Sunday, July 31, 2011

Word Tidbits: Reveille vs. Revelry vs. Reverie

A recent incident sparked this post: I heard someone singing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B) and, yet again, use the word revelry instead of reveille. I thought perhaps I should point out to folks that the two words have absolutely nothing to do with one another. If you substitute one for the other you'll be blowing nonsense. Then I thought of reverie, a third word that sounds similar but, again, has a very different meaning.

Reveille, as you may guess from the spelling, comes to us from the French imperative r√©veillez with its understood vous. If you shout, “R√©veillez!” you mean, “Wake up!” The term in English refers to both the bugle call at sunrise that signals time for troops to form up and the actual formation that results. Thus when the Bugle Boy of Company B plays reveille in boogie woogie fashion it makes the company jump to its positions (and perhaps dance about once there).

Now, should Bugle Boy, whom I'll just call BB to save repetition, get those soldiers jumping they may turn to revelry instead of standing at attention as they should. Revelry pretty well opposes military order and discipline. It's the word for partying, merrrymaking, and general festive good times. I suppose BB could play a song called Revelry but that's not what The Andrews Sisters meant.

Reverie stands utterly opposed to both revelry and the focus of soldiers organizing themselves into ranks. Rather than stiff attention or cheery dancing, someone in a reverie daydreams, is lost in thought and as likely to bump into his or her fellows as anything else. As it's early in the morning I suppose some of the troops might be lost in reverie, their minds still in their beds and on their dreams. But if BB blows something so mellow and emotive as to encourage that condition the company will never get into reveille.

Thus you can see that our vigilant BB leaps from his bunk to play reveille at the base of the flag, not to incite revelry or plunge his fellows into reverie. If he gets a little boogie into the steps of the others perhaps that enthusiasm would be no bad thing. But partying and woolgathering have no place in forming up ranks at the crack of dawn, whatever soldiers do on their off time. Click the song name above to find a series of different versions of the song. En Vogue manages to have poor BB playing reverie. You may be rolling your eyes as much as I did when I heard it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Too Quick with the Acronym

What is it with me and acronyms? I seem to have become obsessed. But when I read my post about using pronouns clearly I found that I had used one without explaining it. Shame on me!

I referred in that post to Dave from “HR”. While many people likely knew for what words the acronym stood the proper thing to do would have been to write out the phrase and then give the acronym in parentheses if I intended to use it in the rest of the piece. Thus it should have read, “What if I had written about Don, Ted, and Dave from Human Resources?”

If I had continued to talk about the human resources department I would have included (HR) before the question mark and then I would be free to use HR as an acronym (or an abbreviation, if you will) rather than tediously spelling it out each time. Of course, I could have avoided the whole issue by using the word personnel.

All of that merely means that you and I should watch our use of colloquialisms and common abbreviations in our writing. A shortened term that you commonly use may slip right past your internal editor, as it did mine in this case.

By the by, I have a new favorite acronym that I just couldn’t resist sharing with you all. Apparently there exists out there somewhere an organization called Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human or PHLUSH. I will resist the urge to make puns and just leave my announcement at that.