has two rather contrasting meanings. There's oversight
-1: "an unintentional omission resulting from failure to notice something"—something you generally want to avoid. And there's oversight
-2: "management by overseeing the performance or operation of a person or group"—something that in a perfect world would happen all the time, and would ideally prevent a lot of oversight
-1s from happening. Why use the same word to designate such contrasting things?
One of the delightful features of English is what we might call a mashup
. That's a good term for this type of word because it exemplifies the phenomenon: a word formed by the fusing of a verb and a particle, nearly always a particle that can operate independently as a preposition or an adverb, sometimes as both.
Back in the old days (pre-Internet), when life was simpler, dictionaries were thought to carry a certain authority. People consulted them in order to learn or verify the proper and accepted meaning of words, to resolve disagreements, and sometimes to find an authoritative hook on which they could hang arguments. Today, the Internet and other technological developments make those scenarios a little less dependable and straightforward.
A peculiar feature of some adjectives ending in -y
is their ability to take on a semantic life of their own, separate from the meaning of their root. A handful of food-based adjectives fit this pattern, in which an English learner would be at a great disadvantage in thinking that the adjective's meaning might be composable from its parts. Think of corny
, and cheesy
"Rhetoric may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." That's Aristotle, writing in the fourth century BCE. Most of the wiles and schemes by which modern-day crafters of clickbait entice you to take the fateful step of clicking on a link were anticipated by the Master.
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has recently written a book, Six Amendments,
in which he proposes changes to the United States Constitution. I was curious to examine the language of Justice Stevens' book to get a better handle on what he perceives as the faulty connection between the Constitution's words and today's reality that may have arisen from the way we have interpreted those words.
Many popular Internet memes rely on a usually predictable manipulation of language as a part of their humor. Examining a number of popular memes suggests that they all in fact rely on theme and variation in order to proliferate, and the linguistic aspect of the meme is integral to its ability to spawn siblings and offspring.