So at this point I feel very comfortable with the English language. I can spell just about anything without relying on the word processor to do it for me. I know the difference between your and you’re, and can pick from there, their, and they’re as appropriate, along with lots of other homonyms. My grammar and vocabulary are both pretty solid, to the point where I can often even decide whether the writer (or perhaps the editor) of something started off in British, American, Canadian, or Australian English.
I like English. It’s a crazy, fun, stupid language built on a foundation of borrowing whatever words it likes from anywhere else.
But I don’t know everything about the language by any stretch of the imagination, and I never will. Which is pretty cool.
The most recent example of that is the phrase widow’s peak. Everyone knows what this is, right? It’s the pointy spot in your hairline if you have one. Except until I got the edits back for an upcoming anthology correcting me, I thought it was actually a plural statement, widow’s (or widows’) peaks, meaning the arcs of your hairline to either side of this pointy spot.
I’m sure I’ve always heard it as plural. Maybe it’s a tiny slice of regional dialect inherited from my mother’s family (Dad’s family emigrated from Europe in the mid-1950s, so that seems less likely), or maybe I’ve just been hearing it wrong all this time.
It makes sense to me. Peaks are higher than what they peak over, right? Not lower. They point up, not down.
Except it doesn’t matter how much sense it makes. It’s still wrong. The etymology of the word is completely different (having to do with a peak of a widows hood worn in mourning for hundreds of years) and has been used this way at least since the 1830s.
So I’ve learned more about the phrase and its origin than I ever needed to know, which is cool, and maybe I’ll even use it properly going forward.
But I’ll still think of it the other way.
Be well, everyone.
Oh, and bonus points if you recognize the character.by