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??
Posted By: Joe Basirico