I hate to make mistakes. I try to be really precise in my language and terminology in all fields, especially professional ones. This usually has one of two effects: it takes me forever to say what I want to say, or it causes severe annoyance when I hear other people use the terms wrong.
I am aware that this is somewhat crazy. With that admission out there, I give you the seven things I wish I didn’t know.
What a denomination is
Or more precisely, what a denomination is not. There are denominations, there are churches, there are religions, then there are non-denominational…denominations? Honestly I am often reduced to just using the term “religious groups” in my teaching to avoid getting into the nitty-gritty of what that word means.
That not all Catholics are Roman Catholics
John Stephen Dwyer [CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
I once got a survey that listed Roman Catholic alongside Orthodox, Protestant, Muslim, etc, and does not offer an option for Catholics of other rites. So I wrote to the person who sent it to me and told them that not all Catholics are Roman Catholics, and that they shouldn’t leave out Melkite, Maronite Catholics, etc. It should just have said “Catholic” to be inclusive. Though Catholics of other rites are a slim minority, I’m sure they are relieved that I am looking out for them.
(I also wrote a novel in the margins of a health survey at acupuncture when they listed Colitis and then IBS/Crohn’s. Don’t they know Crohn’s is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease, not an Irritable Bowel Syndrome? If I’m going to have chronic inflammation for the rest of my life, I at least want to get credit for it)
The difference between a nun and a sister
Nuns are cloistered. Sisters are not.
No one cares.
Admittedly, “nun” has entered common parlance , so I don’t feel quite so badly about using the shorthand. If Nuns on a Bus say it’s OK, it must be. Even though part of me wants to scream NUN ON A BUS IS AN OXYMORON!
That résumé has two accents aigus
This is another one that has crept into common usage in a modified form, of course as resume. I really don’t mind seeing it spelled without the accents. But when I send my artistic résumé to directors or conductors, I just can’t bring myself to say that my “rehzoom” is attached. So I either type in Word and add the accents, then copy and paste into Gmail, or I just say my “materials” are attached.
The plural of accent aigu
Seriously, this is why I have no friends.
That one is not supposed to congratulate upon an engagement
I read this fact once, presumably in an antiquated book of etiquette, and ever since have suffered through hearing screeching congrats upon said happy news, while I say “Best wishes!” like a character in an Austen novel. It’s not that I am not happy for people, but that I have decided that is the only rule of etiquette to which I am going to stick.
(The idea is that engagement is not an accomplishment in itself – one is not entering a new stage of life, simply announcing that they intend to enter a new stage of life. Congratulations should be reserved for the wedding. So sayeth Emily Post).
Another etiquette fact I wish I’d never read is that a couple’s names should be listed on separate lines of an address or invitation if not married and only on the same line if they are married. Now I notice this.
If you graded papers for ten minutes you would already be tired of using the red pen on there/their/they’re, to/too, and (in my case) altar/alter. This is the supreme case in which ignorance would indeed be bliss. I want desperately not to care. But my profession demands it.
And sadly, my personality demands it too. I have an unfortunate tendency to notice and care. Since my mother taught me from a young age that it’s rude to correct someone as long as you understand what they mean, I never, ever mention to someone when they have hit one of these tripwires. That is a good first step. The next step is to stop being such a snob and get over it.
What do you wish you didn’t know?
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