Language bloopers

Published 7:44 am Thursday, November 1, 2018

It’s time for another column on language bloopers, those unexpected and humorous misuses of words and phrases that leave us all chuckling. So, a few weeks ago I saw an in-supermarket advertisement for “chicken fillets” and in another place that sells food there was a sign promoting the sale of “pomergranates.” I wasn’t sure if what I saw was “on purpose” or “on accident,” with the latter representing a recently coined term that creates a syntactically matched pair in frequent use by the current college generation who seem mystified if you point out to them that “on accident” is not standard English. And speaking of colleges and messages, a recent communication referred very elegantly to “financial aide.” In the past few months I’ve seen “dillusional” for “delusional” and “excesories” for “accessories.” Additional bloopers include reference to a “deep seeded need for attention” and a list of names that concluded with “et all.” With no knowledge of Latin or the use of this phrase in standard English, there is an uncomfortable but understandable logic with the use of “all.”

An announcement for a missing pair of sunglasses noted that they were “last scene on Oct. 26” and in a recent music class a participant asked if it were possible to leave out the piano music and “sing Acapulco.” In reference to a store that had closed for the evening, someone wrote “It was already passed closing time.” I heard someone describe all the “acclimades” a fellow colleague had received for his outstanding work. I was a bit confused when I heard about a certain someone in a bad situation, doing nothing to help and in addition to not helping was guilty of ameliorating the situation. And if you see my former colleague Dr. Lowell Frye, an excellent writer and fellow animal lover, ask him about the paper he once received that referred to an escapee being “on the lamb” while another described the predicament of a story’s “escape goat.”

Other bloopers I’ve seen recently include a questionnaire designed to “illicit data” and a message clearly stating that “late entries for a particular contest are not aloud.” Finally, and probably my favorite in this current collection, I heard a story about a mall that closes its stores by 9 p.m. because “they don’t want people conjugating in the parking lot.” Maybe they could send those folks to my class – they’d be *aloud* to conjugate whenever they felt like it.

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JULIA PALMER is an associate professor of modern languages at Hampden-Sydney College. Her email address is