When my youngest son was in 3rd grade, the teacher would give the class new spelling words each Monday. Their assignment was to return on Tuesday with their definition of the word. Then the class would use the dictionary to see how close they had come to the correct meaning.
One week, ‘disappoint’ was on the list. Phillip said the meaning of that word was “to make someone mad at you.” I got the message. Someone — probably me or a caregiver — had said to my little boy “I’m disappointed in you,” in a voice that conveyed not disappointment but anger.
When I shared this with the teacher, she said more than half the class gave similar answers.
We hear a word used in a certain context and either because of body language or context we assume its meaning. I was grown before I realized that ‘cohorts’ didn’t mean ‘partners in crime,’ my frame of reference being Jesse James and his ‘cohorts.’
According to my F in Exams daily calendar, a high school student answered a test question: Romeo and Juliet is written entirely in Islamic pentameter.
An acquaintance once told me she had been invited to several holiday parties and needed ‘to retaliate.’ I’m sure she meant reciprocate, but then again . . .
I read this week that ‘irregardless’ is now a considered a word. Not a particularly good word, but it has been used enough to gain that distinction. That’s sad.
Does all this mean that when someone facebooks ‘time is going to fast’ that it might indicate life is swiftly passing us by? Or does it mean it will soon be too late to take part in an ancient spiritual discipline?