Friday, October 1, 2010

A nose by any other name?

It's always a good day when I find a word that sounds like it should be easy to spell...but isn't. Or a word that seems to mean something that it does not, in fact, mean. 

Today is a really good day: check out Ben Zimmer's NY Times article On Language, where he discusses the misuse of the word "we" (as in "we are not amused").

The technical term for the mis-use of "we" is nosism, ably pronounced and defined by A.Word.A.Day on the hyperlink.  The word comes from the Latin nos, or "we".

But don't you think that nosism should have something to do with noses?  The study of noses, perhaps? That would be rhinology.  Or a nosy person?  There are many terms for that, but here's a G-rated example: busybody.

We (that's the Bee team) will be tucking nosism away in the word file, with other gems like piesporter and kickshaw.  Perhaps the next Bee will feature a word category devoted to words with tricky definitions.  All we need now is a tricky title...