Friday, January 15, 2010

Cow Towing: Penance for the Persnickety

Someone once said to me, "Billy, if you were wrong about it, you could never have been certain of being right about it."

Oh, the perils of perfectionism! It's one thing to inexcusably rely on a spell-checker to perform substantive editing tasks; it's quite another to think yourself invincible when it comes to the literal.

For quite some time, I've had a gnawing feeling in my stomach over letting stand—without double checking—my use of the word kowtow. Yep. You guessed it. While the context is not important, the point is I wrote that someone I knew was "cow towing" to the wishes of someone else! To those of us who are sticklers about proper word usage, this is blasphemous—to say nothing of hilariously stupid! I stand defrocked as an aspiring perfectionist of word use and now assume my much-deserved assignment as a dictionary dolt. My shame is boundless!

As penance, I will rent a tow truck, borrow a cow, tie the cow to the towing rig, drive around my neighborhood and offer myself up for derision. What the hell. It sure beats having to say five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys.

1 comment:

  1. Bill,

    No one is ever going to get it right every time when it comes to language, especially our rather psychotic one.

    I'm reminded of an old boyfriend who liked to use the word "albeit." He once wrote me a long letter and proceeded to read it to me over the phone, and "albeit" came up in it about three times. The only problem was, he had no idea how to pronounce the word. He looked at it and saw a German word, which he pronounced as "all-bite." Due to the emotional circumstances surrounding the letter and his reading of it, I never got the chance to tell him that the word was actually a three-in-one: Al(l)-be-it.

    Or, my ex-boss, who responded to an e-mail I wrote, apologizing for having "dawdled" with an assignment, by saying "Well, hopefully you've stopped dwindling."

    I think the world is a more colorful place when people tow cows. Otherwise, we'd all be dwindling, albeit a bit more quietly, perhaps...