“Co-” Incidents

This week’s entry concerns the use of the prefix “co-.”

Because I’m separated from my son’s mother, I am a co-parent. I co-parent my son. However, his mother is not my co-parenting partner, and I don’t co-parent my son with her. She is my parenting partner, and together we parent our son. That’s because “partner,” “with her,” and “together” already speak to the cooperative nature of our parenting, making “co-” redundant.

In other words, neither Rodgers nor Hammerstein had a co-writing partner. I wouldn’t even say that Lewis and Clark co-explored the Louisiana Purchase, any more than I’d assert that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong co-landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.

You might co-author a bestselling memoir of the forty-fourth president of the United States, but you didn’t co-write it with Barack Obama. You wrote it with him. That’s right, you did your share of the writing—your co-writing—all by yourself. Make sense?

(Probably only one name would be on the cover of that one anyway, and guess whose?)

But then why should we cooperate with the authorities in an investigation? Shouldn’t we operate with the authorities? That just sounds wrong… but why? I think that first the problem is that we’re not really in a position to cooperate with the authorities. They’re the authorities, and we’re not. We and the authorities aren’t equal partners here. What we’re considering is not cooperation but something closer to compliance. We should comply with the authorities. To use “cooperate” here is rather like a euphemism and at least an understatement.

OK, but you do need to cooperate with your cellmate to escape from prison. Right? Wrong. You and your cellmate need to cooperate to escape from prison. That is, you should both stay locked up in the subject of that sentence.

You didn’t collaborate with your best friend, Ellen, to come up with an award-winning idea. You simply llaborated with her. Have I gone too far? Is anyone still with me?

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2 Comments on ““Co-” Incidents”

  1. Laura says:

    Just a great post! I may opt some of your words for my own blog. If I do, I’ll ordinate with you.


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