Matter Chatter

Grinding my gears, biweekly

I have a problem, one that really grinds my gears! My whole life I’ve seen one version of linguistic reality, only to have my world turned upside-down recently!

You see, one of my account teams regularly has update calls with our client contact, usually every other week.  Certainly a valuable time to block off in the client’s schedule to ensure that we are all able to stay connected. My colleague routinely refereed to these meetings as “biweekly”. At first I let it pass, but after several of these references, I had to step in…I explained that “biweekly” means twice in the same week, what he was looking for was “bimonthly”. He vehemently disagreed! Now both of us had our scruff up…there’s no backing down from this fight! So with the machismo of a man who knew he was right, I suggested we take our battle to the old trusty American Heritage dictionary, from which I quote:

bi•week•ly  adj. 1. Happening every two weeks 2. Happening twice a week; semiweekly

Say what!? How can the same work have two polar opposite meanings!? After I took a deep breath and acknowledged that I was technically wrong (not something I tend to do regularly), the new reality started to creep in. While technically we were both right, I began to really think about this alternate reality…and I didn’t liking what I saw! Up was down, down was up and the creeping dark edges of this Bizaro world were making me claustrophobic.

Have no fear, in the end my savior came from the most likely of places, the AP Style Guide. Old faithful clarified this linguistic netherworld for us, but not the way I would have liked! I quote:

biweekly Means every other week. Semiweekly means twice a week.

Okay, I can stop hyperventilating now, the planets are back where they belong and we can all go back to work…right? Well no! The prefix “bi” is modifying “weekly” so how the heck can that mean every-other week!? I guess I can take solace in that the American Heritage at least acknowledges this “usage problem”

I guess this is just one of those things that you have to accept, like algebra. Why does the Pythagorean Theorem work, who knows it just does…accept it and move on…at least that’s the irritated response I got from my algebra teacher back in the day.