Words

Isn’t it funny that persevere is considered a good thing… but perseverate isn’t? (Is it?) According to Dictionary.com, the definition of persevere is to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly. The definition of perseverate is to repeat something insistently or redundantly, to which I’ll add as in thinking.

Fine doesn’t mean okay. It actually means exceptional; of high quality; second to none. How often does someone answer a question with fine… as a sarcastic response? Here are the definitions of fine, according to Dictionary.com:

1. of superior or best quality; of high or highest grade: fine wine.
2. choice, excellent, or admirable: a fine painting.
3. consisting of minute particles: fine sand; a fine purée.
4. very thin or slender: fine thread.
5. keen or sharp, as a tool: Is the knife fine enough to carve well?
6. delicate in texture; filmy: fine cotton fabric.
7. delicately fashioned: fine tracery.
8. highly skilled or accomplished: a fine musician.
9. trained to the maximum degree, as an athlete.
10. characterized by or affecting refinement or elegance: a fine lady.
11. polished or refined: fine manners.
12. affectedly ornate or elegant: A style so fine repels the average reader.
13. delicate or subtle: a fine distinction.
14. bright and clear: a fine day; fine skin.
15. healthy; well: In spite of his recent illness, he looks fine.
16. showy or smart; elegant in appearance: a bird of fine plumage.
17. good-looking or handsome: a fine young man.
18. (of a precious metal or its alloy) free from impurities or containing a large amount of pure metal: fine gold; Sterling silver is 92.5 percent fine.

I just realized fine, the noun, didn’t show up, as in an amount of money to be paid as punishment for breaking the law.

Regular, as in regular coffee: in the Midwest, if you order a regular coffee, you’ll get caffeinated coffee, black. On the East Coast, if you order regular coffee, you’ll get caffeinated coffee with regular (i.e. large) amounts of cream and sugar. The word regular can also be used when talking about things like prunes, as in, “They help keep me regular.” Huh? Why are there so many different definitions for one word?

I know this isn’t the only word like this in the English language. How ’bout bimonthly, which means occurring every two months AND occurring twice a month? You’d think we could come up with a word that doesn’t mean such vastly different things… why bother using bimonthly if you have to describe which one of the two it means? Crazy!

One of my favorite jokes I heard on Prairie Home Companion years ago went something like this: A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. “In English, two negatives make a positive,” he said. He continued, “In other languages, like Russian, for example, two negatives still remain a negative. However, there is no language where two positives make a negative.” A voice piped up from the back of the room, “Yeah, right.”

Raising a barn and razing a barn are two VERY different things; in fact, two opposite things. So why do they sound exactly the same?

Things that make you go, “Hmmmm…..”

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About lookingglassletters

Love to learn and live and travel and connect. ... and write and ski and walk and read...
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