how to avoid being perceived as an odd fool: the 'know your words' edition

Sometimes I use words without quite knowing what they mean.  You know, like when you can recognize a word in a sentence, have a general idea of how it's used, but couldn't actually define it.  Unfortunately, this practice can lead to instances of using words that mean something totally different than you ever intended.

For years I've been using the word "finangle".  I used it in the context of sort of haphazardly putting something together to make it work.  Example sentence: "Can we just finangle something together to make this work?"  (Great example, right?  I know, I know, I'm a wordsmith.)

Then, not that long ago, I was trying to type that word into an email.  A professional email.  But the super-annoying autocorrect kept changing the word to "finagle".  After trying to change it back three times and having it forcefully correct itself back to finagle*, I finally figured maybe my computer was on to something.  Maybe I'd been misspelling/mispronouncing this word for years.  As a person who likes to be slightly pretentious about her use of the English language, this would be horrifying.

The result, I'm afraid to admit, was much worse.

Here is what I learned when I looked up "finagle" in the Miriam-Webster dictionary.


Okay, that's not what I wanted to communicate when I used this word. I never meant to imply trickery or dishonesty, but more of a bumbling "let's just figure something out so this doesn't fall apart right now" intention.

Then I thought, hey, maybe "finangle" is still a word, but my computer is being stubborn. Let's look that word up too.  The only definition came up in the Urban Dictionary.


Hmmmm…. yeah, no.  Ick.  No.  Creepy.

So when I suggested that we finangle together a solution for a kitchen device that wasn't working, or that we finangle a new option for an advertising campaign we couldn't afford at work, what I was actually suggesting was that we stroke (or pluck?) at it in a decidedly and weirdly sexual context.

Do people really do this?  Give each other a fro of pubic hair on the rear end?  I know that the generally accepted idea in the world of kinks is that if you can think of it, someone enjoys it, but, well, hmmmm….

So today's lesson in not being perceived as a odd fool is to look up what words actually mean if you don't know.

*Do you ever imagine our computers giving over-the-top sighs and eye rolls when we keep making the same mistakes over and over?  Because I do.

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