Lexicide, as a rule, does not address mishearings, misreadings or mis-repeatings. Every language suffers its games of “telephone.” Without it, I would be eating a numble pie while wearing a napron rather than a humble pie while sporting an apron. (Numbles, by the way, are pieces of offal. Yeah, I’d rather eat humility, too.) But while these migrations of yore probably resulted from illiteracy or unfamiliarity, today’s shifts seem to result purely from carelessness.
I will grant that words like verbiage, leverage and differential are misused because folks guess at their meanings and guess wrongly. But is there an Anglophone out there who doesn’t know what FYI means? (In case you are one, it stands for for your information.) Yet more and more, I hear people use it to mean “just in case,” as in “let’s make a backup, just for FYI.” (I won’t even touch the extra for in that sentence.)
Here’s another one: LOL, which netizens recognize as “laugh out loud”—originally a response to a particularly funny epigram. The web has obviously gained more than a modicum of irony, since Facebook users now use LOL to mean anything from “nervous chuckle” to “yeah, right” to “not at all funny”— in other words, almost anything but “laugh out loud.”
My new favorite of the month has to be under guise of, as in “Launch of the website will be under guise of marketing.” Despite this thoughtless, ubiquitous and wrong usage, guise is not the same word as guidance. It’s not even etymologically related. “Oh well, it sounds the same, so you’ll have to excuse me,” you say. “Fat chance,” say I, because guise also sounds like disguise, which is practically the same word. Under guise of means “disguised as” or “under pretense of” and implies subterfuge and duplicity: “I’m taking Trixie to Cancun under guise of client relations.” If you want to say “under the guidance of,” then the phrase you want is under the guidance of. Even better, try active voice: “Marketing will guide the website launch.” (I know—too much to ask, right?)
Communications behaviors change quickly in the web 2.0 world, but I often wonder why it’s mistakes that circulate the quickest. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, since more people forward emails claiming that Obama is a Muslim or Bush has the lowest presidential IQ than ones correcting egregious misuses of words. LOL.