Archive for November 9th, 2010

November 9, 2010

Word confusion, part 2

This is a personnel entrance, not a personal one. Pic: © Bryan Ooi |

This is a pair of words that I still have to think about sometimes after 13 years in the US: personal and personnel.  They are quite distinct in their meaning but sound a lot alike which makes things more difficult.  Even if I have no problem to pick the right one I am never quite sure whether it is personnel or personell – but that is a different problem.

Here is what those two words mean:

Personal: or pertaining to a single person, or belonging to a person in some way, examples are, personal space, personal trainer, personal remarks, personal belongings.

Personnel: a number of people employed by or active in an organization, business, or service.  Personnel also refers to the department within an organization which deals with its human resources.  Examples are:   “Mary is in charge of personnel issues.”, “They’ve reduced the number of personnel working on the project.”

November 9, 2010


Whatever, mom!, pic: © Carl Durocher |

Whatever is used in two distinctly different way.  One “by the book” (as intended), the other  figuratively, mostly by teenagers and it is that latter usage that requires some explanation.

“Whatever” – generally accompanied by an eye roll, some exasperation and a very bored facial expression – is the abbreviation for “whatever you say, I don’t care.”  It is the American teenage way to tell off the parents without using any explicit or outright offensive language.  It is also a way for teenagers to give in to their parents demands without losing face in front of their buddies because it shows that the kid disagrees with whatever the parent wants but doesn’t take the issue seriously enough to get into a real fight over it.

Dad: “Emily, I want you to be home at 10 pm. Not a minute later.  Understood?”

Emily: “Whatever.”

The expression is used by younger and older people as well.  It is considered fairly rude and falling just short of the f-word.  The tone of voice is really important, the more bored and exasperated, the ruder.  So be careful using it – if you must.