Bivouac 7/21/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Don’t make me bivouac your butt.

Terminology is an interesting thing.  Since I’ve been writing this blog, I have been learning a lot of terminology.  Whenever I use a word that I think I know the definition, I double check to be sure.  Interestingly, and with far more regularity than I would care to admit, the term does not mean what I think it does.

If you don’t know the definition of “bivouac”, the opening line might sound like quite the threat (especially because the final syllable sounds very much like “whack”).  However, my friends in the military are either laughing their bivouacs off or scratching them.  I think I know what bivouac means, and if I’m right, then I have been using hilariously inappropriately.  Give me a second here to look it up.

Yup, sure enough.  It’s generally a military term, meaning a temporary camp usually with tents.  When I threaten to bivouac your butt, I’m basically threatening to take your butt camping, although, honestly, why your butt would want to go camping without the rest of you is completely beyond my comprehension. 

Understanding terminology, and using it properly, is important.  I used to tell my students to pay attention in English class, explaining to them that no matter how many letters are behind your name, ain’t nobody gonna take you seriously if you can’t talk no good American.

I have to admit, it feels like so many memes these days use poor English as if it is some sort of statement.  If you, my beloved readers, like that, I’m not going to insult your taste, but I must say that it always drives me crazy.  With proper English, I don’t have to spend my time trying to interpret what the author is trying to say.  Sometimes it seems so bad that I just give up on reading it. 

Yes, I realize that my blog often has typographical errors as well.  I’m not nearly as careful with editing as I should be, but I do use a couple of grammar and spell checkers, although sometimes they insist on changing something that I am saying exactly as I intend it.  The sentence above, for example, may well make them explode.

I wish I could remember the term, but just a couple of days ago I used a word, only to discover that its meaning was nowhere near what I thought it was.  And checking definitions is not difficult today.  I remember my mother bought a college dictionary for me when I was high school graduating senior.  It was on sale because there was a typo in the copyright year (it said copyright 1215).  It was easy.  All you had to do was open the dictionary, and if you know the correct spelling you find the proper page and there it is.  If you don’t know the spelling, then you had to guess at the spelling, finding the proper part on the proper page for each guess until you succeeded.  Today, if there’s a red squiggly line, you right click and choose the correct spelling.  Once the spelling is correct, you can right click and look at the synonyms which often works well for the definition.  If not, a simple web search for the definition will bring it up.  To me, there is no reason to use poor English, have misspellings (like I just misspelled misspellings), and make it difficult for readers to interpret your meaning. 

My mother had a phenomenal vocabulary and had a lot of knowledge because she read.  The interesting thing is that she read cheesy “romance” books (you know the ones), but even at that she learned new words and facts as the stories unfolded.  Ironically, I don’t really read much, especially now that I’m no longer teaching.  But I do write.  Along with my blog (and several chemistry books and articles), I’ve written and published Vampire Genetics, and today I’m working on a couple more books as well.  In fact, my regular readers may have read a book I’m planning on publishing already.  My thought is to take my short stories (not the cute Christmas stories, but the horror stories) and publishing an anthology.  If I do this, I’ll have to edit and rework some of the stories as their limitations made me circumvent a lot of story and character development, but I think it’ll be a quick and relatively easy book for me to write since I’ve basically already written it.  Meanwhile, I am a couple of chapters shy of completing the outline for a murder mystery, and trust me, I’ll be using proper English.

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