Every now and then I am harassed at work to provide explanations of the difference between certain English words. As my team are all better educated that what I am, guv, it gives me a headache.
Imagine yourself in a work environment, you have things to do but you need to go tell the boss something first. While in the boss’s office a discussion ensues about something important and you end up losing half an hour. You return to your desk and apologise for not being back 30 minutes ago by saying “I’m sorry but I was hijacked by the boss!”.
You are then asked to define the word ‘hijack’ and subsequently to explain the difference between ‘hijack’ and ‘kidnap’. The inference being that I was kidnapped by the boss and not hijacked because I am not a means of transport.
I’m comfortable with hijack because for the me the key point is that I was diverted from my intended route by powers beyond my control. As there was no ransom demand or intention to lock me in the stationery cupboard until my boss got what he wanted, kidnapped seems all wrong.
Am I right?
A follow up teaser the same day was to explain the difference between “compulsory” and “mandatory”. The best I could do with this one was to suggest that they both mean you have to do something but mandatory has legal implications and compulsory doesn’t. One assumes a similar root as the Polish “mandat”?
How am I doing? I’d hate to be leading people astray, even if I do reserve the right to use and abuse my language the way I see fit.