Flummoxed Doesn’t Even Begin To Describe – And Neither Does Eliminate, Apparently

A dear friend of mine was inspired to call in to a nationally syndicated talk radio show. The topic of the program that day hit a nerve and she had something to share. She waited on hold while entertaining her toddler in the background. She finally got through. Live. On the air. She said her piece and used the word, “flummoxed.” She was flummoxed. A beautiful synonym for the words confused and perplexed. But the radio personality interrupted her, as he’s known to do, and accused her of not knowing what the word meant.

Now, I will admit, I do not use the word “flummoxed” every day. Or very often, for that matter. So I wouldn’t fault you for not being familiar. But he accused her, on the national airwaves, and asked her to define the word even though she had just used it correctly in a sentence.

(snicker, snicker – I’ll bet he didn’t know what it meant!)

So she defined it. Correctly. And of course she did. She’s a well-educated-former-attorney-turned-stay-at-home-mom-and-it’s-driving-her-crazy-because-she-loved-her-work-but-she’s-doing-it-anyway-because-she-feels-that’s-what’s-best-for-her-kids and that’s what I love about her. And he treated her, for all the world to hear, like just another “dumb housewife.”


While proofing a post I created recently (ok, proofing is not really the correct term – more like pressing the spell check button) I came across a blue line underneath the word “eliminate.” I slowly checked my spelling. E-l-i-m-i-n-a-t-e. Nope. It’s spelled right. I re-read the sentence. “I will never be able to eliminate them from my life.” Nope. Used correctly. Hmmmmm. Please explain, I asked the spell/grammar check program.

This is what it said:

Try a simpler word for eliminate

Where possible you should use a simple word over a complex word. Simple words are easier to read and let your readers focus on your ideas.

Replace eliminate with

  • cut
  • drop
  • end

Are you kidding me? Eliminate is a complex word? Not where I come from. I’m talking to other moms out there (and a few enlightened dads – thanks guys!). Moms (and cool dads) who are well versed in the world of elimination, if you get my drift.

I remember reading a while back that the average newspaper article should reflect a 5th grade reading level. A 5th grader should be able to read an article, understand all of the words and the point being made. I remember having the words “analyze” and “system” on a 2nd grade spelling test and thinking I was a big shot. Surely a 5th grader understands the meaning of the word “eliminate.”

So, WordPress thinks that the word “eliminate” is too difficult for my blog readers to understand? Apparently my writing has too many run-on and incomplete sentences, too. No surprise there – and I was just beginning to embrace that quirky nuance of my style. I also use passive voice on occasion. How else would you say “she was flummoxed” or “should be able to?”


I think I will just have to eliminate the WordPress spell check feature from my pre-posting routine. You are all just going to have to put up with my mis-spellings, run-ons, incomplete sentences and passive writing. I’m hard enough on myself. I don’t need WordPress rubbing it in.

And because, well, frankly?

I’m flummoxed.


Filed under Lessons Learned

24 responses to “Flummoxed Doesn’t Even Begin To Describe – And Neither Does Eliminate, Apparently

  1. angelcel

    You mean there’s a Spill Chook function on WordPress?? Crumbs I hadn’t even noticed. It’d be flummoxed by *my* ramblings. 😉

  2. Joe

    I admire (like) that you won’t allow (let) WordPress to edit (change) your style (funk).

  3. You go girl! Use it or lose it.

  4. You keep on using your “big words!
    I noticed that wordpress spell check starting doing this awhile ago and I too was “flummoxed”. It happens all the time now and it is so frustrated. I think it’s awesome that your friend stood up for herself. The lack of vocabulary knowledge and spelling skills in my high school students is astounding and I can only pray that what I am doing in the classroom is making a small impact.

  5. **shaking my fist in the air like the enraged English teacher that I am** ARGGGGGG!

    And what kind of an asshole was that radio host!?

  6. suzicate

    I’ve had the same thing happen to me with wordpress. And the radio host sounds like a power control jerkwad!

  7. A MORONIC power control jerkwad. If he had known that she used it correctly, presumably he wouldn’t have asked her to define it.

    There’s a literary anecdote about Beatrix Potter being counselled against using the word ‘soporific’ in the Peter Rabbit series. The powers that be seem to really push for catering to the lowest common denominator — whatever that even is.

    Douchebags. (Did I spell that right?)

  8. To continue with your mini-rant (that I adored!), I was reading complex books (The Hobbit?) by 4th or 5th grade. I had a higher-than-average reading level. I could also spell fantastically.

    Since when did it become acceptable to “dumb down” our writing for our readers? Isn’t that the point of writing? To educate? How can one learn the usage of “flummoxed” without seeing it in a sentence, feeling perplexed, and looking it up?


    And, housewives are far from “dumb.” How dare that radio host! Shame on him! Most housewives these days are incredibly educated.

    As for you? WordPress editing does help make a very auspicious career. Because, I like your writing. It gives you character.

    Oh, and I used auspicious. Is that too high? Should I use successful instead?

    Take that WordPress.

  9. PS: I mean “does NOT” make a very….

  10. unabridgedgirl

    You forget, we will in a time where they actually added the word “unfriend” to the dictionary.

  11. Isn’t it common knowledge that we loose our brain when we choose to stay home with our children?

    I’ve actually been stopped at stores and congradulated by people for using big words and explaining them to the boys. We all need to know good vocabulary.

    Oh and I tagged you. http://faemom.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/what-i-hate-tag/

  12. What a complete jerk that guy was! I would have been fuming if I was your friend.

    I had no idea WP”s spell check did that. Perhaps I shouldn’t ignore all of those squiggly lines below my text 😉

  13. I have heard a lot of f***tard moments where people are asked to define a word/concept as a tactic to delay or sidetrack the debate, but I have never heard of being asked to define a very simple adjective. (Except in cases when my kids ask what a certain word means, then I say, “Ooops. Did I really just use that word? Bad mommy. Just erase it from your mind.” Then I take out the Memory Zapper that I borrowed from Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith…) This one topped all the political talk show moments. Not to stir the gender politics pot or anything, I wonder whether the host would have used the same scare tactic if the caller were a male.

  14. By the way, someone just used this word “orthogonal” in our very straightforward conversation. My goal in life now is to slip said word into a daily conversation. Wish me luck.

  15. I don’t have spell check on my computer, and don’t say “I can tell!” I know my spelling is dreadful. Why do you think I trained to be an ART teacher?

    When I get onto my patners laptop, that does have spell check I find that every other word has a dotted line underneath.

    Well we do spell Colour, Neighbour, Rumour etc with a U! But I can’t put all my spelling mistakes down to being a Brit! 😀

  16. Oh gosh, I slaughter the English language in my blog posts. It’s nothing like I would write if I were doing professional work, etc. I didn’t know that WordPress tried to do that. I’m glad Blogger doesn’t. 😉

  17. I need to find out why it keeps underlining the word ‘then’. It couldn’t be because it’s too complicated, could it?

  18. Couldn’t have been Rush Limbaugh as he doesn’t allow dissenting opinions. (I can’t do without spellcheck–it just corrected my misspelling of ‘dissenting.” )

    Please break the news to Facemom that the brain doesn’t return after the kids grow up.

    WordPress apparently does not understand that the avant-garde habitués who peruse your discourses for enlightenment and entertainment appreciate your scintillating vocabulary.

    Must have feculence for brains. 🙂

  19. AWESOME POST!! I’m perplexed at ‘eliminate’ being ‘complex’.. No it isn’t. I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  20. When I was in high school (over a decade ago. OVER a decade ago. My Lord, I just emphasized my age, didn’t I?) I was on the journalism staff. I’ll never forget- one of the “rules” was, like you said, to write on a 5th-grade level. I was “flummoxed” that high schoolers themselves could be so…. well, 5th-grader-ish. I’m even more disheartened that ADULTS, as a whole, are considered to be on that level as well…

  21. Pingback: Wrinkled Boobs, Lucky Charms Cakes And Helping You To Spell Flummoxed – Guess I’m Just A Wealth Of Information « Theycallmejane's Blog

  22. Pingback: Wrinkled Boobs, Lucky Charms Cakes And Helping You To Spell Flummoxed – Guess I’m Just A Wealth Of Information « Theycallmejane's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s