January 29, 2013
confusion, English, grammar, homophones, language, misuse, trooper, trouper
. . . and so must this blog. The title this week is actually doubly appropriate, since it involves another homophonic (same sounding) word tht actually relates to show business:
A person who continues on, despite adverse conditions (health issues, lost love, fired from job, death in family, etc.), and does not let this stop his/her progress forward, is called a “real trouper” — not, as many would have it, a “trooper.”
December 31, 2012
addition, confusion, edition, English, flaunt, flout, grammar, homophones, misuse, reckless, reek, than, then, wreak, wreck
Another long gap, another stretch of interesting life—although this stretch was actually pretty productive, editing-wise: two novels, a novella, a long short story, four Asian technical papers . . . and two projects begun and dropped because they were just way out of my experiential expertise (although both look promising for future other-topic ventures)!
What to say today, to wrap up both a calendar-year and an impending “cliff dive”?
Let’s try one more round of “potato/potahto,” four more commonly confused words that sound alike but mean vastly different things:
- edition/addition: An “edition” is a version of something, as in a history book that gets re-issued, often with new material added or deleted. Meanwhile, the only meaning for “addition” is the mathematical one, whether used in that context directly or in the phrase “in addition” (which merely means “also” but is a slightly more edumacated-sounding way to put it). More
December 9, 2012
confusion, English, healer, heeler, homophones, language, misuse, rain, reign, rein, waive, wave
Dang, has it been that long since I posted here? Actually, I’ve had some real editing work to do: a technical paper, a teen novel, some test papers . . . and now, another novel/memoir.
But I can’t leave the gap, so here are three more word-mixups to conjure with:
- reign/rein/rain: The first word (reign) has to do with royalty (some folks also use it to refer to presidential terms), and refers to the length of the term royalty (elected or otherwise) stays on the throne. The second one (rein) comes from horsemanship, and refers to those straps of leather used to steer a horse. It is also used (metaphorically, in most cases) to refer to controls on people’s behavior, as in “we need to rein in our Senators and Congresspeople, before they spend us into bankruptcy.” The third word (rain) is only about the weather, those drops of water that fall down from the sky.
November 30, 2012
a lot, confusion, English, flair, flare, homophones, language, misuse, principal, principle, reigh, rein, tenant, tenet
Sorry for the long delay between posts; been dealing with some personal stuff, more than the usual levels (those who know me already know the details; those who don’t have no need to).
Okay, let’s do a few others that almost everyone seems to get wrong:
- “a lot” is a synonym for “a whole bunch of stuff”; it can also be written as the single word “lots” if you prefer. However it should not be written as “alot” (that’s not only not a correct usage, it’s not even a word in the English language!). Meanwhile, if you spell it with two l’s (as in “allot”) you are dividing something into shares, as in “giving to each his allotted portion.”) This is less often misused.
- Then there is “principal” vs. “principle” . . . most folks know this, but still get it wrong at times.The “-pal” word has several meanings: (a) to describe an upper-management school official, (b) to indicate the “main” portion of something, or (c) to define the pre-interest portion of a financial transaction, such as a loan.The “-ple” version is a synonym for “tenet” (see below). (We could of course refer to a “lack of principles by the unprincipled principal” and be speaking about an educator with no ethical sense.)
November 7, 2012
all ready, all together, already, altogether, confusion, English, homophones, language, misuse
Last entry I addressed “all right” and “alright”; today I’m talking about some other “all words,” and once again they have very different meanings when combined or separated. (Once again, I refer to Grammar Girl as the primary inspiration for this piece. I will attempt to tweak it at least enough to pass Copyscape’s barriers . . .)
“all together” vs. “altogether”:
These two are not confused as often as their … umm, distant cousins are, but they do still get scrambled now and then. The easiest way to remember the difference is to think of the single-word version (altogether) as being an adjective (meaning “entirely” or “completely”), while the two-word “all together” simply means “collectively” or “in unison.” Additionally, “all together” can be broken up within a sentence, as in “We all cleaned the neighborhood together.” (or, “All together we cleaned the neighborhood.”)
“all ready” vs. “already”:
These two are also extremely variant in their meanings, compared to one another. The two-word one, “all ready,” is simply another way to say “prepared” (“That cake looks all ready to be carved up and gobbled down.”) Meanwhile, “already” has to do with time; it merely means “prior to this moment,” and defines a situation where something has previously occurred, as in “My bags were already packed, in anticipation of the journey.”
Until next time …
October 27, 2012
confusion, deserts, desserts, English, grammar, grisly, grizzled, grizzly, homophones, incredible, incredulous, jerry-built, jury-rigged, language, misuse
Here are a few more to contemplate:
1. Desert, Deserts and Desserts: Every time I see it written that someone “got his just desserts” I visualize coconut cream pies being thrown. Meanwhile, when folks refer to the after-dinner pastry or other sweet treat, using only one “s” in the middle, my mouth gets very dry. Here’s the difference:
(a) A desert (de-sert) is a place with hot sun and little rain; camels or other fauna with hardy constitutions may inhabit it, or you may remember it from the old Road Runner cartoons.
(b) Your just deserts (de-serts) are what you deserve (good or bad).
(c) When it’s time for dessert (de-sert), you get to sample those pies, cakes, candies, etc. (My favorite was always cherry pie, with a cream cheese topping, which my Mom used to make for my birthday “cake” … but I may not taste that again in this life.)
2. Disinterested vs. Uninterested: This one should be simple to remember: If you really don’t care (or the topic just bores you), you’re “uninterested” in it. However, if you have no stake (personal or financial) in the outcome, you could serve as a “disinterested observer,” or even as a fair-witness (extra points if you can name the source of that concept!) impartial arbitrator of the situation, since you are considered impartial or neutral.
October 17, 2012
breach, breech, compel, confusion, English, figuratively, grammar, homophones, impel, infectious, language, literally, misuse
I owe this one to another website (Taylor Houston’s “10 Words You Literally Didn’t Know You Were Getting Wrong”), but since I’ve already addressed about half of the issues they raised it seems okay to cite the others, with proper attribution.
1. Assent vs. Consent: Both of these are verbs, signifying agreement. When you “assent” to something, though, you do so with positive enthusiasm, whereas “consenting” can be neutral or even reluctant. (Another confusion is between “assent” (agree to eagerly) and “ascent” (climb, as in a mountain).
2. Breach vs. Breech: As a noun, a “breach” is a gap of some kind, either geographical (“once more into the breach, lads!”) or legal (a breach of contract). As a verb, it means “to break open or through” (as in “breaching a fortification”). Meanwhile, “breech” is a specific word defining the part of the back of a body (generally human) located between the legs and the back; that is to say, the butt or ass! (Thus, breeches, often pronounced as “britches,” are the things that cover that ass.) The only time it tends to be used nowadays is in describing a birth (human or other animal) in which the critter is coming out ass-first, and must be turned around in the birth canal. Any more questions?