here in Missoula I’ve gotten really irritated with the wildfire coverage, where every story eventually drops a reference to the “tinder dry” status of the forest that is burning….not least because tinder is not a modifier, it’s a noun. And tinder is by nature dry. And things that are dry to the point that they catch on fire when exposed to sparks or high heat or flame….are tinder by nature. It’s kinda like calling rivers “water wet.”


  2. […] My old friend Eric from Indiana posted up some important linguistic questions to ponder. I invite you to consider…. […]


  3. Joe Nickell says:

    After writing about that pet peeve I realized that technically tinder could be a noun without making that a bad grammatical construction. But it’s still redundant — especially after it appears in the paper every day for a month in various stories during fire season….


  4. […] Questions About Words. This was an early chance for me to really have fun with words, and it attracted many readers who […]


  5. […] Questions About Words […]


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