Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Don't oblige to obligate

Thirty years ago, the word obligated was not an academically accepted word. The accepted word was obliged.

The original word is oblige.

I am not obliged to accept your proposal.
Do not oblige yourself to accept her proposal.

So, if the noun for complicate is complication,
then the noun for the word oblige is obligation.

The word obligate is a reverse mis-derivation of the root from its derived noun obligation.

Anyway, obligated has been accepted into common use. Despite that, I feel obliged to continue using the word oblige rather than obligate.

I have an uncomfortable premonition that a day will come when reverse root mis-derivation of the word registration will cause people to forget that there are words such as register, registrar or registrants  but start saying,
All college registratees must registrate their courses with the respective course registrators to complete the registration cycle.

And after a few generations, it would be registratorize, registratoree, registratorer and registratorization. And in a thousand years', it would be registraterrorization.

The English word toilet is inherited from the French word toilet, which means a dressing room or dressing table. For example, eau de toilet is a phrase for a nice cologne normally dispensed in the dressing room.

Then the English decided an euphemism (dressing up of an unpleasant experience with nicer words) had to be applied to the poop room. Thence the word toilet was used. So the word toilet is actually a very pleasant and nice smelling word to describe a rather smelly situation.

Then, I am supposing, the United States of America was having many non-English speaking immigrants who had no idea of the historical pleasantness of the word toilet and their children decided that a pleasant euphemism had to be applied to the situation in place of toilet. Therefore, we now have a situation where we have bathrooms where you cannot imaginably have a bath or a shower.

In London or Mumbai, you see the signs to the toilets. In the United States, the signs are misleading because you are exhausted and tired shopping all day and you thought that American establishments were so pleasant that you could have a nice warm bath. You follow the signs and there is not a single stall with a shower or a bathtub!

I am imagining that in a hundred years' time, there would be people who would have no idea of the historical pleasantness nor have the linguistic understanding of the word bathroom and decide that a pleasant euphemism has to be used - the realityroom - because in the midst of the deluge of virtual realities in  the future, a mention of reality would be a really pleasant thought.

I encountered another mis-derived word. I was evaluating Liferay. I found it difficult to use the term intanceable.

Instance -> instantiate -> instantiable. Simple. Why do people have to coin the word intanceable? Come on!

When you go for an interview and you have to decide between accepting two jobs, pay a visit to their toilets. If you find that their toilets are unpleasant, the message you should get is that they don't care about their employees.

I find it hard to trust software that do not pay attention to human language semantics. If I find software using terminology I find unpleasant, I would probably find that piece of software hidden with features I would find unpleasant later deep in my projects.


  1. i think the problem is just that every day more non native speakers, as myself, write and speak english.
    for instance, i have been using for years the word 'schemas' in quite 'official' documents... shame on me ;)

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