Thursday, April 24, 2008

Verbal pitch

I've been on various music-related mailing lists over the years, and every so often, the subject of perfect pitch comes up. The general consensus is that it's not necessarily a fine thing to have perfect pitch (at least according to the strictest definition of the term), because it makes most music impossible to enjoy, as even the slightest deviation from absolute pitch becomes painful.

Sometimes I feel like I've got a mild form of the verbal equivalent of perfect pitch. Irregularities and imprecise speech annoy me, depending on the context. I can watch a movie or TV show or read a book where characters don't speak perfectly - I'm not quite that uptight. But...well..sometimes...

Yesterday, for example, my boss said he was feeling "nauseous", and I just *had* to give a lecture on why that was the wrong word. Nauseous does not mean "nauseated" - or it didn't until people misused it to the point where that definition got added to the dictionary. Strictly speaking, it means "causing nausea or disgust". If you're feeling queasy, you're "nauseated". You aren't "nauseous" unless you're causing other folks nausea; which could, of course, be the case if you insist on detailing your symptoms, I admit.

Signs and labels also annoy me sometimes. I have a few bottles of Bath and Body Works' aromatherapy shower gel stuff. They each have a word describing what they're supposedly for: the Ylang Rose stuff says "Sensuality" on it, for example. Umkay. Anyway. The Mandarin Lime says "Energy." All good so far. Both nouns. But the third bottle is Eucalyptus Spearmint, and it says "Relax". "Relax" isn't a noun. It doesn't fit. It should be "Relaxation." If I just had the one bottle, it wouldn't bother me, but in the series, it bugs me every single morning.

Another bottle from Bath and Body Works says to use a "button sized amount." What does that mean? Are we talking shirt button? Coat button? Elevator button? I can't use the stuff without pondering this imponderable. It's mentally paralyzing. Not a good way to start the day...

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