Thursday, February 25, 2010

Liking Your Likeness

The other day at O'Charley's, the waiter delivered my (deeeeeelicious) steak and asked me to cut into the middle of it to "make sure it is to my likeness." I sliced in, and it looked perfect, but there was really only one response: "It doesn't look anything like me!" 

All right, I admit it: I didn't have presence of mind to actually say that. But when he asked me what I was laughing about, I pointed out that he meant liking instead of likeness. 

Likeness, of course, refers to similarity between two things; liking is all about preferences and pleasures. (One wonders if George Washington would find his likeness on the one-dollar bill to his liking.) 

It's easy to see how one could make such a gaff. Adding -ness is a common way to make a noun out of an adjective, as with slowness, deafness, and ugliness, and that's just in my family! I assume some part of his mind figured out that he needed to turn a verb ("Is it done the way you like it?") into a noun, he just chose the wrong ending. 
Are there any simple present tense verbs that can be nounified by adding -ness? I can't think of any.
In any case, I don't think he'll make that mistake again.