Despite an utter dearth of study or measurable results to support this belief, I consider myself a learned person. As such, whenever anyone asks a question aloud about almost anything, I am happy to lend my insight with no regard for its lack of factual basis.
Truth be told, I’m without education credentials beyond a high school diploma, and even the road to that was fraught with distress.
Ah, I remember my graduation day like it was yesterday. I put on a coat and tie, a cigar in my inside pocket (given to me by the school’s chaplain Father Miguel), and walked across the stage to collect my certificate.
There was a slight pause while the headmaster eyeballed me and then checked the name on the diploma dubiously, but soon I was puffing away on my cigar with my classmates. I then showed the diploma to my dad, who grabbed it and locked it in the trunk under a blanket lest anyone realize their mistake.
My rocky educational history aside, I am an avid reader. I have copies of every single Harry Potter book to prove it in my iTunes audiobook folder, so I am not slacking on my independent study.
This is why I was able to make my first linguistics breakthrough. I discovered that in books written by people from the UK they would use “Er” as a conversational pause, whereas we here in the states use “Uh”. Here is an example:
Er, I’m not sure what you mean.
It always perplexed me that British people would say “Er” when they were at a loss for words, especially when I heard American kids who had been exposed to Douglas Adams going “Urr” at the beginning of their sentences because they thought it made them sound smart. Turns out people in the UK are going “Uhhh” just like we are, they’re just saying it in their wacky accent like they invented the language or something.
Now I am working on a new linguistics discovery, but this time it has to do with word endings and their effects on connotation. In the word study scene, known as “word learnin'”, we refer to the ends of words as the “word caboose”.
Consider these two words and their word cabeese (plural of “caboose”): “biker” and “cyclist”.
I think we can all agree that “cyclist” sounds more refined and professional than “biker”, even though a cyclist does all his cycling on a bike. It’s the same with “artist” and “painter”. If you tell girls at a party that you’re an artist, you might just find yourself inspecting a whole new kind of caboose. If you go around saying you’re a painter, you’re more likely to be handed a can of latex satin and a 3″ brush and put to work.
It’s the same with “mixologist” and “bartender”, “stylist” and “barber”, “sexist” and “hooker”, not to mention “scientist” and “loaner”.
As you can see, a word with an “ist” caboose automatically gets a higher class of consideration than the “er” caboose. Presumably my fellow thinkists in the field of word learnin’ are considering the whys behind this difference even now.
If anyone reading this has any thoughts on these matters, please share them in the comments on this post and we will forward our findings to anyone in a lab coat or a sun dress.