So the word of the month at writer’s group is, “Tending.” Well here’s where that sent me:
Interesting word. There are two basic meanings of this: Tend as in tendency to do something or tend as in take care of. Both of these are verbs and in many cases are intransitive verbs, but there are cases were tend can be a transitive verb.
Maybe I won’t start with the transitive/intransitive, object/no object thing. While interesting to grammarians, the rest of the planet isn’t quite as fascinated. I should mention that there is a mathematical use of tend, as in the phrase, “as a result X tends towards zero,” but since my degree is in English, I’ll avoid discussions of mathematics.
When I sat down to write, I thought I’d go through the whole litany of tending one’s self. Then thought that I don’t want to admit how bad a job of that I do. I’m not horrible at it, but I have to see my doctor this week so I just don’t need the extra confession of all the foods I eat that I shouldn’t or the exercises I should have done and didn’t.
There is another meaning of tend – tendency. I do have certain tendencies or ways I do things. Perhaps characteristics might be a better word, but tend is the word of the day and I’ll stick with that. I do tend to get distracted easily, especially when I sit down to write. Research can lead me astray for hours. A good example is the word “temerity.”
It goes like this: Just before I sat down to write, I was reading a news article that had the word temerity. This is a word that always confuses me. It sounds like timid but is exactly the opposite as in bold, brass, impudent, and audacious. Temerity doesn’t get a lot of usage in normal day to day conversation, but I do see it from time to time in news stories. It also seems to be used a lot by the “I’ve eaten a thesaurus mob.” You know the kind of people who’s philosophy of language is, “Why use a simple word when there’s a more complex and lesser known word to use.”
I tend to use simple words, unless there’s a need for precision in the conversation that requires a more complex word be used for clarity. I can’t think of a good example, but a bad example is, “Shovel” vs. “Spade”. I’m one of the three people on the planet who care about the difference and I’ll get grumpy if I’ve asked for a shovel and you hand me a spade. Shovels shovel and spades dig. Hand me the wrong one and you could delay the whole garden project by 20 minutes as I will be forced to explain the difference to you.
Likely it’s best to just ask me to dig a hole and leave the tool selection up to me.
So, I’d like to discuss the news story that got me going down the temerity path, but I can’t. I closed that tab in my browser and I have no memory of what I was reading. It was likely something on BBC so likely the people involved were British and someone had the temerity to do something. I expect that happens a lot in the UK.
That’s another tendency I have – to forget things. Like this essay, I’m 500 words into it and have totally forgotten what I was writing about. It happens a lot to me. Now I’ll have to go back and read what I wrote and see if I can get this piece back on track …
Right, got it. I do have a tendency and preference for using simple words. Things that are easy to spell. It doesn’t matter that much when I’m talking to people, but I’m a writer and often write things down. Now we’re getting back into confession time – I am a horrible speller. Seriously, I almost flunked grade school because I couldn’t learn to spell things. I mean all grades from 1 to 12. My teachers kind of tried to teach me to spell, but most just promoted me to the next grade mostly out of fear that I’d end up back in their classroom.
Spelling just never made sense to me. Partly it’s due to the wacky English spelling rules like, “i” before “e” except after “c” except in the case of these thousand words where the rule doesn’t apply. Partly it’s due to a slightly bad memory. Recently a friend gave me another excuse for my bad spelling by suggesting that I might be slightly dyslexic (thank goodness for spell check or it would have taken me a hour to figure out how to spell dyslexic). I like this one because now it’s not my fault I can’t spell.
When I write I tend to only write with the two or three thousand words I know how to spell or I know that spell check will correct for me. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the computer, I wouldn’t be able to write at all.
If you’re still with me, you’ll notice my tendency to wander off topic.
Wait, I’ve already mentioned my tendency to get distracted so this would be a good time to bring this essay to a conclusion by mentioning a graph I saw. This graph showed the usage of the word tend over time. These studies are done by looking at how often a word is used in writings such as books, newspapers and magazines. In the early 1800’s the word enjoyed reasonable use which slowly declined until hitting a low usage around 1890. Since then, “tend” has been enjoying a resurgence and hit its highest usage around 2018. “Tend” usage is currently on a decline.
I have no idea what that means. It just sounded like a profound way to end this essay.