Sunday, September 19, 2010

Horseshoe Awards Return

It's time once again for the Word Crank Horseshoe Awards to recognize those hapless speakers and writers who let their thoughts go awry by reaching for the right word…and missing.

The nominees: First up is the local newscaster reporting on the collapse of a radio tower when "workers clipped a guide wire." Actually they cut a "guy wire," a line fixed to the ground to support a structure. Okay, maybe he just got tripped up while reading, but I'm betting more than one listener thought that was right. (In the same way, I can't tell if the proper term in auto racing is "pit row" or "pit road." I just can't distinguish between the two when I hear the commentators. Race fans, give me the 411 on this.)

Then there was money maven Dave Ramsey who, in talking about financial reform, said "they brought in the calvary." Dave isn't the only one who mixes up "calvary" and "cavalry" (I think most of us who grew up singing hymns about "Calvary's tree" have struggled with this one), but he did it on a syndicated radio show, so he becomes the nominee. "Calvary" is derived from the Latin calvaria, meaning skull, translating the New Testament's Greek "golgotha," or place of the skull. "Cavalry," on the other hand, comes from the French "cavallerie," and ultimately from the Latin caballus, horse.

For a great word picture, the recipe I found that called for "burglar wheat" (I'm pretty sure bulgur wheat was meant) deserves an honorable mention. But nothing rivals the unintended humor found in a Joe Sixpack "book review" on Amazon: "McDaniels served in the Navy during the Vietnam War (1965-1972), was shot down while flying an A6A jet on May 19, 1967, and crushed two vertebrates after falling forty feet from a tree." No word on the condition of the unnamed vertebrates.

I'm giving all these linguistic fails their own gleaming, golden virtual horseshoe for the entertainment value of their spoken and written pratfalls. Keep up the bad work, America! There are more horseshoes in the Word Crank prize closet.

1 comment:

  1. 411 - it is pit ROW. This is simply something in my trivia bank that I happen to know. I cannot stand anything about cars circling a track at excessive rates of speed, burning tremendous amounts of fuel foolishly.
    Funny blog entry though. To err in speech is human, to note and point it out is hilarious! Keep up the good work!