There are two words which the media frequently like to misuse, which really wind me up when I hear them, in a spitting feathers kind of way. People who work with me regularly soon stop misusing these words, because they know what’s coming if they do!
The first word of the day is to pontificate. The clue as to what this word word means is in its first half – pontiff. The ‘cate’ ing of a Pontiff – what does this mean? It’s like the ‘tate’ ing of a cogi (cogitate), but done at a much higher level. When a mere mortal chooses to think something over, that’s what we do – give it a bit of a mull, rattle the old six-sided brain cell around inside the skull, see which side it stops on, forget what we decided because it doesn’t really matter, then move on. When a Pontiff chooses to think about something, he does so with god on his shoulder, in an ineffable fashion. What comes out after his communion with god is infallible, and has been since 1870 when the First Vatican Council decreed it to be so. Unlike the rest of us, the Pope can’t break a few balls or enter into banter over the communion wine (in Latin, presumably), because anything he says is true and can’t be questioned, except by god himself. If the Pope tells you to ‘go f*** yourself’, not only must you do so, you must also be capable of doing it, because he can’t be wrong.
This is what an online dictionary has to say on the matter: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pontificate. Apparently, the ordinary man in the street CAN now pontificate. However, I disagree! Pontification is reserved for the Pope and possibly the Queen, as supreme head of the Church of England. Since the schism, we need a different word – the ruling monarch of England ‘Majecates’. It’s a new word, so don’t go misusing it.
The second word of the day is to decimate. Whenever anything is destroyed, be it crops, people or things, there are those out there in media land who commit the heresy of declaring it’s been decimated. OK, I’m not the Pope, so I can’t really declare the misuse of this word a heresy, but you get the idea. Decimation was a particularly cruel punishment carried out on a unit of a Roman Legion when it under performed. The unit was divided into groups of 10 and lots drawn at random. The unlucky one was then clubbed or stoned to death by his fellows. Now, I’m all for a bit of decimation, provided it’s done by 10,000 of the general populace on 1,000 well chosen bankers and politicians, without the drawing of any lots at all. A field of wheat toppled in a storm comes nowhere close to a 1,000 heads on poles.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about decimation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decimation_%28Roman_army%29.
One of my Catholic friends has a particular favourite, which is epiphany, the common phrase going something like: ‘I had an epiphany the other day’. Epiphany is either a religious holiday (6th Jan) or a book of the bible, it’s not a thing in itself. The state to which the word heretics refer is a theophany, which is the appearance of god or a god to a person, and the realisation that follows. A conversation may or may not be involved. Every time the Pope pontificates, he undergoes theophany. When he tells you to ‘go f*** yourself’, what you undergo when you realise that this entails chopping bits off to fulfill the request is also a theophany and not an epiphany.
If you really want to wind me up, the sentence to do it with goes something like this: When I was pontificating I had an epiphany that that crop decimation was carried out by locusts, not by flying cats after all…