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Emily Popek

November 23, 2013

When is a suffix not a suffix?

(Continued)

Never mind that the word “seminar” is derived from the Latin “seminarium,” meaning “seed plot.” That would make a “webinar” a “web plot,” which sounds like something devised by a very evil spider. 

What on earth is wrong with simply calling it an online seminar? Or saying someone is a chocolate addict? 

But, such are the cries of the sort of impotent curmudgeon who lambasts people for saying they feel nauseous (”It’s ‘nauseated!’ ‘Nauseous’ means ‘causing nausea!’”, I cry, echoing my mother) or cringes at redundancies such as “free gift” and “added bonus.” (Again, credit goes to my mom.) 

I can hear you now, telling me to calm down and relax a little bit, that words are just words and their meaning is fluid and who really cares anyway. And for years, I bit my tongue and took it when people told me that, because I had not formulated any real defense to their demands that I chill out about their misplaced modifiers. 

But as fortune would have it, I have found myself in one of the few careers on Earth where these pet peeves are actually an asset and not just an annoying personality quirk. In fact, I’m getting paid to (among other things) root out words like “nauseous” and gleefully replace them with their appropriate substitutes. 

So if I still shudder a bit when confronted with workaholics and webinars, I take comfort in the evil words and phrases that I am allowed to strike down with my mighty red pen. And if that makes me a weirdo, a megalomaniac or just plain not a nice person — well, I suppose I don’t mind too much. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to prune some dangling participles.

EMILY F. POPEK is assitant editor of The Daily Star.

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