Thursday, January 31, 2013

LCD display/LCD: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, January 31, 2013

LCD display/LCD
“LCD” stands for “liquid crystal display,” so some argue it is redundant to write “LCD display” and argue you should use just “LCD” or “LCD screen” instead. But some in the industry argue that “LCD display” is the generic term for the category which comprises both LCD screens and LCD projectors. However, if you want to avoid the redundancy in wording you can still refer more precisely to your laptop or TV as having an LCD screen.

Many people confuse this abbreviation with “LED,” which stands for “light-emitting diode”—a much earlier technology. You will often see explanations even in technical contexts in which “LCD” is incorrectly defined as “liquid crystal diode.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

do respect/due respect: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, January 30, 2013

do respect/due respect
When you preface your critical comments by telling people “with all due respect” you are claiming to give them the respect they are due—that which is owed them. Many folks misunderstand this phrase and misspell it “all do respect” or even “all-do respect.” You shouldn’t use this expression unless you really do intend to be as polite as possible; all too often it’s used merely to preface a deliberate insult.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

shimmy/shinny: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, January 29, 2013

shimmy/shinny
You shinny—or shin (climb)—up a tree or pole; but on the dance floor or in a vibrating vehicle you shimmy (shake).

Monday, January 28, 2013

preemptory/peremptory: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, January 28, 2013

preemptory/peremptory
“Peremptory” (meaning “imperative”) is often misspelled and mispronounced “preemptory” through confusion caused by the influence of the verb “preempt,” whose adjectival form is actually “preemptive.”

_________
Brilliant elucidation! Read Paul Brians' latest blog post here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

that/than: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, January 27, 2013

that/than
People surprisingly often write “that” when they mean “than” in various standard phrases. Examples: “harder that I thought,” “better safe that sorry,” and “closer that they appear.” In all these cases, “that” should be “than.”

Saturday, January 26, 2013

suffer with/suffer from: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, January 26, 2013

suffer with/suffer from 
Although technical medical usage sometimes differs, in normal speech we say that a person suffers from a disease rather than suffering with it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

naval/navel: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, January 25, 2013

naval/navel
Your bellybutton is your navel, and navel oranges look like they have one; all terms having to do with ships and sailing require “naval.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

writting/writing: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, January 24, 2013

writting/writing
One of the comments English teachers dread to see on their evaluations is “The professor really helped me improve my writting.” When “-ing” is added to a word that ends in a short vowel followed only by a single consonant, that consonant is normally doubled, but “write” has a silent E on the end to ensure the long I sound in the word. Doubling the T in this case would make the word rhyme with “flitting.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

grisly/grizzly: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, January 23, 2013

grisly/grizzly 
 “Grisly” means “horrible”; a “grizzly” is a bear. “The grizzly left behind the grisly remains of his victim.” “Grizzled” means “having gray hairs,” not to be confused with “gristly,” full of gristle.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

percent/per cent: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, January 22, 2013

percent/per cent
In the US the two-word spelling “per cent” is considered rather old-fashioned and is rarely used; but in the UK and countries influenced by it, the two-word form is still standard, though use of “percent” is spreading fast even there.

Monday, January 21, 2013

swam/swum: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, January 21, 2013

swam/swum
The regular past tense of “swim” is “swam”: “I swam to the island.” However, when the verb is preceded by a helping verb, it changes to “swum”: “I’ve swum to the island every day.” The “’ve” stands for “have,” a helping verb.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

rationale/rationalization: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, January 20, 2013

rationale/rationalization
When you’re explaining the reasoning behind your position, you’re presenting your rationale. But if you’re just making up some lame excuse to make your position appear better—whether to yourself or others—you’re engaging in rationalization.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

each: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, January 19, 2013

each
“Each” as a subject is always singular: think of it as equivalent to “every one.” The verb whose subject it is must also be singular. Some uses, like “To keep them from fighting, each dog has been given its own bowl,” cause no problem. No one is tempted to say “have been given.” But when a prepositional phrase with a plural object intervenes between subject and verb, we are likely to be misled into saying things like “Each of the children have to memorize their own locker combinations.” The subject is “each,” not “children.”

The tendency to avoid specifying gender by using “their” adds pressure toward plurality; but the correct version of this sentence is “Each of the children has to memorize his or her own locker combination.” One can avoid the entire problem by pluralizing throughout: “All the children have to memorize their own locker combinations.” In many uses, however, “each” is not the subject, as in “We each have our own favorite flavor of ice cream,” which is correct because “we,” not “each,” is the subject of the verb “have.”

“Each other” cannot be a subject, so the question of verb number does not arise; but the number of the possessive creates a problem for some writers. “They gazed into each other’s eyes” is correct and “each others’” is incorrect because “each other” is singular. Reword to “each gazed into the other’s eyes” to see the logic behind this rule. “Each other” is always two distinct words separated by a space although it functions grammatically as a sort of compound word.

Friday, January 18, 2013

lived: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, January 18, 2013

lived 
In expressions like “long-lived,” pronouncing the last part to rhyme with “dived” is more traditional, but rhyming it with “sieved” is so common that it’s now widely acceptable.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

refrain/restrain: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, January 17, 2013

refrain/restrain
“Restrain” is a transitive verb: it needs an object. Although “refrain” was once a synonym for “restrain” it is now an intransitive verb: it should not have an object. Here are examples of correct modern usage: “When I pass the doughnut shop I have to restrain myself” (“myself” is the object). “When I feel like throwing something at my boss, I usually refrain from doing so.” You can’t refrain yourself or anyone else.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

miner/minor: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, January 16, 2013

miner/minor
Children are minors, but unless they are violating child-labor laws, those who work in mines are miners.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

gaff/gaffe: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, January 15, 2013

gaff/gaffe
Gaffe is a French word meaning “embarrassing mistake” and should not be mixed up with “gaff”: a large hook.







Monday, January 14, 2013

device/devise: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, January 14, 2013

device/devise
“Device” is a noun. A can-opener is a device. “Devise” is a verb. You can devise a plan for opening a can with a sharp rock instead. Only in law is “devise” properly used as a noun, meaning something deeded in a will.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

for free/free: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, January 13, 2013

for free/free
Some people object to “for free” because any sentence containing the phrase will read just as well without the “for,” but it is standard English.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

self-worth/self-esteem: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, January 12, 2013

self-worth/self-esteem
To say that a person has a low sense of self-worth makes sense, though it’s inelegant. But people commonly truncate the phrase, saying instead, “He has low self-worth.” This would literally mean that he isn’t worth much rather than that he has a low opinion of himself. “Self-esteem” sounds much more literate.

Friday, January 11, 2013

-wise: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, January 11, 2013

-wise
In political and business jargon it is common to append “-wise” to nouns to create novel adverbs: “Revenue-wise, last quarter was a disaster.” Critics of language are united in objecting to this pattern, and it is often used in fiction to satirize less than eloquent speakers.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

oggle/ogle: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, January 10, 2013

oggle/ogle 
If you’re being leered at lustfully you’re being ogled (first vowel sounds like “OH”)—not “oggled,” even if you’re being ogled through goggles. The word is probably related to the German word √§ugeln, meaning “to eye,” from Auge (“eye”).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

fluke: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, January 9, 2013

fluke
A fluke was originally a lucky stroke in billiards, and it still means a fortunate chance event. It is nonstandard to use the word to label an unfortunate chance event. There are lucky flukes, but no unlucky ones.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

capital/capitol: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, January 8, 2013

capital/capitol
A “capitol” is almost always a building. Cities which serve as seats of government are capitals spelled with an A in the last syllable, as are most other uses of the word as a common noun. The only exceptions are place names alluding to capitol buildings in some way or other, like “Capitol Hill” in DC, Denver, or Seattle (the latter named either after the hill in Denver or in hopes of attracting the Washington State capitol building). Would it help to remember that Congress with an O meets in the Capitol with another O?


Monday, January 7, 2013

emulate/imitate: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Monday, January 7, 2013

emulate/imitate
People generally know what “imitate” means, but they sometimes don’t understand that “emulate” is a more specialized word with a purely positive function, meaning to try to equal or match. Thus if you try to climb the same mountain your big brother did, you’re emulating him; but if you copy his habit of sticking peas up his nose, you’re just imitating him.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

HIV virus: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Sunday, January 6, 2013

HIV virus
“HIV” stands for “human immunodeficiency virus,” so adding the word “virus” to the acronym creates a redundancy. “HIV” is the name of the organism that is the cause of AIDS, not a name for the disease itself. A person may be HIV-positive (a test shows the person to be infected with the virus) without having yet developed AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is the cause; AIDS the result.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

over-exaggerated/exaggerated: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Saturday, January 5, 2013

over-exaggerated/exaggerated
“Over-exaggerated” is a redundancy. If something is exaggerated, it’s already overstressed.

Friday, January 4, 2013

still in all/still and all: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Friday, January 4, 2013

still in all/still and all 
The phrase “still and all” means something like “all things considered.” Now (“still”), after having taken all relevant facts into account. . . . So it’s not “still in all” but “still and all.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

resignate/resonate: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Thursday, January 3, 2013

resignate/resonate 
When an idea gives you good vibes it resonates with you: “His call for better schools resonates with the voters.” Not resignates—resonates.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

land lover/landlubber: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, January 2, 2013

land lover/landlubber
“Lubber” is an old term for a clumsy person, and beginning in the 18th century sailors used it to describe a person who was not a good seaman. So the pirate expression of scorn for those who don’t go to sea is not “land lover” but “landlubber.”

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

beginning of time: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Tuesday, January 1, 2013

beginning of time 
Stephen Hawking writes about the beginning of time, but few other people do. People who write “from the beginning of time” or “since time began” are usually being lazy. Their grasp of history is vague, so they resort to these broad, sweeping phrases. Almost never is this usage literally accurate: people have not fallen in love since time began, for instance, because people arrived relatively late on the scene in the cosmic scheme of things. When I visited Ferrara several years ago I was interested to see that the whole population of the old city seemed to use bicycles for transportation, cars being banned from the central area. I asked how long this had been the custom and was told “We’ve ridden bicycles for centuries.” Since the bicycle was invented only in the 1890s, I strongly doubted this (no, Leonardo da Vinci did not invent the bicycle—he just drew a picture of what one might look like—and some people think that picture is a modern forgery). If you really don’t know the appropriate period from which your subject dates, you could substitute a less silly but still vague phrase such as “for many years,” or “for centuries”; but it’s better simply to avoid historical statements if you don’t know your history.