Dual opinions come to blows: how words are misused

Working as a writer and copy editor, I have noticed how the brain tricks you, or me. If the word sounds right in the mind it’s easy for it to be mistaken as the right word.

For example, earlier this week, in the final proofread of my book review I wrote about a ‘smaller waste’ and the context was food so it was even easier to miss. Just moments before submitting the final draft, I realised that what I meant was ‘smaller waist’.

In the English language there are a number of these words that sound the same – homophones – but are spelt differently and mean different things.

With the increasing demand for dual sims in smartphones (dual meaning two) I had cause to think about the word duel, when I nearly came to blows (figuratively – of course) with my client, a network provider when we had a disagreement about the role of the customer.

Opposite ends

I could just see us pitched at opposite sides of the ring with our respective points of view, ready to take a swipe  to assert ourselves blow by blow in an epic marketing duel. Truth be told, I felt cut down to size and whimpered off with my tail between my legs, begging for mercy.

This would not do for the medieval knights who made duelling an art form. It was considered among gentlemen as the way to settle differences.  While seemingly barbaric in the modern age it was a ritual that made sense to preserve a man’s honour.

Man of honour

According to Artofmanliness.com, “Duels, which were sometimes attended by hundreds of people, were a way for men to publicly prove their courage and manliness. In such a society, the courts could offer a gentleman no real justice; the matter had to be resolved with the shedding of blood.”

It was popularised in France from 1526 under Henry IV when about 10,000 Frenchmen came to their end under his rule. .

Luckily today this behaviour is only expected from drunkards or extremely anti-social people.

My duel had the space of about 30 minutes between blows, thanks to email transmission, which gave me enough time to walk away wounded and put down my spear.

Of Sackcloth and Ashes: How idioms originate

 

Iza Grek