Thursday, June 18, 2009

Compound/Confound

A few words recently encountered which always confuse me:


Spendthrift

Don’t you think the word spendthrift should mean someone who is careful with money (cheap) rather than an extravagant shopper or one who wastes or squanders their money? I do. It’s the “thrift” part that gets me. (As in thrifty…)


Wiseacre

When you come across the word “wiseacre” in a book, does it stop you cold? It does me. I try various ways of saying it out loud to see if I’ve ever actually used it - and likely mispronounced it. I finally checked via Google (this link provides sound). Conclusion – I have never uttered the word.

WHO DOES???? I’ve never heard anyone say it!

Wouldn’t using the expression “smart aleck” suffice?

But then, who or what is an aleck??


Failsafe

I do know what this word means (and how to pronounce it) but to me it conjures up the image of a safe (as in one of those metal things, not the other kind…) – a safe that is faulty and ripe for the picking/robbing.


My fascination and love affair with words continues….



photo credit: http://bumperstickers.cafepress.com

21 comments:

Deidra said...

I, too, have a love of words. It's funny how there are those words out there that everyone knows but no one seems to know what they mean and how they're really supposed to be used. I'll be checking back today to see if anyone knows what an aleck is.

And by the way, thanks so much for your kind comment about the words I posted yesterday.

The Bodhi Chicklet said...

I admit I have used wiseacre. Not often, but a dozen times or so. I agree with you about spendthrift - it's an oxymoron that confounds me.

a mouthy irish woman? ridiculous! said...

Wiseacre-a smart piece of land.

what?

good words my friend! in my car? you will find a dictionary and thesaurus.

me=wordwhore.

sherry lee said...

I love it when you are thinking along these lines...you're such a wiseacre!!

apriliniowa said...

As in 'sexpot.' Another word that is ridiculous. I've wondered who first coined it. And why. Exactly.

Beth said...

deidra:
I also find it amusing when, after reading a word for years, I finally use it and discover I've been mispronouncing it in my mind all that time!
(re: my comment - hope you find that opportunity)

bhodi chicklet:
Okay, we have to meet - I'll be a smart aleck and you can call me a wiseacre!

mouthy irish woman:
you - wordwhore/me - love affair - one and the same... ;)

sherry lee:
But am I failsafe?
This kind of thinking interrupts my reading pleasure...

apriliniowa:
"sexpot" - good one.
The supply of strange and wonderful words is endless!

Bee said...

Spendthrift has ALWAYS annoyed me. I can't tell you how many times I've looked it up. It just seems counterintuitive -- as does failsafe.

In this same vein, my brother and I were recently talking about "hoi polloi." He is very well-read and well-educated, but for years he thought that the hoi polloi were the aristocrats, as opposed to the common folk.

Cid said...

I have been meaning to write a post about meanings, especially after finishing Muriel Barbery's "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" which found me reading with my trusty Oxford Canadian Dictionary at the ready.
And I have re-learned the meaning of two words this morning. Spendthrift should mean the opposite and hoi polloi - I too, thought it meant the upper crust. But how about ephemeral? Means lasting only a very short time, I thought it was more dream-like.

Seraphine said...

the word that stops me is coworker.
i mean, who orks cows?

Beth said...

bee:
Glad you agree! You're a respected "words" lady...
(I was under the same misconception as your brother for years.)

cid:
Ephemeral sounds like it should be dream-like.
Do a post on word meanings - I'd love to read it.

seraphine:
Ha! I love how your mind works!

oreneta said...

I completely agree with you about spendthrift, you should check out these words though...
http://ow.ly/eBVr

laughingwolf said...

include me in as a word lover ;)

smartass and dumbass, mean the same thing... and there are many more

Zhu said...

Wiseacre... can't say I have ever seen this word!

Some words always confuse me in English. Neighborhood is one of them, it sounds more Dutch than English to me. Spelling is just weird.

Oh, and it took me ages to pronounce "compromise" and "promise" properly. Why don't they pronounce the same???

cipriano said...

I agree Beth.
These words are off, a bit.
They should be:
1) Spendaholic,
2) Wise-ass,
and
3) Realgoodsafe.

Cheryl said...

I love stuff like this. I have a book of word histories I keep by the toilet... But wouldn't you know it, the only words not in there are the three you mention?

Beth said...

oreneta:
I checked it out - not too many words on THAT list I use in everyday conversation!

laughingwolf:
I think dumbass has more "oomph" to it - I tend to use that one more often. ;)

zhu:
You have the additional hurdle of French to English. And the spelling of "neighbourhood" is even weirder in Canada & England (and ???) - note the "ou."

cip:
But how can an ass be wise? Once I start really thinking about some words, I'm flummoxed! (I love that word...)

cheryl:
The three I note are too simple - check out the site Oreneta found for some real challenges!

laughingwolf said...

lol... how about one from the brothers mckenzie: dim twit? :O

Lainey-Paney said...

I think that spendthrift should be changed to spendswift. I'm just sayin'....

Words I cannot stand:
murmur
crotch

Cheryl said...

I love when you post like this. It always gets me thinking, like I should, about words and how meanings can be so strange. I wonder how they come about and how they make any sense in the first place!

Seraphine said...

how is it even possible
to get a knot in a muscle?
i know, i know.
i'm being a wiseacre.

Laura said...

It's probably Shakespeare's fault, letting ordinary people think they can come up with words when all they do is prove how malleable a word can be, and not how smart the originator is. Does this also show that we are followes and will repeat anything we hear?

I so wish I had the foresight to solve this conundrum before the percussion concert tonight.