Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Wagon and Other Stuff that I Forget

Hello there. Sorry for the late night posting. Not that any of you were sitting around anxiously hitting the refresh button waiting, but I still feel like I should apologize. I was trying to make it through the entire first season of Mad Men and then realized that I should probably turn it off if I wanted to get in a blog post tonight. So tonight's post is about things that I forget too often. Basically spellings or phrases that I should remember, but have to look them up all of the time.

There are a couple of little ones that usually require a quick googling. I always forget if it's grey or gray. And then I get really annoyed when Wikipedia and other sources tell me that it can be both. That really doesn't help me remember. I'd like us to just land on one of them. I know that one of them is the American English spelling, and the other is the British spelling and all that good stuff. Whatever, just pick one or stop using it in elementary school spelling bees. This isn't like the pop vs. soda's a damn color. We should be a little more definitive on this. And whichever one you pick to type in an email, there's probably a 50/50 shot that the person reading the email is going to thing that you're wrong. I have similar issues with affect/effect. I think someone should come up with some kind of web application where I can type a sentence into a little box, and the computer tells me whether I should use affect or effect. I mean, I can find a translator online that translates something in Icelandic into German, but nobody has created the fancy affect/effect machine yet. Someone please get on that.

My biggest issue is with commonly used expressions. I get pretty annoyed when people butcher a commonly used expression, especially if it's one that I use frequently. I always have the urge to correct them, but instead just start a dialog in my head of what would be the most appropriate way to correct them, and by the time I come up with something, I've missed the last five minutes of conversation. Oh well. The one that I always seem to have trouble with is 'on the wagon/off the wagon' to refer to someone who is drinking or not drinking. I always get confused on this one. It actually came up the other day when I was in a meeting. I was telling one of my friends that I was reintroducing alcohol into my life, and I couldn't remember what that meant in terms of my wagon status. 

Oh, and before I go on, I should probably clarify that alcohol is only being gradually reintroduced,  this was the scheduled reintroduction, and  the reintroduction does not mean that the healthy lifestyle is coming to an end. Kate and I are going to Napa Valley next weekend (her Valentine's Day gift), so a slow reintroduction of alcohol before our trip to wine country is just prep work. Think of it like the guys who start small fires around the perimeter of the forest fire. I never understood how that works either, but we'll just go with that.

Anyway, back to this wagon thing. My friends in the meeting couldn't remember whether drinking meant one was on the wagon or off the wagon. We spent a solid five minutes discussing this before one of us decided to look it up on their iPhone. We even had alternate theories regarding the origin of the phrase. Both were entirely made up, but equally compelling. So now we're 10 minutes into an hour long meeting, but Wikipedia finally answered the question for us. This is why my coworkers (and even my coworker friends) are okay with me just dialing into meetings and being on mute instead of joining in person and coming up with really important topics like this.

So there you have it. If you've got any sayings or words that you forget and have to look up, please share with the group. And for those who also struggle with this:

On The Wagon = Not Drinking
Off The Wagon = Drinking (aka More Fun)


Amy said...

A professor once told me to just use 'impact' if unsure of 'affect v. effect' but clearly that's not much help.

If you think of 'affect' as verb, & 'effect' as not, that may help, and now I'm getting a bit carried away here...

anyway, I used an old-timey expression with the first graders I teach the other day and it was verrry confusing for them, and even more confusing for me to explain. whoops!

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