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You can lead your hound to Heska, but will he rinse?

If they call your canine Dog Breath, take heart!

According to Individual Investor, June, 1998, Heska Corporation, Fort Collins, Colo., offers some great new ideas, which are outlined under the Orwellian headline "Animal Pharmacy." In the lead graph we're told about "Bad breath (some 30 million dogs suffer from periodontal disease). Heska has toothbrushes, toothpaste and rinses."

My initial reaction here is, You can lead your hound to Heska, but you can't make him rinse. Besides, how do you say "Rinse" in pit bull? I await the company's helpful brochure, What to do when Fifi won't floss.

"Does your cat have an allergy? (Heska) offers shots." Keep an eye on Heska (Nasdaq: HSKA.) Savvy marketers will surely perceive its allure in an itch market.

* Teresa Dickinson, who is corporate relations associate for BNA, Inc., Washington, DC, e-mails that "I have a 'spelling by ear' error to report. Unfortunately it came from the conference brochure for a reputable training organization. At the end of the first day, attendees are invited to a dine-around at a choice of several restaurants whose 'possibilities will wet your appetite while the networking continues.' Sounds kind of soggy to me."

Sure enough, TD, tolls paid to the homophone troll roll onward and upward. Hoard is not the same as horde; principal is different from principle; it's ain't its. And as noted by our Beltway sentinel, in this context wet won't do whet's work, albeit the two sound and even look alike. Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 2nd ed., observes at whet: "- v.t. 1. to sharpen (a knife, tool, etc.) by grinding or friction. 2. to make keen or eager; stimulate: to whet the appetite; to whet the curiosity."

Ms. Dickinson's citation just happens to include attendee, and this reminds me of an ad I read in the March/April Modern Maturity. Placed by Bosom Buddy Breast Forms, the ad touted an external breast prosthesis "designed by a mastectomee for use after . . . surgery."

In my view mastectomee is an artificiality, a contrivance that comes up short. Consider the definition of-ee presented in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1993:

"A suffix forming from transitive verbs nouns which denote a person who is the object or beneficiary of the act specified by the verb (addressee; employee; grantee); recent formations now also mark the performer of an act, with the base being an intransitive verb (escapee; returnee; standee) or, less frequently, a transitive verb (attendee) or another part of speech (absentee; refugee)."

In his efforts to birth a suitable label for one who has undergone a mammectomy, aka a mastectomy, the copywriter creates not only a confusing homophone - mastectomee and -omy sound exactly alike but also seems to open the gates to such horrors as colostomee, hysterectomee, and (fair is fair, gentlemen) vasectomee.

In CommWorld for November, 1995, this excellent column observed that "Extreme uses of suffix -ee do continue to crop up. The Wall Street Journal unblushingly printed hypnotizee; a football game telecast acquainted me with enshrinee (in a hall of fame); in a Boston Globe obituary survivors of the surgical procedure known as a laryngectomy were dubbed laryngectomees; and now that body piercing is becoming ordinary, cutting is carving a new niche via cutter and unspeakably cute cuttee."

The more things change. . . . The Bosom Buddy ad copy, you may agree, would look less strained with mastectomy patient as the describer.

* E-mail from Malcolm French, who is communications consultant for Saskatchewan Education in Regina, touches on an interesting variation: "In the April/May CW you give the example of a National Public Radio report, quoting an official as saying 'he had never seen a storm wreck as much havoc....'

"I concur that the word in question was supposed to be 'wreak.' I disagree, however that the official quoted had necessarily made a mistake. I'm inclined to say it was the reporter alone, or perhaps no one at all. When I, with my Canadian prairie accent, refer to havoc which has been wreaked, it rather sounds as though the havoc had been raked. When my executive director, from Ontario, quotes me, it the havoc will have been wreaked. When she, in turn, is quoted by a Newfoundlander, the havoc will sound as though it had been wrecked. I don't think this was ever a question of incorrect grammar. It was a question of varying regional accents.

"Yours aye, Malcolm D. French."

As one who once lectured at Hahvahd University; who has Texas pals who labored in the awl bidness; whose ex-boss from Georgia said he wrote with an ink pin; and whose Canadian mother would go oat for a few minutes, I appreciate and value MDF's words.

* I submit that when the inevitable fin de siecle millennial musical-theatre production debuts on Broadway in Y2K, it will star Bill Gates and be titled the "Web Site Story."

Alden Wood, APR, lecturer on editorial procedures at Simmons College, Boston, Mass., writes and lectures on language usage. He is a retired insurance industry vice president of advertising and public relations. His e-mail address is awood@simmons.edu.
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Title Annotation:Wood on Words; incorrect or inappropriate use of words
Author:Wood, Alden
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 1, 1998
Words:847
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