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Township Roads: Almost the right word


Fri, Mar 7th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

When our second son, Matt, was just a little guy, he went on a school field trip. They were gone for the day to the Twin Cities. We didnít know the trip itinerary so we quizzed him about his activities when he got home. We asked him what he had seen. He quickly replied, "I saw a Matisse." My wife and I looked at each other. We were very impressed that the field trip included a stop at an art museum. We questioned Matt a little more about the details of the Matisse. He looked thoughtful for a moment and said, "No, I guess it was a hippopotamus." Matisse. Hippopotamus. Thatís an easy mistake to make. The words are almost the same.

Mark Twain wrote a lot of words and among them he wrote, "The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." Now, before you say, "You are no Mark Twain," let me tell you that I am no Mark Twain. However, I do try to use the right words in my writing and find it annoying when other writers use "almost the right word" in lieu of the right word. It is particularly annoying when they use "absolutely the wrong word" repeatedly and intentionally.

I have fought a low-key ongoing battle with several of my professional colleagues over this issue. The word in question is "contractee". My colleagues are highly educated individuals who generally have a fair share of common sense and wisdom. Except in this instance. The problem arose because they wanted a word that means "someone who deals with a contractor". Instead of looking in the dictionary to find the word "contractant", they made up the word "contractee". There is no such word in my English language dictionary and I doubt if it appears in anyone elseís either.

Perhaps they took this creative shortcut to make their lives easier. They probably thought that it was easier for the people we deal with to understand the relationship between a contractor and a contractee, even though a contractor exists in the real world and a contractee exists only in their minds. It must have seemed easier to them to invent a word than to try to inform others of the correct word. They were thinking that everyone knows the relationship between an employer and an employee so the same should be true with a contractor and a contractee. Unfortunately, the English language does not work that way. The situation is made worse by their refusal to correct the mistake after years of .....
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Journal Writing Project: Andy Wolter

Fri, Mar 7th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

Youíll never figure everything out. Thatís life, no matter how much you hope and plan, there is nothing to guarantee anything will ever work. I guess thatís what makes life worth living, the fact you will never figure everything out, and the fact tha ..... 
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Journal Writing Project: Jamie Rose Howe

Fri, Feb 28th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

Eighteen years I have experienced life here on this planet. In this world there is hunger, wealth, poverty, divorce, terrorism, hate, and love. Iíve experienced eighteen years of it, of pure...life. And as I approach graduation, it gets more and more ..... 
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At Home in the Woods: For the birds

Fri, Feb 28th, 2003
Posted in Columnists

One morning in early February, I saw a sharp-shinned hawk perched on one of our bird feeders. The sharp-shinned is a small agile woodland hawk whose favorite food is small birds. The feeder birds immediately disappeared into the nearby bushes. [Read the Rest]

The Commute: Katieís Swim

Fri, Feb 21st, 2003
Posted in Columnists

Like so many people, Iím grappling with a certain amount of anxiety these days about the world situation. By the time this is published, our country could be at war. More locally, we worry about a state budget over four billion dollars in the red. Wh ..... 
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Township Roads: Go ahead! Wreck my day!

Fri, Feb 21st, 2003
Posted in Columnists

I try to look on the bright side of things. Thereís a silver lining to every cloud and all that. I may be unreasonably optimistic. Thatís why I donít usually allow little things to disrupt my day.

Maybe this is from having live ..... 
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Prairie Notes: What will they do?

Fri, Feb 21st, 2003
Posted in Columnists

Lately, conversations with friends revolve around the same economic thread. What will happen now that gas prices fluctuate by ten cents in a day? What will happen to retirement accounts that had seemed such a good investment two years ago? What will ..... 
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