I have written here before about words that should not be used in some contexts where they are technically correct yet exceedingly likely to be misunderstood. The other day I came to the conclusion that there are some words that can’t be used at all because of the confusion they generate.
Two learned reviewers of a mentoring grant were disagreeing as to whether the applicant was providing sufficient support to the mentee. One said the senior mentors and the mentee were not meeting often enough, the other said they were meeting more than enough. Both pointed to the same sentence in the proposal, which mentioned a plan for “biweekly supervision meetings”.
“That means only once every two weeks!” said one reviewer. “No, it means twice a week”, responded the other.
A search of a number of dictionaries on line and in print reveals that they don’t seem to agree either. You are therefore likely to be misunderstood if you use the word “biweekly”, even though you will surely be able to find at least one dictionary that supports your usage. Though rather wordy, “semi-weekly” or “every other week” may be the only solutions.
RBCers: Any other nominees for words that have become worthless due to a lack of shared meaning and attendant near inevitable confusion?