In Search of Chester Drawers
Janet Morris Grimes
As a writer, I spend a great deal of time with words. They become my friends. I enjoy meeting them for the first time, checking out their local hangouts, and looking them in the eye to determine what they might bring into our relationship.
My favorites are those with some meat on their bones. I appreciate their various personalities, and the fact that they explain what they mean simply by the way they sound. For example:
Discombobulated – though I never remember actually being combobulated, I am well familiar with this guy.
Crotchety – I probably would never refer to him as a friend, because quite frankly, these people don’t make great friends.
Besmirched – if you’ve ever been the victim of a good besmirching, you will know it immediately.
And my two favorites, at least until I meet someone new, are these:
Bumfuzzled and his fraternal twin, Flummoxed. You can just tell by the looks on their faces that they are wondering “what in the world just happened?”
As a self-proclaimed word detective, there are some that have wormed their way into existence, misused and abused so often that we no longer know what is appropriate and what is not. There are times we must hold them accountable, forcing them to explain why they are here, and just what their purpose might be.
You may have heard people refer to Chester Drawers, as if he was a person, usually present, but offering little help, on moving day. Of course, we are all aware that there is no such person, and that this piece of furniture is actually a chest of drawers.
There are many more imposters, either in word or phrase form, that pop up in the English language, either mispronounced or misspelled on a daily basis.
Could not care less – you often hear people say they “could care less,” which is wrong. If they could not care less about a topic, it is placed at the bottom of their caring totem pole. To say you could care less about something is no big announcement.
Mischievous – I often referred to my son when he was younger as being mischievious, with a long ‘e’ after that ‘v’. As it turned out, he was only mischievous.
Memento – Many people write this word as momento, which makes sense, because a memento is something that captures a moment. It is, however, spelled with an ‘e’ rather than an ‘o.’ The word momento is actually the Italian and Spanish word for moment.
Regardless – Pay attention to the number of people who use this word as “irregardless.” ‘Less’ as a suffix means ‘without,’ so the word already means ‘without regard.’ The ‘ir’ is completely unnecessary, and incorrect.
Recurring – The same is true for this word. Many form the word ‘reoccur,’ which is awkward in both its spoken and written form. Why create a new word when a perfectly functional one exists?
Perseverance – I have been guilty of pronouncing this one as ‘perSERverance,’ but the problem is that there is no ‘r’ before that ‘v.’ If the first syllable ends in ‘r,’ we often try to insert an ‘r’ in the second syllable as well.
Sherbet – The same is true for this word. There is no ‘r’ before that ‘t’, so it is pronounced ‘sher bit.’ It is my least favorite dessert anyway, and personally, this causes me to like it even less.
Prerogative – Perhaps we can blame Bobby Brown for this one, as he released a rap song in the 80’s called That’s My Prerogative. He pronounced it, though, as ‘PER rog a tive.’ Just remember that’s a ‘Pre’ instead of ‘Per,’ even though it does not roll off the tongue as easily.
In today’s world of text abbreviations and online chats, the chances are great that many more words can be trampled over in the future. But, in order to gain respect as a writer, it might be wise to do a little research in advance to make sure you understand the words you are using. By getting to know them and showing them a little respect, they might just do the same for you.