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"Murphy was an optimist!"

Keep your baited breath away from me June 9, 2006 9:16 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Daily Life
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My Great Aunt Mary taught English at the College of William and Mary, she sat on the Virginia Board of Education, and as a high school English teacher was nick named "Bloody Mary." In short, I was scared to death to write this lady . I do wish I had overcome that fear before her passing. She had traveled the world many times declaring North Africa and Alaska her two favorite places. Moby Dick was her favorite book. Btw, Aunt is pronounced with an ent sound not ant. Probably should be a little nasal. I once greeted her at the airport and she responded with "Good God child! Open your lips and enunciate!" Mind you, I think she was one of the most intelligent and interesting women I had ever met.

Despite the numerous misspellings, run-on sentences, and incorrect word choices you read in this site, I was schooled with very proper writing skills. The ease of electronic publishing makes us lazy. The publishing of first drafts prone to errors. The PalmOS single-handedly destroyed the adult population’s handwriting making us all qualified to be doctors. SMS (aka text messaging), instant messengers, and l33t sp34k have led 2 horrid abbrs the likes nvr b4 seen. Nu Shortcuts in School R 2 Much 4 Teachers (this NYTimes article is from September 2002!) (registration required – BugMeNot.com may help).

Ms. Harding, an eighth-grade English teacher at Viking Middle School in Guernee, Ill., scribbles the words that have plagued generations of schoolchildren across her whiteboard:

There. Their. They’re.
Your. You’re.
To. Too. Two.
Its. It’s.

This September, she has added a new list: u, r, ur, b4, wuz, cuz, 2.

Almost 60 percent of the online population under age 17 uses instant messaging, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. In addition to cellphone text messaging, Weblogs and e-mail, it has become a popular means of flirting, setting up dates, asking for help with homework and keeping in contact with distant friends. The abbreviations are a natural outgrowth of this rapid-fire style of communication.

I am sure you have read down to here with baited breath wondering where I was going with this writing. I wait with bated breath wondering why you are putting worms in your mouth. I have a few pet peeves. One of them is "baited" in lieu of "bated."

The word bate itself, first found around 1300, was once rather common–it appears a number of times in Shakespeare, for example–but is now very rare except in this one set expression. As a result, many people don’t know what bated means, and change it to baited by the process of folk etymology–the unclear bate is altered to associate it with the common bait.

Now that we have mastered bated, it is time to get to work. (…had to be done.)

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