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We're only human

After realizing that I’d spent hours at the computer – far more than necessary – while the rain stopped raining, and the sun started shining and the temperature started tempering , I looked at the clock in frustration. Ugh. I wasted the day, and for what? This could have waited. At least half of my work, which meant half of my hours, could have been let go. I just went down too many rabbit holes. And now, it was way past dinnertime.

I’m only human, I thought.

And that got me thinking about the word “only,” about which there is an active conversation (admittedly among academics, wordies, pundits and, probably, dilettantes) regarding placement in a sentence. What if I’d thought, “Only I’m human”? Or “I’m human only”?

It’s fun. Try it. Take the sentence “I saw a fox yesterday.”

  • Only I saw a fox yesterday

  • I only saw a fox yesterday

  • I saw only a fox yesterday

  • I saw an only fox yesterday

  • I saw a fox only yesterday

As you read each sentence aloud, you can even hear your own voice change tone and emphasis. Fun, right?

And then when I looked only up in the dictionary, I was surprised to find the definition relatively short, although there is a usage note about just this topic. Clearly, I’m not the only dilettante. Or word nerd; pick your poison.

I admit that I was surprised the definition was so short. Given this oddity, I expected more. I know that some of the most innocuous words in general vocabulary have surprisingly lengthy definitions. Look up keep. You think you know what that means, right? You might be surprised! Look up on. Or set. Or turn. I mean there are a LOT of what you think are easy-to-define words that have really long definitions. Those are just a few, and that’s without Googling “longest dictionary definition.” Just open a dictionary. I mean open a real book and flip through it. It’s fun.

Just watch out. You might wind up going down too many rabbit holes and miss a beautiful afternoon. It's okay, tough; go easy on yourself.

After all, you’re only human.


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