or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, July 20, 2009

To The Moon

I never, ever feel bad about being nitpicky about grammar and spelling and language in general. That's just who I am. Sometimes, though, I feel bad about writing about some nitpicky little thing, because really, who cares? (Except me and the other nitpickers, I mean.) There are surely more important things in the world than whether a verb agrees with its subject or whether someone has spelled a word wrong.

Still, here I am, writing this, and here you are, reading it, and here we are.

This is a sentence from a piece about Buzz Aldrin, who walked on the moon 40 years ago, still an astonishing thing to contemplate:

Instead, consider that for a number of years Aldrin was not only completely adverse to giving interviews, but lost in depression and alcoholism.

Oh, dear.

"Adverse" and "averse" are often mixed up. They look so alike! And they're even from the same source! But they are two different words with two different meanings, and even, in the broad view, two different etymologies, since they're constructed from slightly differing parts.

"Adverse" means "bad" or "antagonistic", and is used to describe a thing: it is most often seen paired with the words "reaction" (referring to medication), "weather", or "circumstances". It is composed of the prefix "ad-", "towards", and "vertere", "to turn", because when an enemy turns towards you, a bad thing is about to happen.

"Averse" means "hostile [towards]", and is used to describe a person: it is virtually always followed by the preposition "to". It is composed of the prefix "ab-", "away", and "vertere", because when you are averse to something, you would rather be turning your gaze away from it. And when you turn your gaze, you avert your eyes, because "averse" and "avert" are more or less exactly the same word.


Post a Comment

<< Home