Sunday, August 12, 2007

VAGUE-OSITY

I like words. I especially like whan I can find the precise word for a very specific thought. This isn't always easy for me. Often it's on the tip of my tongue for days. When it comes to remembering events and obscure happenings, my brain is the repository. I have often heard a friend remark, "That's why we have Patti, she remembers things for us." I guess it's good to be good for something. Even though I love words I often draw a blank when trying to come up with a specific word. When it comes to names, I am a hopeless case. Once I was introducing a friend to some people, and I was so worried that I would forget someone's name that I said, "And this is my dear friend..." Blank. Totally blank. I turned to this woman whom I've counted as my best friend for those 39 years, and I raised my eyebrows, pleading with her to help me out. "Rochelle..." says she, and "I can't believe you forgot my NAME!"

So the other day I came across a word that I have been familiar with for a very long time, and one that I use often. I don't know however, whether I'd ever actually seen the definition.

Peruse. Simple enough. Peruse. You, in fact are right now, perusing my blog.

Here is Mirriam-Webster's definition:

peruse \puh-ROOZ\ verb
1 a : to examine or consider with attention and in detail : study b : to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner
*2 : read; especially : to read over in an attentive or leisurely manner



Quite stunning I think, that in this huge language of ours, we have one word that means both to read carefully, and to read casually. Why not have two different words - one for each type of reading. I always use the word in the careful way, but I did an informal poll and I find a slight lean towards using the word in the casual manner. Now my poll was not scientific by any means - I will admit now, publicly and with a weird sense of pride, that I took Statistics three times before I passed. I am a word person, not a number person. But I can see the problem arising if you tell someone you'll peruse their manuscript or report or article. Will they expect constructive critisism and feedback? Or will they be upset that you do not feel it warrants a careful reading? Do you then have to say: I'll give this a careful perusal, or, I'll casually peruse this. Either of these feel redundant to me - careful or casual is implicit in the meaning of the word. One wouldn't say - The show was fabulously fantastic. The fabulousness of the show is conveyed by calling it fantastic. The carefulness of the perusal is conveyed by the very word peruse. As is the casualness of the perusal. What's a girl to do?

Definition #2 - to read in an especially attentive manner or to read in an especially leisurely manner.

Which is it? Can one read attentively and leisurely at the same time? I think these words are contradictory. Am I wrong? I think we should pick one meaning, and then create a new word that defines the other meaning. Who is with me on this? Are we in agreeance? Can I get a show of hands?

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