Casual linguistics

The Russian word plečo commonly means ‘shoulder, shoulder joint’, but ana- tomically it means the upper part of the arm (between the shoulder and the elbow), which in common usage is called predpleč’e; the latter word, in its turn, anatomically means ‘fore- arm, the lower part of the arm’. What ordinary people call mimoza (yellow flowers which are commonly sold in early spring), are biologically Acacia dealbata, whereas Mimosa pu- dica is a different flower altogether. Everyone mixes up the biodegradable cellofan ‘cello- phane’ made of cellulose with poliètilen ‘polyethylene’, a chemically derived plastic. The terms shizofrenija ‘schizophrenia’ and paranoja ‘paranoia’ are very often «misused». The results of an experiment involving more than 200 speakers are reported, the possible causes of the mismatch of common and professional usage are discussed, and ways of lexico- graphical representation of such words are proposed.
(from the paper on misused words)

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