Sunday, January 6, 2013

Makeup And Language

I loved your comments to my last post -- they are honest, insightful and enlightening.  They teach me valuable lessons about female life.  Thank you.

Beyond gratitude, I have two lighthearted responses to your remarks.  The first is a true story and the second is a laugh.

Growing up, I idolized figure-skater Katarina Witt.  Unlike skating waifs, Katarina is a big-boned girl with muscles.  I identified with her from the perspective of being big and muscular myself, while wishing I could figure-skate in a sequined dress.

Katarina wasn't just good, she was great.  She won two Olympic gold medals, in 1984 and 1988.  She dominated the sport for a decade.

At one of the Olympic finals, Katarina was the last person to skate.  She had to wait for everyone else to perform and that delay was lengthy.  Even harder, her competitors put up good numbers so the pressure on her grew and grew as she waited backstage.

The time finally came for Katarina to skate.  She emerged and -- oh my gosh! -- she looked like a clown.  She had an inch of heavy-duty makeup on, to the point of clownish absurdity.  Why did she do that?  She looked ridiculous.

Katarina skated perfectly, got high marks and won the Gold Medal.  Afterward, interviewed on television, Katarina explained that she had been very nervous backstage before the performance.  To ease her anxiety, she put on makeup.  Then, waiting around, she put on more makeup.  Then, more... and more.  She compulsively keep adding more makeup to her face out of nervous anxiety about having to skate her best and she had too much empty time to worry about that. 

Most of us can relate to the humanity of this behavior.  Have you ever heard of Katarina?

Now the laugh.  We all make mistakes in language and grammar, especially when writing casually.  Despite being a pedant, I slough off such errors as harmless slips.  I make them myself as often as I see them committed by others.  We dash off the contents of our minds and, unless we re-read our thoughts (which we rarely do), mistakes go uncorrected.  No big deal.

Some mistakes are understandable, such as misspelling words with similar sounds but different meanings.  One commentor wrote "concur" (which means to agree with) when she meant to say "conquer" (to win).  You can see why she did that -- the phonetic similarity. 

Another common mistake is to misspell a word because it looks like (but isn't) another word with almost-identical letters.  This is what made me laugh. 

In my post, I used the phrase "deserted island," which means an island cut off from civilization.  Some of you wrote "desert island" which doesn't mean the same: it would denote a hot island, not necessarily one cut off from others.  The funny mistake was made by one of my friends who, intending to say deserted island, spoke of being on a "dessert island" -- as in, an island full of cupcakes, cookies and eclairs.  Hah!

The best mistakes are those that comically mean something different from what we obviously intended.  We're all yeomen.  Oops!  I mean, human.  :-)


  1. Ah, dessert island! My natural habitat. :)
    Love the Katarina Witt story.

  2. I had never heard of Katerina, but I understand the feeling. I only ever put on makeup when I have too much time and really amp up on wanting to impress.

    I make silly mistakes all the time - especially when I forget to re-read my blog posts. I've tried to be a better proofreader, but my brain likes to mentally 'fix' misspells or slips and so I literally don't see the mistakes.

  3. I've been looking at real estate on a dessert island. The gumdrop houses on Lollipop Lane are my favorite. :)

  4. You are incredible smart and well dressed.

  5. haha, I sometimes do that - but i rub it off and then re apply. Xo Megan,

  6. I spotted 'concur' too, the other day. Eagle eyes!

  7. Ally, I remember that moment well, as my mouth was hanging open along with everyone else's :O I think many of us can identify with getting really antsy and pretty much plucking off most of our eyebrows.

    I wish there was a dessert island...