Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Vagaries of Word Choice

Most people know that different English speaking countries use different words to represent the same thing. A lot of these we're familiar with, thanks to TV and radio, such as flat (apartment), boot (trunk), bonnet (hood) or lift (elevator). When visiting overseas, these are jarring initially and they stand out in everyday conversation. Then there are those that seem just plain wrong.

All my life, I've always envisioned things. Envision a better life, a better plan, a brighter tomorrow. And that word makes sense as it's based off of vision (to see). In Ireland, I thought I heard this too, but after time, by listening a little more carefully, I started to hear envisage, and then when I saw it in writing, I knew that this was indeed what they were using. Now this just didn't make sense to me, especially since the root word was visage (face). So the question is have you (as an American, Irish can't weigh in here) ever heard the heard envisage and seen it used interchangeable with envision? Are they synonyms?

Another one I'd never heard before was bespoke. I had to look that one up. And when did testing become vetting? The strange thing about vetting was that I started to hear it over here AFTER I'd left Ireland. Is the term invading?

(I know this posting has nothing to do with the house, but I had a lot of ideas rolling around in my head after my two week trip back to Ireland, and this blog is probably the best way to get them cleared out. Otherwise they rattle around up there and the noise it makes is embarrassing.)


Pusher said...

I'm familiar with those usages, but I really couldn't say whether I've heard them or just read them. And since I do a lot of reading of BritLit, that doesn't really help as far as the Americans-only thing.

Envisage does make sense to me though, if I think of it as imagining the face/appearance of something. I don't think I would have even noticed the difference.

Jen said...

Hmm... I am familiar with "bespeak" but not really with "bespoke". And I have heard "vetted" but I couldn't really say where, most likely the Brits or my Scottish ex-boss. Envisage is a completely new one to me.