Bemusement (spotted on

Subway Slides: HIK Ontwerpers Gives City Commuters a Post-Transit Thrill

July 24, 2011

bemuse“The engineers at Dutch design firm HIK Ontwerpers clearly know how boring, stressful and generally uncomfortable commuting can be. Why not inject some childish bemusement into the whole process?”

If the “subway slides” (a fantastic idea, if you ask me) are meant to “puzzle, confuse or bewilder” commuters, then the writer of this article is spot on. For that is the definition of bemuse, according to the New Oxford English Dictionary. Bemusement is not the same as amusement, even though (here it comes) they sound and look the same.

On the other hand, a bemusement park sounds like a great idea. It could be where bad writers spend eternity stymied by turnstiles that go the wrong way and cattle chutes that get you tantalizingly close to the rides — yet somehow never reach them.

— Otto E. Mezzo

Hail Britannia!

union-jackThe BBC News Magazine asked their readers for their favorite “Americanisms.” As published in “Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples,” the examples range from the hilarious to the sobering to the nitpicky (Sor-ree if we pronounce words differently). Here is my favorite excerpt:

I hate “alternate” for “alternative”. I don’t like this as they are two distinct words, both have distinct meanings and it’s useful to have both. Using alternate for alternative deprives us of a word.

The very definition of a lexicide! O frabjous day!  Somebody gets it! Further on up the ladder, another reader writes:

The word I hate to hear is “leverage“. Pronounced lev-er-ig rather than lee-ver -ig. It seems to pop up in all aspects of work. And its meaning seems to have changed to “value added”.

Surely, Brits must be guilty of their own lexicides. But today, I think I’ll have bubble and squeak for dinner, in honor of this transatlantic alliance in defense of our words. After all, words are our speciality.

Otto E. Mezzo

Politically Correct

POLITICALLY CORRECT: “Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and doing so to an excessive extent.” — from the Wikipedia entry for political correctness.

Political correctness is much like obscenity. You can’t define it, but you know it when you see, read or hear it. As with obscenity, the boundaries of political correctness differ for each person. For some people, referring to a person as “African-American” is preferable to “black.” For other more sensitive types, even “black” is verboten. (These are usually the same people who then go on trying to describe a person as “you know, tall, wearing a blue shirt, sits over by accounting — I think he plays tennis,” as if this will help you find him.)

samuel-l-jacksonWhat politically correct does not mean is “socially graceful,” as in “Did you just ask Janet if she was pregnant? That was so not politically correct.” While uttering a politically incorrect statement may be a faux pas, not all faux pas are politically incorrect. Oh sure, some will argue that opposing the boss’s proposal to outsource interoffice mail to flying monkeys is indeed politically incorrect. After all, office politics are involved here. But that is not what both the detractors and defenders of PC mean they use the term. Don’t ask them to define it. But we all know it when we see it.

— Otto E. Mezzo