Column: Not for sail


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

My name is Curtis. I’m a 33-year-old man. I can’t swim.

At some point during summertime childhood swimming lessons, I flunked and didn’t receive my certificate to move to the next class. As a result, I dropped out. For a pasty redhead, I already didn’t like being outside in the first place. Now I can barely doggie paddle my way out of a kiddie pool.

If I were to hypothetically win a sailboat, I’d sell it as quickly as possible. I’d put that sail up for sale. The difference between the words sail, sale, sell and cell are salient. And, before you can accuse me of being a sellout, let me assure you – like the theoretical sailboat – my argument will hold water.

First, let’s tackle the difference between sail and sale. Sail can be used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun, sail refers to a piece of fabric attached to a boat to help steer it using wind. As a verb, sail refers to a trip taken on a sailboat. Most of what I know about sailboats I learned from The Beach Boys’ version of “Sloop John B.”

A sale is a noun that refers to the act of selling, specifically when a good or service is traded for some kind of currency. For example, mattress stores all think it’s a great idea to have big sales over Labor Day weekend. It’s as if the store owners all got together and decided to celebrate hard work by giving people a great excuse to do the exact opposite.

Sale is different from sell. Sell is a verb; it is the act of working towards the goal of making the sale. You can sell a boat. Once you sell the boat, you have made a sale.

A cell is a noun. It can refer to a few different things. A cell is a small room in which a prisoner is locked. A cell also is a small group acting within a larger organization. A cell is a basic structural unit of all organisms. A cell is a battery. “Cell” is short for “cellular,” so some people refer to their cellular or mobile phones as their “cell” or, more commonly, “cellphone.”

I hope my clarification of sail, sale, sell and cell went swimmingly, which is more than I can say about my own swimming skills.