Friday, November 21, 2014

fellow classmate/classmate: The Weekend Edition—Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday–Sunday, November 21–23, 2014

fellow classmate/classmate
Some redundancies are so common that few people notice them, but it’s worthwhile to be aware of them. A good example is “fellow classmate.” “Fellow” and “-mate” perform the same function. It’s better to say simply “classmate.”

The same is true of the equally redundant “fellow shipmate,” “ fellow roommate,” “fellow co-worker,” “fellow comrade,” and “fellow colleague.”

Even worse is “fellow peer.” Your fellows are your peers: same thing. The only people who should speak of fellow peers are members of the British peerage referring to others of their social class.

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The Week's End Extra from the Archives: "Learning to spell with Obamacare: Are policies being canceled, or are they being cancelled?" (November 19, 2013).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

touché: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, November 20, 2014

touché
In formal fencing matches, when someone is hit by an opponent’s sword it is traditional for the person hit to cry out touché (French for “touched”) to acknowledge that fact. In other contexts, we may say touché when somebody scores a point against us in an argument, or otherwise skewers us verbally.

It is inappropriate to cry touché when you think you are the one who has skewered your opponent. Touché is not a synonym for “gotcha!”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

antihero: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, November 19, 2014

antihero
In literature, theater, and film, an antihero is a central character who is not very admirable: weak, lazy, incompetent, or mean-spirited. However, antiheroes are rarely actually evil, and you should not use this word as a synonym for “villain” if you want to get a good grade on your English lit paper.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

teeth/teethe: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, November 18, 2014

teeth/teethe
When your baby’s teeth are just beginning to come in, you can say she has begun to “teethe” (rhymes with “breathe”). Don’t spell this verb form as “teeth” (rhymes with “wreath”). That’s the noun form, the word for what emerges during teething.

Monday, November 17, 2014

sprain/strain: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, November 17, 2014

sprain/strain
So did you sprain your leg or strain it? It will take someone with medical training to say for sure. Technically, a sprain is a ligament injury and a strain is tendon or muscle injury. But don’t fret about the distinction if you’re trying to explain to your friends why you may not be able to finish a hike; they won’t hold it against you if your “sprain” turns out to be a “strain.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

multiply by double/double, multiply by 2: The Weekend Edition—Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday–Sunday, November 14–16, 2014

multiply by double/double, multiply by 2
If you are talking about making a number twice as large, the expression is “double” or “multiply by 2”: “double your sales to multiply your income by 2.”

You could properly say “increase by a 100%” to mean the same thing, but lots of people won’t understand that.

And definitely do not confuse people by saying “multiply by double.”

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The Week's End Extra from the Archives: "Hocking / Hawking" (November 28, 2012).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

gardener snake/garter snake: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, November 13, 2014

gardener snake/garter snake
“Garter snake” is a traditional American term for small harmless snakes with stripes running lengthwise along their bodies, resembling old-fashioned garters. It is more broadly used for all manner of small non-venomous snakes. Many folks don’t get the allusion, and call them “gardener snakes” instead. Although you may find these little critters in your yard, they are unlikely to do much gardening. For that you need earthworms.

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Paul Brians works up a head of steam in his latest blog post.