We’ve all seen those funny signs and ads, featuring incorrect translations in non-English speaking countries or more alarmingly, from parts of the world where English is spoken and where the company or organization should know better. The poor use of English also infiltrated the corporate world’s internal memos and documents quite some time ago. People simply don’t understand their own language anymore. They’re also unaware of what words actually mean or can imply if used incorrectly, leading to comical and at times dangerous assumptions.
For example, oversee and overlook appear initially to mean the same thing, but are of course opposites and should never be confused. Imagine this conversation with your boss in the office.
Boss: Did you see the document on the upcoming project? I need your recommendations right away.
You: Yes, I overlooked that last week.
To your boss’ dismay, presuming he or she is familiar with the correct use of the English language, this means that you completely ignored a very important piece of paperwork. The project could now very well be in jeopardy or you could even be out of a job, depending on the importance of the project. Now if you’d overseen the document, this means that you read it, possibly more than once. Your boss will appreciate that you’re completely familiar with the contents of the document, will place great faith in your comments and suggestions and possibly even recommend you for a promotion. See the difference?
Another somewhat amusing mix-up occurs with the words pour and pore, which sound exactly the same, but once again have very different meanings. If you informed your boss that you pored over a document, he or she will feel confident that you studied it in great detail, so that you fully understood it. However, if you poured over a document, you’ve spilt your coffee or other beverage on a vital piece of paperwork. Once again, the use of one word could result in you climbing the corporate ladder, while the use of a similarly sounding word could lead you to searching for alternative employment.
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