I heard a commentator on one of the 24-hour news channels use the non-word dis-focus last week. At first, I thought that it was a grammatical hiccup, but then he used it thrice more.
He was talking about one of the political parties using one issue to dis-focus the country from another issue. Did he really think that dis-focus was a word? Did he just draw a blank four times when trying to think of the word “distract”? And if he did draw a blank, couldn’t he have just said “take the focus off”? I wish I knew the answer to at least one of these questions.
I was so jarred by the commentator’s repeated use of dis-focus that I, myself, became dis-focused—-I mean distracted—-and lost interest in what he was saying. That’s something to consider when trying to make yourself sound smarter by using non-words: People will often become so distracted by your grammar that your message will be lost. It’s better to stick with simple, straightforward, standard language.