Monthly Archives: February 2013

Ambient — It’s everywhere

Ambient is the word up for discussion today.


One of the main uses of this word that I have heard is ambient temperature. But, it seems there are other meanings too.

The context in which I heard it used means “of the surrounding area or environment.”  Another definition is “existing on all sides.”  This could relate to temperature.  Also, if you have a tape recorder on a table, it will pick up ambient sounds.  There can also be ambient light in a room too.

Ambient, in a general way can mean surrounding or encompassing.

A lesser known definition is “pertaining to sounds that create a peaceful/relaxed atmosphere.”  I think “white noise” may fall in this category

Lastly, there is a definition that I never heard of.  It states that the word ambient can mean “pertaining to close and constant social contact/communications.”

The derivation of the word is Latin:  ambient-, ambiens, present participle of ambire to go around, from ambi- + ire to go.

Words that are not really words

made up wordsHere are some words that are probably made up or just evolved over time.  My son pointed out a list of some 15 of these that first appeared in the blog daily writing tips.  Go to this excellent site to see all the words and much more.

I have taken the liberty to highlight some of the words on the list that tend to drive me crazy when I see or hear them.

Let’s start with firstly.   It’s ok to say secondly or thirdly, but please say first, not firstly.

Why do we have to add to an already good word. Take for instance orientate. This is a form of orientation but the extra part does not need to be there.

Over the years, preventive has become preventative to many.  Please be aware of this.

I seldom hear this one, but some of you may use it.  That is participator. The word is participant, folks.

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Quirky words

quirky wordsEnglish is a tough language to learn. Most of us are fortunate we learned it at such an early age. It is difficult because some words have different (and sometimes opposite meaning) and others are just downright quirky.

Some words should have a clear meaning but they sure don’t. For example, the peanut is a legume, not a nut. Danish pastries were created in Austria. The cute and cuddly Koala bear is a marsupial and not a bear. Panama hats originate from Ecuador, not Panama. There is neither pine nor apple in a pineapple, no egg in eggplant and not a bit of ham in hamburger.

Now, consider these questions.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Why do you fill in a form by filling it out?

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Bi-weekly or semi-monthly?


bi-weekly or semi-monthly

For part of my career at Hewlett-Packard, we had meetings with our boss.  These periodic meetings were held every two weeks.  At times, discussions ensued about whether these meetings were bi-weekly or semi-weekly.  ( Semi-monthly , for that matter.)

Here is some insight to help you decide which term is correct.   The prefix bi means two and semi means half.

 With this in mind, bi-weekly means every other week (every two weeks.)  Semi-weekly would mean twice in a week–Once in each half of the week.

With that in mind, I guess our bi-weekly meetings were also semi-monthly meetings. I guess I would go with calling it an every two weeks meeting if I had to do it again.

Now you know.