Sunday, April 20, 2008

This Language Ain't Big Enough Fer the Two of Us

There are certain sayings in this language that, for some reason or another, are entirely two similar to one another.

As an example of this, I present the expressions "ham-fisted" and "ham-handed." I am constantly getting the two confused. Both of them involve porcine meat products and the manual extensions of the human arm, and yet they don't have anywhere near the same meaning. The first, "ham-fisted," means having large, beefy hands. Quite plainly, hands like hams. The second is an idiom, meaning "forced or artificial." It is frequently used to refer to the themes or "messages" of a textual work.

Friends, is it really fair of English to do this to us? Having two common phrases that are this similar in sound, regardless of their meaning, is simply not fair. It's just begging mix-ups. Misunderstandings will run rampant, and wacky sitcom-style hijinks with ensue, and somebody will misplace their clothes and end up having to duck behind random objects in order to avoid being caught in their altogether.

The English language needs the equivalent of Wikipedia's Canditate for Speedy Deletion system. The only question remaining is which to get rid of. Me, I nominate "ham-handed." It's an idiom, and we all know how dumb THOSE are.

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