Unknown vs. Unbeknownst

Sometimes people like to use fancy words to impress others, especially when their photo and name accompany the piece of technical writing and lots of people are going to see it.

I ran across one such example this week:
“… for some unbeknownst reason ….”
I thought the word “unknown” would work better there, but I wasn’t sure why (other than for simplicity’s sake), so I looked up both words in the trusty dictionary.

Unbeknownst means happening without the knowledge of the person. It is usually used with the word “to” immediately following it.
Unbeknownst to the employees, the CEOs of the two oil companies had worked out a merger agreement while playing golf together over the weekend.

Unknown, on the other hand, means not known or not well-known.
It also means having an unknown value, like a variable in an equation or a mystery sample in a chemistry vial.
And one of the examples given in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary was “For some unknown reason, my computer crashed.”

Here’s another example:
For some unknown reason, my putting was extraordinarily good during the Oxy golf tournament last Friday.
I’ve never made a birdie putt before. My team tied for first place at nine under par – that’s nine pars and nine birdies, no bogies. Unbeknownst to us, however, another team was also nine under par, and after the scorecard playoff, where they take into account handicaps, etc., my foursome ended up in second place, each of us winning $75 rather than the $100 first place prize. I’m not complaining! I rather like earning money by playing a game and drinking beer. I may have to do more of this.

I also ran across a couple of interesting typos today I wanted to share with y’all:
–       “summaries” instead of “summarizes” – that’s one the Spell Checker would miss.
–       Instead of “mud log” I saw “mug log,” “mid log,” and my favorite, “mad log.”
I would love to hear your fabricated definitions of these technical terms. 🙂


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