A long, long time ago in a country far away, I was part of a newsgroup: Aus.tv.x-files. For those of you under 35 and without the nerdiest of proclivities, newsgroups were pre- and early- world wide web discussion forums about topics ranging from travel to medicine to popular culture. My newsgroup was devoted to The X-Files, so once a week in the half-hour time slot that our internet service provider had allocated us to use the network, I would sit and listen to the family’s 1200 baud modem struggle (for some minutes) to download a new batch of posts – all text – for me to eagerly read and respond to. When I did, I’d type RE: at the front of the message subject, so everyone knew it was part of a threaded conversation. Read More
My team and I have scoped, researched and developed a plan. Now it’s time to bring the rest of the organization up to speed about our new process. But it’s Friday afternoon and no one will read my email, so it’s going on the agenda for our next staff meeting. I pull up the document by searching for its name: Biweekly staff meeting.
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t twice a week a bit excessive for an all-staff meeting, even one at an organization as small as NTEN? It would be, except that in this case, biweekly means every two weeks. In American English, it means both. Isn’t that confusing? Yes. Isn’t there a perfectly good word that means every two weeks that we could be using instead? Indeed.
If I could give one thing to America, it would be a gift basket of words it has forgotten it ever had. Because we are failing to use the perfectly good words we have, and we’re using the wrong ones instead. Like Inigo Montoya, I do not think these words mean what you think they mean.
While writing to an Australian friend this morning, I found myself tempted to describe a planned hike as a bushwalk. I immediately checked myself, as expats so often do, and realized that I had not used the term bushwalk is so many years that it had been lost from my vocabulary. It made me so sad to think that there were parts of my speech, perhaps even parts of my Australianness, that were slipping away.