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NOTE: The following essay contains less than 2% of the RDA for valuable, intelligent or coherent information, based on a 2000-calorie diet.

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Here’s what woke me up this morning (with hand to heart and God as my witness): “Do ‘extra’ and ‘additional’ mean the same thing?”

Much like the dull ache that appeared in my elbow late last week, this thought came out of nowhere. And, as I lay there at 4:58 a.m., it continued to rattle around in my head. Ten minutes later, I had my answer because I looked up definitions for both.

“Extra,” when used as an adjective (it can also be an adverb), is defined as, “Added to an existing or usual amount or number.”

“Additional,” which is always an adjective, is defined as, “Added, extra or supplemental to what is already present or available.”

In other words, yes, for all intense and purposes, “extra” and “additional” mean the same thing, but not quite, right? If you look closely (and I’m pretty sure you didn’t because there’s no good reason to dive deeper, so I’ll do it for you), you’ll see that the definition for “extra” specifically mentions an “amount or number,” while “additional” doesn’t make reference to a number or amount, it simply refers to something “which is already present or available” (which, of course, infers an amount or number).

One could argue that someone (likely the person or group charged with creating dictionary definitions in that place none of us has ever toured or even seen on TV) simply used different wording to basically say the same thing because otherwise (and I’m paraphrasing here), “This job would be even more boring than it already is.”

This morning, my involuntary comparison of “extra” and “additional” wasn’t their word-for-word definitions. Instead, it was how they’re used, and how our perception of a phrase or sentence might change if one of these words was substituted for the other.

“Extra” sounds fun, exciting and like I’m getting something for free or, at least, something I didn’t expect. “Look at this! They gave us an extra order of fries!”

On the other hand, “additional” has a clinical, sterile feel. “Look at this. They gave us an additional order of fries.” (Notice, I didn’t use exclamation points in this sentence because simply using the word “additional” reduced my excitement level, making the discovery pedestrian, even burdensome, as though the hypothetical “we” in the story should come clean and return the “additional” order of fries versus celebrating – and subsequently eating – our “extra” order with unbridled joy and the thrill that we got something for nothing.

I hope you’re starting to see why this woke me up. (And if you are, you please let me know because I still have no idea.)

During this “extra/additional” prize fight happening in my head, I thought, “Man I should call best friend/cousin Mike. He’d love this discussion!” And he would, since these are exactly the types of things Mike and I can talk about for hours on end, riffing and speculating in a way that entertains and delights only the two of us. (We’ve proven it on countless occasions when we’ve cleared out entire rooms of people with our ridiculous debates.)

Then, I realized it was 5:15 a.m., so I thought better of calling Mike, leaving me to ponder this issue on my own. I couldn’t shake it, this comparison, and it kept creeping into my head.

Extra is used in special offers, coupons and sales.

Additional refers to fees and surcharges.

Extra is marketing and advertising; it’s fun!

Additional is legal and businesslike, the disclaimer copy.

Extra is the cool aunt who travels the world and brings you gifts from far-off places.

Additional is the practical aunt who sends you a six-pack of tube socks for every birthday.

Extra is a brand of gum, and it’s called that for a reason; because I’ll receive something more than I bargained for (presumably something good) when I chew it. If they called it “Additional” gum, beyond sounding stupid, it would appear obligatory, like someone was telling me I should chew it for therapeutic reasons, or “under penalty of law.”

In legal documents, a section attached to the end is called an “addendum,” you know why? Because it’s not fun and may have information you don’t want to read. If it was called an “extra-endum,” you might think, “Cool! I’m getting great news the IRS forgot to tell me about when they drafted the original audit!”

Maybe I should have mentioned this at the outset, but if you’re looking for a deeper meaning or any sort of point to this, please call off the search party. I’m simply oversharing, and either 1) letting you in on my thoughts and musings (an “extra” benefit) or 2) forcing you to you endure my laborious thought process (an “additional” burden), again, something only best friend/cousin Mike would appreciate.

But, lucky for you, I’m done and ready to move on to additional (or maybe extra) cerebral exercises.

OK, it’s 6:04 a.m. I wonder if it’s too early to call Mike …

© 2020 David R. Haznaw




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© 2019 David Haznaw