Grandma's Tales

October 19, 2006

Grammar 8 – Splitting headache

Filed under: Language — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:59 pm

I found this mail in my inbox.

hi every body,                    my new mail ID -  xxx  pl use this mail from now it self.   

Even reply also. Xyz
When I see words split and broken at will like this, I have visions of the writer, 
tomahawk in hand, doing a war dance on the severed bodies of words. As he flips, 
flops and hops, he tramples over every body strewn on the ground.
"Everybody" as you may have understood by now is just one word. In "everybody", 
the "o" has a short sound. The word means "all".
"Every body" on the other hand, means "every one of the lifeless bodies". When 
you say "Hi every body", just what do you mean? These words can only be used to 
address a morgue. 
So it is "somebody", anybody", "nobody" when you talk of people who are alive.
English has a lot of words that have been formed by putting together words with 
meanings of their own. The newly minted word usually has a meaning that has 
nothing to do with the two original words. For example, "hard" means 
"rough/difficult". "Ship" means "a sea-going vessel". Put "hard" and "ship" together, 
you get "hardship" meaning "difficulties". "Ship" here stands for "the quality of" as 
in "leadership, gamesmanship, scholarship (please, there is no captainship, it's 
captaincy). When you write "hard ship", what do you expect it to mean? A ship 
that is not easy to break? It certainly doesn’t mean “difficulties”. 
It is the same with "itself". "It self" does not make sense at all. So gather itself, 
myself, yourself, herself, himself and airport around you and take good care of 
them. You don't want them splitting into two, amoeba fashion. Let's not start a 
word-breeding farm. 
While one group of murderous guys whoop around in battle gear, another group is 
on a healing mission. “Words of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but the 
emphasis!” is their mantra. They stitch up words that should be written as two and 
get these strange bedfellows – inspite (in spite of), atleast (at least), infact (in fact),
allover (all over) and usherin (usher in). Try saying these words in their combined 
form. They lose their sting. “Infact” and “in fact” do not give you the same sense 
at all. 
The next time you use a longish word made of two distinct, meaningful parts, 
you might want to get expert opinion (dictionary) on their looks. Do they mean 
what they are supposed to mean?


  1. This reminds of the famous movie “Chupke chupke” in which Dharmendra asks “When to and do are pronounced the way they are, why is go not pronounced like wise.

    As for unity of two words, in life 2+2 is not always equal to 4, unlike mathematics.

    Comment by Hiren — October 20, 2006 @ 6:15 am | Reply

  2. Bingo, Hiren! What a movie! Can’t think of it without chuckling! And 2+2 being 4 depends on whose Math it is.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 20, 2006 @ 7:48 pm | Reply

  3. Hey Ma’m,
    This blog was so apt because I have come across many people who do the same thing and even some who pronounce ‘everybody’ differently!It gets to you because “Hello?! It’s such a common word and you use it all the time!” I remember saying this same thing to one of my friends and she was like “Wake up!21st century and besides Who cares?” Shocking!;) As for me, call me old-fashioned or victorian or somebody who is’nt ‘in’ I prefer to perfect the lingua anglais(I hope that’s right!) in speech! I was thrown off guard quite recently when my friend sent me a sms saying “BTW,you have to…” and I asked her what is BTW.She incredulously replied it’s ‘by the way’ and I was like “Ohk..”.Now it is’nt as if I am not aware of the present trends just that BTW connotated the program ‘Born-to-Win’ I had attended last year in my school.Imagine me trying to fit this abbreviated form in the context of the sms! I did learn what this is called though it’s termed ‘Double Meaning’! Indeed the invention of the 21st century…BTW,Thank you for the compliment and I realised my mistake just as I had clicked on the submit button it’s ‘cite’ not ‘site’. Taking the liberty to call it a homophonal error;)(which might be grammatically incorrect).

    Comment by Karishma.D.Dodeja — October 20, 2006 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks Karishma, for thinking the way you do. I hope my arguments (why it is wrong to split that word in the salutation) are heard by your uninformed friends. And what makes your friend think the 21st century should be a 100 years of substandard, faulty writing? In fact, increasingly, there is a premium on precision and accuracy. How can your mobile do all those functions if the makers hadn’t insisted on error-free work? We are moving toward zero-tolerance for mistakes in this technology-infested world.
    I appreciate your views on BTW. That’s what I meant when I talked about removing ambiguity in writing. Keep on Karishma, you are a joy to read.
    A small point – take a good look at your “is’nt”.Where should the apostrophe be?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 20, 2006 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

  5. Dear G,

    “Every body” does not necessarily mean every “LIFELESS” body. While your clarification is certainly valid, you are still equating death with all mention of the word “body” seperately.

    Consider for example the following sentence:

    England fans were stripped to their waist, every body painted in the colours of the Union Jack.

    I’m sure all those fans are quite full of life.

    Comment by rockjongleur — October 21, 2006 @ 8:55 am | Reply

  6. Never the less any body mass acres every thing 🙂

    Comment by Patrix — October 22, 2006 @ 2:28 am | Reply

  7. Hi RJ,
    Ref: my comments in Grammar 9.

    Hi Patrix,
    You nailed it! Who says English grammar is boring? Thanks for adding to the splitting headache, and thanks for stopping by.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — October 23, 2006 @ 10:58 pm | Reply

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