Friday, October 24, 2014

oeuvre: The Weekend Edition—Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday–Sunday, October 24–26, 2014

oeuvre
In French oeuvre means “work” in many different ways. In English we use the word only in the specialized sense “the body of work produced by an individual creator.” Unfortunately, “oeuvre” begins with a vowel sound we don’t have in English and ends in a French R that also does not correspond to any English sound. The result is often grotesque mispronunciations like “oove.” It’s better to avoid foreign words like this if you haven’t mastered the accent. “Body of work” or “output” will do fine.

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The Week's End Extra from the Archives: "Sure it's no good, but is it non-grammatical?" (February 22, 2013).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

in tact/intact: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, October 23, 2014

in tact/intact
Often common two-word phrases are smooshed into a single word (“anymore,” “alot,” “everytime,” “incase,” “infact”). Here’s an example where some people err in the other direction. When something survives undamaged, whole, it is not “in tact” but “intact”—one word, unbroken.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

wont/won’t: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, October 22, 2014

wont/won’t
People often leave the apostrophe out of “won’t,” meaning “will not.” “Wont” is a completely different and rarely used word meaning “habitual custom.” Perhaps people are reluctant to believe this is a contraction because it doesn’t make obvious sense like “cannot” being contracted to “can’t.” The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that “won’t” is a contraction of a nonstandard form: “woll not.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

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

adultry/adultery
“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

wonderkind/wunderkind
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.”

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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

reoccurring/recurring
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.”