The Patron Saint of Patronising

I’ve been having a horrible time of late trying to fix my pronunciation after a friend pointed out I was saying the word patronising the wrong way. Try as I might I couldn’t help but keep saying pate-ronising, which I would duly beat myself up for as a result. That is until I looked it up.

Turns out both are just tomato-tomato’s of the same word, both pronunciations coming from the Latin ‘pater’ meaning father, (and for you Harry Potheads out there, the later word ‘patronus’, meaning defender). I guess this makes the word ‘patroness’ a lot more interesting all of a sudden.

I must say I find it odd though, my friend really did have a justifiable point. For some reason Pat-ronising sounds more like looking down on someone than Pate-ronising, which sounds like you’re lovingly fathering over something. I think I’m going to keep using that distinction now too, I do rather like it.

It would seem I’ve just been effectively incorrected!


Stephen Fry on the English Language

I think it’s fair to say that I couldn’t have put it better myself.

The ever wonderful Stephen Fry discusses the beauty and bastardry of the English language on the Jonathan Ross Show.

Willst Thou Unite With Me Civilly?

I had the unfortunate experience of finding myself in the middle of a marriage feud the other day. Perhaps not the kind you were thinking of however, this was an argument over the use of the word “marriage”. In effect one party was very upset at the notion of couples of the same gender being able to enter into a “marriage”, while the other party failed to see the harm. “It’s a biblical term, that’s been unchanged for thousands of years!” was the gist of it.

Now, politics aside, this was the breaking point for me. I’ll happily tolerate a difference of political opinion, and you are always entitled to express the issue that your religion disavows the marriage of people of the same gender (in which case it would of course be well within your rights to not marry someone of the same gender) but when it comes to willful stupidity about language, that’s when you’ve crossed me, and as such I decided to wade into the debate.

I can’t for the life of me work out how a grown woman could ever have not considered that the Christian Bible has, in fact, been translated into English, but there she was getting emotional about a word that has “remained unchanged for over 2000 years”. Of course at this point I felt it necessary to point out that the biblical word for marriage was not “marriage”, it was a bunch of different Greek and Hebrew terms across various different manuscripts and revelations, “kiddushin” and “laqah” being examples1. Secondly up, our term “marriage” comes from the Latin “maritare”. It means “to provide with a husband or wife”, as the term had to allow for bequeathment and polygamy, and as such the definition in the strictly traditional sense would be remaining completely unchanged.

I also asked her what she considered the most notable thing to happen during the reign of King Henry VIII. Unsurprisingly it was when he ousted the Catholic Church in order to change the definition of marriage.

I asked her if she would object to me marrying some jam and butter on a piece of toast.

She informed me that I was missing the point.

I informed her that she’s missing one too many brain cells.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on the language of love. Feel free to comment and discuss!


1 To quote from the book ‘An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible’: “Biblical Hebrew lacks a term equivalent to the English word ‘marriage’.” The reason we today use the term “marriage” to describe various biblical ideas and terms, such as laqah, gameo, mnesteuo, koinonia, kiddushin, hatuna, nisu’in etc. etc. etc. is because, surprise surprise the meaning of marriage has changed over time to accommodate all these terms. Go figure.

The Universal Language

A Netherlandian friend kindly informed me the other day that all is not lost if I should ever find myself overseas without a phrasebook. “Do not worry my friend,” he assured me “for the phrase ‘vaginal infection‘ is the same in almost every language.”

Putting the question of how he even discovered this aside for one moment, I put on my investigators cap and quickly discovered to my amazement that this is absolutely completely true!

For those interested here’s a list of languages in which the phrase ‘vaginal infection’ would more or less be recognized: Afrikaans, Albanian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, English, Estonian, Filipino, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Haitian Creole, Indonesian, Italian, Latin, Latvian, Macedonian, Maltese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian; and then on top of this there are eleven more languages that employ at least one of the two words in that phrase: Bengali, Armenian, Finnish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Irish, Malay, Persian, Slovenian, Welsh and Hebrew.

My goodness, the world is a strange and amazing place sometimes. Who would have thought that in a world polarized by so many differences, it would be thrush that ultimately unites us!

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and find myself some new friends.

If You Think That…

Finish this sentence: “If you think that, well then you’ve got another…”

You may be surprised to learn that the way you finish that seemingly cliched phrase may actually offend people! Fortunately they’d be the kind of pedantic bastards that you’d concuss yourself with a dictionary just to avoid, so you needn’t worry too much, but nevertheless Incorrections is here to save the day and to help guide you headfirst into that minefield of social pahriety!

Pahriety1[puhṟahyuh-tee] noun: 1. A party attended exclusively by social pariahs 2. ComiCon.

The sticking point comes with the words “thing” and “think”. Simple enough you’d think, some people have foolishly misheard the phrase “another think coming” as “another thing coming” or vice versa. Such folly! But here’s where it gets weird: neither can really be considered incorrect.

Plenty of debates have been had on the internet (well, more than the average ratio of topic-to-internet-debate) and plenty of statistics and dictionaries have been thrown around (not always metaphorically) citing sources and books and various institutions of learning, all of which hold the same kind of unquestioned authority in the world of language as Constable Clancy the Koala holds when drafted to a homicide investigation. (Constable Clancy the Koala being the foremost reason the reform of C to K should never, ever, take place).

Once everyone on the net calmed down a bit, and the doctors were done removing the shards of broken keyboard from the survivors of the great online debate of 5:37pm, everyone looked around and realised that the number of people on the ironically named Think side of the debate were pretty much equal to the opposing Things, which heavily implies that both sides could be considered not incorrect (it also heavily implies that people need to get out more).

As far as we can establish down here at the Incorrections Word Lab (i.e. the basement) the phrases probably grew out of the ‘thing’ derivation, with ‘think’ being a play on the original. If we had to guess (and this gun-wielding terrorist group of angry linguists is telling us that we do), the phrase probably started out as a masked threat:

“If you don’t give me back my lunch you’ll have something else (i.e. a knuckle sandwich) coming your way pretty quick.”

Then some poor innocent sole simply made the following pun, unaware he was about to unleash the literary equivalent of an A-Bomb onto an unsuspecting anglosphere.

“If you think that, well then you’ve got another think coming!”

See what they did there? HILARIOUS! Unfortunately for us the world is 1/10th people with no sense of humour, who upon hearing this, simply assumed it was the correct phrase for all situations, kept on using it regardless, and then went on to procreate somehow. Worse still another 5/10ths (or 1/2 for all you mathematicians out there) are just humour lemmings who will continue to use this ‘pun’ in all situations convinced that it is now somehow always humorous regardless of the obvious oncoming cliff face of unfunnyness until finally they topple over the edge in a shower of tiny furry jokes and yes it was a bad metaphor in retrospect.

All in all, if some people want to use the word ‘thing’ and some want to use the word ‘think’, it’s not that big an issue. Sure one might not make any sense out of context, but in fairness both rely heavily on the cliche factor anyway. Frankly I prefer to just flat out spurn the cliche altogether and threaten to murder the family of whomever I’m talking to, if I don’t like the direction they are taking. Cut to the chase I say!

When it comes to correctness in language, it always comes down to numbers, and in this unusual case opinion is divided down the middle. Sure you can cite one dictionary or one newspaper, but really people are just going to do what they’re gonna do. In the end, I feel at least, it’s really just not worth getting worked up about this kind of think.

Incorrectional Facilities

I was discussing the ‘gaol’ vs ‘jail’ spelling debate in Australia with a British friend the other day, and how we now call our jails ‘correctional facilities’ as a result. ‘That’s funny’ he replied, ‘we just call our correctional facilities “Australia”.’

As the blind man said to the brick wall, I walked right into that one.