I’m going to be mildly critical of Mr Donald Trump again this week, so must apologise to those who hold the man in deep respect.
It was revealed a few days ago that the President is taking an anti-malaria drug to ward off the chances of contracting coronavirus.
He said he’d “heard good stories about it”. Now I don’t know whether the drug will be good for him, I’m no chemist. But there appears to be, as yet, no scientific evidence that hydroxychloroquine deserves those “good stories”.
I suspect that Donald will have been told, or has read, that there is no proven reason for taking this drug. But he doesn’t care, he has decided to take it anyway. You could say he is being a mumpsimus.
A mumpsimus is one who carries on doing something incorrectly, even though he knows it is incorrect. The origin is a fairly esoteric tale concerning a monk reciting the Eucharist wrongly, but refusing to change because he liked the way it sounded. I have neither the space nor inclination to relate it in full here, though it is highly amusing in the original Latin, I’m told.
However, I know many people, not just Mr Trump, who are mumpsimuses.
People who confuse it’s and its must know that there is a difference, but don’t care. It’s (with the apostrophe) is a shortening of it is: it’s Saturday today. While its (sans apostrophe) is the possessive form of the pronoun it: the bird lost a feather from its wing. I see it’s and its used incorrectly with depressing regularity.
And people know there is a distinction between licence and license but are too lazy to look up which spelling they should use. Licence is the noun: a driving licence. License is the verb: licensed premises. A good way to remember is to think of advice (a noun) and advise (a verb), the difference in pronunciation gives a guide to the correct spelling.
There are a few pedants (I’m one of them) who still insist on the difference between nauseous and nauseated. If someone says they are nauseous they are saying they are causing others to feel sick. If they are nauseated, they themselves are in danger of being sick.
But common English usage these days allows nauseous to mean a person is feeling ill or disgusted. This nauseates me.
Word of the week
Persistence in using a strictly correct term as rejection of an erroneous, but more common, term (opposite of mumpsimus). EG: “Finan? He’s a sumpsimus.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org