I’d like to say I’ve been on vacation, but alas, the latter half of June wasn’t that entertaining. Mostly it was spent dealing with assorted mundane but distracting issues like household repairs (ongoing and expensive . . . most of the time, when you live in a big old house, things fail one at a time, but this was the year when everything – including the dishwasher and the hot water heater – decided to go on strike at once), and oppressive weather (after a prolonged winter, we’re now in the middle of a cool and clammy summer, with all the associated mosquitoes and mildew), and workshop work (reading all the submitted applications, and helping to finalize the roster of admitted students), and writing work (a set of revisions that I’ve been chasing for this long while now like Achilles trying to catch the tortoise.)
But now I’m back, and just to amuse you, a couple of peeves, or at least one peeve and an interesting word pair.
First, the peeve: People, you don’t beckon someone, you beckon to them.
Jill beckoned to Jane. “Come look at this.”
I see this one even in published material, and can only conclude that either a lot of copy editors are falling down on the job, or a lot of authors are stetting more stuff than they should.
Now, the word pair.
Consider, then, immigrant and emigrant. These two words can often be used of the same group of people – individuals who, singly or in groups, happen to be relocating from one country to another. The difference is a matter of point of view. If you’re standing on the pier and waving farewell as you watch their ship pull away, they are emigrants, people who are traveling from their country of origin to make their home elsewhere. The clue is in the e- prefix, which comes from the Latin preposition ex, meaning (among a bunch of associated concepts) “from” or “out of.”
If, however, you’re on the other side of the ocean and watching their ship pull up to the pier, the same people are going to be immigrants, people who are coming into a country from somewhere else. Once again, the prefix is the key; this time, it’s im-, from the Latin preposition in, meaning “in” or “into.”
(If the same group of people are traveling from one place to another and either don’t intend or are unable to stay in one place, they are simply migrants. As for why the term emigrants should have more positive connotations than immigrants, which in turn has more positive connotations than migrants . . . all I can say is that language is sometimes weird, and people are sometimes jerks.)