Tending

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.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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27 Responses to Tending

  1. Debra says:

    When I’m writing or researching a topic I have a tendency to get lost and forget where I was originally headed. I do take some wonderful side trips, however. No one else would be interested perhaps, but I can keep myself entertained. I enjoyed your exploration, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked this post a lot. (I tend to like posts that are more personal regarding the writer and my mind wanders off much less.

    Research online is a double-edged sword, I find. While there is access to more information than we can ever use or need, it does seem very easy to notice something that is mentioned and maybe only partially related that sends us down another very different path. That, in turn, can branch in other directions and before we know it, we are looking at recipes, real estate, or life in the 1800s as a deep sea diver. While fascinating in themselves, those topics seldom relate to what we were researching in the first place. But ‘Knowledge is power’ – right? So is it true that any information is good information to know? Perhaps it will help us on a later topic. . .

    As far as words, coming from Chicago here to Nova Scotia means that there are fundamental differences in lots of areas. Language is one of them. Sometimes, when I mention something that my partner doesn’t understand, I just look at him in awe. I can’t believe he didn’t get what I just said. (We have come to treat those moments as a game and call it “word of the day”.) He says I am making things up. I always say, “Google it.” and you would think by now he knows when I throw that into the conversation, I am pretty certain I am right. I usually never hear back from him on it again. After thirteen-plus years together, you might think he would have learned.

    I have friends from the UK who use different words for things that are common here. (Elevators are called “lifts”, etc.) So some of the use of “tend” may just be a regional thing. I wonder if your research covered the entire world, or just a certain country or area.

    Language is tricky and English is at the top of deceitful spellings. Since I only speak English, I am no expert. But I have heard lots of complaints in that department. You aren’t alone by any means.

    Thanks for a delightful post. Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave says:

    Assuming “tend” is short for “tendency” I can see why it would be a popular word of late. We seem to be shortening everything we say these days. FedEx. Dunkin’. KFC. Maybe texting is to blame for all of its emojis and abbreviations. Regardless, when you first said “tend” I thought “garden”, instead of any other definition. But then I saw the other side of the word. It’s kind of like those drawings where you see one image versus another. The elegant lady/old hag comes to mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I made it to the end with a chuckle here and there. 🙂 Love this post! As to getting off track, I fear that’s what would happen if I tried to write a novel. I’d start writing and then forget what I’ve written. I’d be surrounded by yellow sticky notes (still wish I wouldn’t invented them). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bad speller! Yea, right there with you. I hate spell check, but thank God, it exists. My copy would look horrible without it. You mention as well about losing focus: “Like this essay, I’m 500 words into it and have totally forgotten what I was writing about. It happens a lot to me.” I have my hand raised again, it happens to the best of us. It’s called life. Love the humor and focus on things we all do when we sit down to write. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jfwknifton says:

    I think that rules for spelling are so difficult to formulate 100% correct because every day there are literally billions of people using English. They don’t always get everything right, and, as happens in evolution, the new (but technically wrong) version is sometimes better than the old one and it catches on.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I tend to get sucked down internet rabbit holes, too. I don’t intend to; but I tend to. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Browsing history? Check where you were? Or my favorite when I close a tab and wish I hadn’t: right-click, reopen closed tab.

    Now look who’s off topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. SusanR says:

    For a number of reasons, computers were a tremendous gift to writers. But they certainly can pull us off topic in a hurry.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t know how you did it, but you got me to read the whole thing. And enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

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