Favorite

Words Aug. 25 

“We [engineers] have great, not grate, influence over vast fleets of cement trucks and earth-movers, and I shudder, not shutter, to think how difficult it would be to get in and out of the Heritage West building [home of the Arkansas Times] if a ten-foot high wall should appear overnight and surround the building … ” That is from an e-mail I quoted Aug. 11. The e-mail was written in response to my light-hearted suggestion that there might be an engineer somewhere lacking in language skills. The Aug. 11 column has evoked another communication, from another engineer, Steve Heye of Little Rock. He writes: “You [actually, the first engineer] made an error in terms by calling the vehicle a ‘cement’ truck. It’s a concrete truck. The late Dr. Thomas Fry, University of Memphis, had a standing rule that you would lose a letter grade if you said ‘cement’ when you meant ‘concrete’ or said ‘dirt’ when you meant ‘soil.’ Cement is a powdered material added to gravel, sand and aggregate with water to make concrete. Cement is to concrete like flour is to cake. Dirt is the stain left by soil.” I had to inform Mr. Heye that while I doubtless have spoken of cement trucks and cement mixers many times when I should have said concrete, the erroneous reference on Aug. 11 was made by a fellow member of his profession. “He should have known better,” Mr. Heye said. I’m not sure that the dirt-soil rule of Mr. Heye’s old professor still holds true in non-technical usage — Random House seems to suggest otherwise — but I’m not starting any more fights with engineers. Incidentally, Mr. Heye confessed that some of his own usage draws reproach. “I still call it a ‘hot’ water heater, which drives a plumber crazy,” he said. Coincidentally, I received a communication from Bob Hilton saying that The Observer, “in their (her? his?) column of 8/11” committed “an all-too-common word abuse, ‘hot water heaters.’ ” I would scold The Observer — her, him or they — were it not that I usually say “hot water heater” myself. Old habits die hard. Often as not, I refer to the large appliance in the kitchen as an icebox.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

More by Max Brantley

  • Sunday and another open line

    Got anything for the open line?
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • But what about the Clintons? Last refuge of Trump, New York Times

    Trying to compare Donald Trump's reaction to the Russia investigation with Bill Clinton's dealings with Kenneth Starr should be a non-starter if the facts mattered. But these days — and to the New York Times — it ain't necessarily so.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • Football is king, Bentonville edition

    Good analysis in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of an unannounced Bentonville School Board vote last week to put $2 million into a football stadium for West High School despite board assurances in last May's tax election that no money would go to a football stadium.
    • Jul 23, 2017
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Another Jesus

    • IBS, were you there in Benghazi to personally witness all of Hillary's blunders like you…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • If God felt it necessary to replace the ten commandments, he could do it like…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation