Monday, September 15, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

PC computer/PC: The Weekend Edition—Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday–Sunday, September 12–14, 2014

PC computer/PC 
The phrase “PC computer” is a bit awkward and redundant since “PC” stands for “personal computer.” The problem is that originally the label “PC” meant not personal computers generally, but computers compatible with the IBM PC introduced in 1981. By the time IBM adopted the abbreviation for a specific model there had been many earlier personal computers like the Commodore PET and the Apple II. Now IBM doesn’t make PCs and none of today’s popular personal computers is compatible with the original PC. The label is still used to distinguish between computers running some version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system and the Macintosh computers made by Apple, even though Macs are certainly personal computers and the newer ones can also run Windows. No wonder people forget what “PC” stands for. If you want to use the abbreviation to indicate that your computer is not a Mac, “PC” alone will do, despite its literal inaccuracy.




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The Week's End Extra from the Archives: "Whim and a Prayer" (April 18, 2011).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

bon a petite/bon appétit: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, September 11, 2014

bon a petite/bon appétit 
The traditional French phrase to utter when you serve the food is bon appétit: “good appetite” (and pronounced “bone ah-puh-TEE”). It implies “may you enjoy your food with a good appetite.” (For some reason I think this is fine but get irritated when a waiter tells me “enjoy!”)

You see all sorts of misspellings of this phrase: “bon a petite,” “bon à petite,” “bon á petite,” “bona petite,” “bonapetite,” “bon a petit,” etc. All of these are bon à rien—good for nothing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

here’s/here are: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, September 10, 2014

here’s/here are
Sentences like “here’s the gerbil” are shortened ways of saying “here is the gerbil.” But “here’s the gerbils” is wrong because “here’s” is not a contraction of “here are.” In speaking we might say “here’re the gerbils,“ but we probably would not use the contracted form in writing unless we were trying to convey the effect of spoken English. Instead write “here are the gerbils.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

licence/license: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, September 9, 2014

licence/license 
In the UK, the noun is “licence”: “here is my driving licence.” But when it is a verb, the spelling is “license”: “she is licensed to drive a lorry.”

In contrast, Americans use the spelling “license” in all contexts and the spelling “licence” is considered a spelling error.

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Would you be so kind as to read Paul Brians’ latest blog post?

Monday, September 8, 2014

knots per hour/knots: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, September 8, 2014

knots per hour/knots 
A knot equals one nautical mile per hour, so it makes no sense to speak of “knots per hour.” Leave off “per hour” when reporting the speed of a vessel in knots.

Friday, September 5, 2014

shined/shone: The Weekend Edition—Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday–Sunday, September 5–7, 2014



shined/shone 
The transitive form of the verb “shine” is “shined.” If the context describes something shining on something else, use “shined”: “He shined his flashlight on the skunk eating from the dog dish.” You can remember this because another sense of the word meaning “polished” obviously requires “shined”: “I shined your shoes for you.”

When the shining is less active, many people would use “shone”: “The sun shone on the tomato plants all afternoon.” But some authorities prefer “shined” even in this sort of context: “The sun shined on the tomato plants all afternoon.”

If the verb is intransitive (lacks an object) and the context merely speaks of the act of shining, the past tense is definitely “shone”: “The sun shone all afternoon” (note that nothing is said here about the sun shining on anything).

 
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The Week's End Extra from the Archives: "Belgium Chocolate" (May 15, 2011).