You know the old saying that “if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard [fill-in-the-blank], I’d be rich.” Well, some day it’s a dead body – a corpse – that’s going to make me very, very rich. Lest you suspect some sinister motives here let me rush to explain: we’re only talking incorrect terms for a consular corps!
It’s not the first time I’m blogging about these words but it’s time to do it again as the recent holiday season brought out the same-old skeleton in some international communities. Sad to say, the corpse — err, the skeleton — is no longer hidden in our linguistic closet, where it belongs.
Sometimes it’s not even a matter of rattling the bones (of what creature exactly we don’t know) as well-meaning community leaders often do when calling a group of consuls the corpse. When bones dissipate into dust (metaphorically speaking, of course), we end up with the non-existent corp. Without the s or se, please. Here’s but one example:
The mayor of one major metropolis often speaks of the city’s “international commitment” and how he works with a committee of community leaders to fulfill promises to the international constituency and beyond. For the holidays he invites the local foreign consuls to mingle with members of the committee and other internationalists.
This year’s invitation was again well-designed, with all the requisite logos and other visuals, to show that thought and effort had gone into the upcoming event. But then there was the sentence that said this was a party for the consular corp (my underline)!
Now, some of you may say it’s no big deal. Corp, corps, corpse … “what does it matter”?
But it does! Some of the invited consuls took this as a reflection of a lack of international sophistication that this particular community is trying very hard to achieve. “There they go again,” is one of the milder comments.
How hard can it be to remember that a corpse (pronounced with a hard ps) is nothing but a dead body, whether we see it at the city morgue or a funeral home. The French word corps (the ps is silent) is the only one that follows “consular.” And the abbreviation corp (with a hard p) doesn’t even belong in this context (hint: think military rank, or incorporated entities)
But let’s finish on a happy note with the consular corps – any corps in any city – thanking the many members who take great pride in their service as foreign officials. Remember, I don’t make the rules. I only share stories and helpful hints.