Posted by languageandgrammar on February 25, 2008
Everyone had a good laugh at Roger Clemens when he recently said (at the congressional hearing about steroid use) that Andy Pettitte had misremembered since we all know that misremembered is obviously not a word. While I agree with those who believe that it is not a word, it’s an interesting case about the grey area of language and communication.
Nearly every word that has been used with any regularity appears in some dictionary somewhere because dictionaries are a typically a reflection of current usage, not of proper grammar. In other words, commonly used non-words usually appear in dictionaries and are then accepted into language as words by much of the population because they’re in the dictionary. The problem is that not everyone agrees that common usage is reason enough to declare a former non-word to be a legitimate word, and debate about the legitimacy might go on for generations.
That’s how the word drug has started to be accepted as the past tense of the word drag by some of us. (The correct past tense is dragged–look for a post from Sherry on this word soon.)
It’s the same with the word misremembered. It does appear in the occasional dictionary, but does that make it an acceptable word? Misremembered appears in these dictionaries not because of common usage, however; it appears there because of the belief that the prefix mis– can be added to nearly any root word to make a new word. Personally, I don’t believe that to be the case with misremembered; the result is an awkward, ineffective non-word that should be avoided.
That is my opinion, and if anyone wants to make the argument that it’s an acceptable word because it shows up in the odd dictionary, then he should misremember things to his heart’s content.
Just don’t misremember this: Good communication skills are more important than whether you can make an argument for using an awkward word. It’s about how to effectively express yourself, which ain’t gonna be happening with bad word picking.
Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever
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