Saying it right

Stuck at home? Feeling sorry for yourself? Can’t watch the basketball tournament. It’s cancelled. Spring training baseball games, too. Bummer.

I have been taking refuge in reading. There’s a stack of books that I have been meaning to get around to. Now’s the time.

Late this morning, I will make my way to a large local church to attend the funeral of a dear friend. That’s one event that hasn’t been cancelled.

Until then, my thoughts drift back to reading. Words. Language. Common errors we all make. The urge to keep teaching never leaves, so I will attempt to brighten your day with a brief lesson.

We’ve already covered the podium gaffe numerous times. In case you missed it, a podium is something one stands on, a platform to elevate one, It is not — repeat not — something one stands behind to speak. That would be a lectern, or on occasion, a pulpit. We get this wrong a lot.

Today, I feel the need to clarify the term short-lived. We use it in common speech frequently to refer to anything that won’t last very long. The team’s joy in having won the game will be short-lived, we say. Tomorrow the team will face a tougher opponent. But we pronounce short-lived wrong. We do? Yes.

We tend to rhyme “lived” with “give” with a “d” added, of course. But that’s incorrect. “Short-lived” should rhyme with “arrived” or “contrived.” Why?

It’s about something that has a life that is short. A short life. Two or more of these would be short lives. Say that aloud. Short lives. When we speak of short lives, we should rhyme the second part of that term with “arrives.” Something that is not expected to last long is said to be short-lived, that is, having a life that is short. We wouldn’t say “short-lifed.” Instead we say “short-lived.” Its life (or lives if more than one) is short.

Easy. Say it one more time, and smile. Getting it right feels good. It should. Rhymes with wood.

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