Please Use the Right Word

There are many incorrect terms that are in common use in our language, and most of them don’t bother me.  For example, there are specific criteria that define a “bug,” that make an animal a true bug.  Not all insects are bugs.  Ladybugs?  Nope, technically a beetle.  Lightning bugs?   Also technically a beetle.  Assassin bugs and stink bugs are true bugs.  This incorrect usage is common; more importantly, it doesn’t bother me.

There are three common incorrect terms that really do bother me.  Today I am going to share them with you.  One proves that I am a science nerd, another that I am a bird nerd, and the third simply proves that I am a nerd in general.

Let’s start with a simple one: buzzard or vulture?  That big, bald-headed bird that eats dead stuff is correctly called a vulture.  In the rest of the English-speaking world, a buzzard is a type of hawk, not a vulture.  Buzzard is not only an inaccurate term for the bird, but a very misleading one.

Vulture on the left, Buzzard on the right. See? They are very different.

The next one is really science-nerdy, so consider yourself warned.  Picture a cartoon with a character leaning his head on a textbook.  He says, “I’m learning through osmosis.”  This bothers me immensely!  The correct word is diffusion, because diffusion is the movement of any molecule across a membrane.  Osmosis refers specifically to the diffusion of water.  So unless our cartoon friend is getting hydration from his book, he should use the word diffusion instead.

The third one is writing-related, and it has to do with weaponry.  What do you call the weapon that is a ball on a chain attached to a club or stick?  If you said flail, you are correct.  If you said mace, you’ve hit my third pet peeve.  A mace is a stick with a metal-reinforced end.  If there is anything that can swing involved, it’s a flail.

So now you know three ways to be more accurate in your writing and your everyday speech.  I thank you in advance for using the right words.  What incorrect terminology bothers you the most?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. pat O'Neal
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 21:21:29

    I’M too old to learn this stuff. Gee I hope I got the right 2″s


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