Monday, April 8, 2013

Confusion with the prefix "bi"

Check it out:

Well, here's one for the list of English language potentially dangerous confusions: biweekly, bimonthly, biannually. Now, granted, confusion may be averted with the term biannually by using its clearer sister word, biennially, which can only be interpreted as "every two years." But, still, the general confusion may occur with all the other terms. The prefix bi is rooted in the Latin, from bis, which means two or twice. So, biweekly may mean twice a week or every two weeks, bimonthly may mean twice a month or every two months, biannually may mean twice a year or every two years.

I vow to steer clear from all of these terms in my writing unless there is a sure fire way to clarify to the reader exactly which meaning I mean. I suggest the same for writers everywhere. Thoughts?