During a recent conversation with friend and former podcast co-host BJ, I referred to something as bi-weekly, then immediately asked, “Wait, does that mean ‘once every two weeks‘? Or ‘two times per week‘ ? ” If the former, then it would follow that “Bi-Monthly” means once every two months, but doesn’t it seem like “Bi-Monthly” means two times in one month? And if so, then to say bi-weekly would be to say bi-monthly.
We were confused. ”I’m looking this shit up right now,” he said.
And once he did, oh boy, did the confusion ever just multiply. Check out some knowledge, from Merriam-Webster Online:
1 : occurring twice a week 2 : occurring every two weeks : fortnightly
1 : occurring every two months 2 : occurring twice a month : semimonthly
: a period of 14 days : two weeks
I googled “biweekly confusion” which might seem to imply that I am confused either twice per week or once every two weeks, and I found the following explanation that I found amusing.
Confusion is caused by the fact that biweekly, bimonthly, and biyearly can mean either “once every two weeks (or months or years)” or “twice a week (or month or year).” If you want to avoid doubt, it is better to reword the sentence…
I think what this really means is, these words are defective. Their multiple definitions aren’t just paradoxical, they’re mutually exclusive. How many words are there that are real, actual words, but they are unfit to be used. Shouldn’t that be a requirement of a word before it’s given status as a “word” ? Because if the definition of a word is, according to Merriam-Webster, “ a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning…” then do these terms qualify as words? (For a good time, check out ALL the Definitions of “Word”) How can a word be a word if it can’t be used, can’t be spoken without having to say, “No, what I really meant was…” These are words you use while your actual words are warming up in the on-deck circle.
Dictionary.com, for its part, takes the confusion to another level. On the same page, it has two “Usage Notes,” the first explaining that the terms go either way (swingers!) and the second note contradicting that to state that “Bimonthly and biweekly mean “once every two months” and “once every two weeks.” You know you’re in trouble when even the clarifications fall into the same confusion as the issue they’re clarifying. And I don’t think it’s out of line to say that this is very bad language.