Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

adultry/adultery: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, October 20, 2014

“Adultery” is often misspelled “adultry,” as if it were something every adult should try. This spelling error is likely to get you snickered at. The term does not refer to all sorts of illicit sex: at least one of the partners involved has to be married for the relationship to be adulterous.

Friday, October 17, 2014

wonderkind/wunderkind: The Weekend Edition—Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday–Sunday, October 17–19, 2014

We borrowed the term “wunderkind,” meaning “child prodigy,” from the Germans. We don’t capitalize it the way they do, but we use the same spelling. When writing in English, don’t half-translate it as “wonderkind.”

The Week's End Extra from the Archives: "Notes on the Third Edition: On Chocolate Truffles" (November 3, 2013).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

reoccurring/recurring: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, October 16, 2014

It might seem logical to form this word from “occurring” by simply adding a RE- prefix—but the most common form is “recurring.” The root form is “recur” rather than “reoccur.” Although the forms with an O are legitimate, many style guides recommend against them. For some reason “recurrent” is seldom transformed into “reoccurrent.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

wench/winch: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, October 15, 2014

“Wench” began as a general term for a girl or woman, and over the centuries acquired a variety of meanings, including female servant, lower-class female, and prostitute. It is mostly used today as a jokingly affectionate archaic allusion to Shakespearean ribaldry.

The hoisting or hauling mechanism attached to a tow truck is a winch (and it’s not on a “toe truck”).

If a woman can lift your car, she’s not a wench—she’s an Amazon!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

no such a thing/no such thing: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, October 14, 2014

no such a thing/no such thing
Some say “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” but in phrases like this it’s much less common to insert an “a” after “such” so that the phrase becomes “no such a thing.”

This variation followed by a phrase beginning with “as” will probably not be noticed in most contexts, but it tends to sound more obviously nonstandard when the phrase stands by itself as a simple negation: “Eric told me the grocery store was handing out free steaks. No such a thing.” It sounds better to most people to say instead “no such thing.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

Colombia/Columbia: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, October 13, 2014

Although both are named after Columbus, the US capital is the District of Columbia, whereas the South American country is Colombia.