TribLIVE

| AandE

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

The Word Guy: My 'complements' to the chef

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Rob Kyff
Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, 9:05 p.m.
 

Linguistic misunderstandings can cost you a lot of money. Just ask the Connecticut man who misinterpreted this notice in The New York Times: “Complementary Dinner — A five-course wine-pairing menu will be served March 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Saul, 140 Smith Street (Dean Street), Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.”

“Since the dinner was complementary,” he writes, “I invited my girlfriend and another couple to join me. The dinner — appetizer, entree, dessert — was superb, and the selection of wines was amazing.

“At the end of the dinner, I praised the wine steward, the chef and the waiter. Then the bill appeared. I said I thought I did not have to pay since the dinner was ‘complementary.' The restaurant manager explained the difference between ‘complementary' and ‘complimentary.'

“He had me there, and I was embarrassed over the fact that I had confused the two words, which certainly have very different meanings. It was a very expensive dinner, and the wine particularly so — not at all complimentary.”

This story prompts me to consider other usage distinctions that could make a dramatic difference. Would you react to each of the following situations with glee, or would you flee?

1. You're on trial for murder, and you're told the person presiding over your case is a “disinterested judge.” Glee or flee?

2. You're inexperienced and uneducated, but you're applying for a job with many perquisites? Glee or flee?

3. You're on a dating website looking for someone who's a nonconformist. A possible match writes, “I love to flaunt convention!” Glee or flee?

4. Your boss asks you to build an aquarium teaming with fish. Glee or flee?

5. You're a maker of fishing implements, and your boss tells you that you've made “a great gaff.”

Glee or flee? Answers:

1. Glee. “Disinterested” means “unprejudiced, objective.” “Uninterested” means “not interested.”

2. Glee. “Perquisites” means “benefits, extras.” “Prerequisites” means “requirements, qualifications.”

3. Flee. “Flaunt” means to “show off, ostentatiously display.” “Flout” means “to defy, scorn.”

4. Flee. “Teaming with fish” means working with a team of fish to build it. “Teeming” with fish means “full of fish.”

5. Glee. A gaff is a pole or hook used in fishing. A gaffe is a blatant mistake.

Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send email to Wordguy@aol.com or send regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Marte’s 2 fine defensive plays rescue Pirates in victory over Reds
  2. Pirates trade for Dodgers 1B/OF Morse, Mariners LHP Happ
  3. Rossi: Nothing huge, but Huntington helped Bucs
  4. Steelers OLB coach Porter teaches as passionately as he played
  5. Inside The Steelers: LB Williams dominates backs-on-backers drill at Latrobe Memorial Stadium
  6. 2014 showing has Steelers RB Harris confident he belongs
  7. Armstrong inmate escapee charged with murdering family matriarch
  8. Pirates place Burnett on 15-day disabled list
  9. LaBar: Piper’s influence can’t be understated
  10. Red Onion reunion possibly the last for Hempfield coal mining village
  11. Comets hold life building blocks