Yesterday, I heard that young Éva thought we should cheer for the Phillies because her dad’s name is Phil.
That reminded me of some other crazy intersections of words.
We usually drive on the parkway, but park on the driveway. Although, one can drive on the driveway (from the street to the garage) and also park on the parkway (if you aren’t too concerned about getting hit).
Why is it that kidnapping is a federal offense, while catnapping is merely an enjoyable pastime?
Why are things which are transported by ships called cargo and things transported by cars called shipment?
Why does your nose run and your feet smell?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Why do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
If people from Poland are called Poles, are people from Holland called be Holes? and are the Germans, Germs?
(A few of these and quite a few more can be found here.)
We laugh at these because we understand that the meaning resides in more than the form of the word. This is harder to see in another language and we are tempted to make connections where they do not exist. I think these English wordpairs highlight this type of (mis)understanding of language that we know as illegitimate semantic transfer.
If English isn’t enough of a potential hotbed of misapplied word etymology, try throwing Greek and Hebrew into the mix. Which is how you end up here: