When words go bad, don't go bare

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Language has always fascinated me. It is our primary means of telepathy (so far). Without it, we'd have no idea what the other person is thinking. 

As an editor, unfortunately, I can also testify that sometimes even with language I have no idea what the other person is thinking. I've had to become extremely intuitive as I edit the twisted words that keep trying to worm their way into this newspaper — at times, alas, successfully.

"He served oversees." Does he serve and supervise? Are we talking about the head butler at Downton Abbey? Or maybe he serves in some capacity on the other side of an ocean (such as, for instance, Downton Abbey).

"The board overseas zoning." Or is it "The bored oversee zoning"? Hell, maybe "The board zones out overseas."

"The proposed upgrades include adding elevators and remolding the bathrooms." Didn't they get rid of all the mold when the bathrooms were remodeled?

Every once in a while, I read about officials "pouring through reports." Did they spill coffee on them? Poring over reports leads to much better results.

Which leads to our latest typo-illogical epidemic: The past tense of "lead" (pronounced like but not to be confused with, the sustainable construction designation LEED) is "led," not "lead." Meanwhile, the heavy metal looks like "lead" and sounds like "led," so don't be misled (which does not mean being hit by a missile, which in turn is not a prayer book used in certain churches).

You see the problem – English has too many redundant letter combinations.

Some combinations are just too close for comfort: A recent email subject heading warned that "Big Brother Obama is washing you." First off, I didn't know Obama had a big brother (bet he wasn't born in this country either). Secondly, I'm pretty sure the conspiracy theorist who sent this meant "watching," but I can't resist planting an image that will drive the delusionals even battier than they already are: Barack is washing you. (They won't be able to sleep for weeks.)

Maybe they meant "brainwashing" but left out the "brain." Of course, they left out the brain a long time before Obama arrived on the scene.

"The band has played from coast to coats." I've heard of musicians playing for "the suits," but not "the coats." Women with big furs?

Some cafes have been advertising "prefix" dinners (do they come with area codes?) instead of the more traditional French "prix fixe" (which means fixed price).

An "eyesoar" must be the opposite of "eyesore" because hideous architecture certainly doesn't make the eye soar.

Last September, we almost ran a calendar listing for a Trial by July audition. Gilbert & Sullivan, the creators of Trial by Jury, would have enjoyed this play on words (Gilbert especially). It sounds like the spoof of a spoof — or a summer edition of Survivor. 

A Mobile gas station sounds even more eco-unfriendly than the stationary Mobil variety. 

One community, I recently read (not red), "realized it was time to ban together." Communal censorship?

For years, we here at Wednesday Journal have lived in dread of letting "pubic library" into print, but it did finally happen. Since then, though, I found one that is arguably far worse. Let's just say we go into high alert whenever someone writes about "public relations."

Calvary Memorial Church is probably resigned to being IDed as "Cavalry Memorial." Maybe they should change their slogan to "Call the Calvary!"

Police recently "helped crack a heroine ring in Maywood" (a Jane Austen book club?). In addition to "heroine," they netted crack and ecstasy. The headline, therefore, could have read, "Police crack crack ring, arrest heroic heroine."

In a separate incident, suspects were observed "throwing heroine out the window of their car." Sounds like an action chick flick.

"Flourescent" must mean flour that glows in the dark ­— maybe it didn't smell very good either.

Should the city spend $25 million to "higher 500 new policemen"? Maybe they should try hiring before promoting them.

Finally, there was the abject email, apologizing for some snafu, which ended with the perpetrator asking, "Please bare with me."

Thanks for the offer but, really, "my bad" would be more than sufficient.

Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

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