Yes, we writers obsess over our words. It’s part of the job description. Ernest Hemingway admitted to rewriting the ending of a A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times! When asked what the problem was, he replied, “Getting the words right.”
But let’s ditch the obsessing—for a little while—and go back to the time when we were still trying to wrap our heads around the complexities of language, and indulge in some innocent language levity. [PC: morguefile]
I don’t know about you, but when I was in grade school I’d use a word because it sounded right. Back then, there were only paper dictionaries (yes, paper!), and if a dictionary wasn’t handy I’d go with what sounded right.
My “sounds right” guessing was probably as hilarious as some of the following excerpts taken from actual student science exams in the 1990s:
- The dodo is a bird that is almost decent by now.
- The Earth makes one resolution every 24 hours.
- To collect fumes of sulfur, hold a deacon over a flame in a test tube.
- The process of turning steam back into water again is called conversation.
- The three kinds of blood vessels are arteries, vanes, and caterpillars.
- English sparrows and starlings eat the farmers grain and soil his corpse.
- Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the organ of the species.
- A magnet is something you find crawling over a dead cat.
- A triangle which has an angle of 135 degrees is called an obscene angle.
- For head colds, use an agonizer to spray the nose.
- For snakebites, bleek the wound and rap the victim in a blanket for shock.
- To prevent conception, the male wears a condominium.
- Use a turnpike on an arm or leg if there’s a bad cut to stop the bleeding.
- Living Death is an oximormon that’s like being dead when you’re really alive.