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Fortnightly

7/27/2016 - Posted by joe

Sorry biweekly, you've just been ejected from my vocabulary. I hate to be esoteric in my language and use a word like fortnightly, but when your definition from Merriam Webster has two directly conflicting definitions I simply cannot use that word. Fortnightly it is!

From Grammar Girl:

Semi- always means "half." You can remember the meaning by remembering that semisweet chocolate is only half sweet, and semiannual sales happen twice a year.

Bi- can mean both "two" and "twice." Bifocals have two lenses and the bicentennial happens after two hundred years, but a biannual event happens twice a year.

A listener named Eric pointed out that these terms are relatively set in the mortgage industry. A bimonthly payment is paid two times a month, but a biweekly payment is made every two weeks-not two times a week as you might presume if you were trying to adhere to just one meaning for the prefix bi-. The Merriam-Webster website explains that the "ambiguity has been in existence for nearly a century and a half." How frustrating!

Reading that makes me feel like I'm crazy. As a coworker noted:

"biannual is twice per year, but can also be a synonym for biennial which is every other year" This is terrible.

Are we insane??