Saturday, December 23, 2017

This Week: Wrapping Up the Book Sale, Plus The Magi(c) of Christmas + wreath/wreaths/wreathe/wreathes

wreath/wreaths/wreathe/wreathes
One circle of greens is a wreath (rhymes with “teeth”). The plural is “wreaths” (rhymes with “heaths”). In both cases the TH is unvoiced (like the TH in “both”).

To decorate something with wreaths is wreathe it (rhymes with “breathe” with a voiced TH like the one at the end of “bathe”). He or she wreathes it (also with a voiced TH).




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https://commonerrorspodcast.wordpress.com/

On the podcast this week, we air our traditional Christmas episode.

Final week of the book sale! Through the end of the year, buy the Common Errors in English Usage book now for $15 with free shipping in the US.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

This Week: Book Sale Continues! Plus, A Christmas Podcast + anxious/eager

anxious/eager
Most people use “anxious” interchangeably with “eager,” but its original meaning had to do with worrying, being full of anxiety. Perfectly correct phrases like “anxious to please” obscure the nervous tension implicit in this word and lead people to say less correct things like, “I’m anxious for Christmas morning to come so I can open my presents.” Traditionalists frown on anxiety-free anxiousness. Say instead you are eager for or looking forward to a happy event.




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https://commonerrorspodcast.wordpress.com/

On the podcast this week, we discuss holiday greetings and the war on Christmas.

Book sale! Through the end of the year, buy the Common Errors in English Usage book now for $15 with free shipping in the US.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

This Week: Book Sale Continues! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + yea/yeah/yay

yea/yeah/yay
“Yea” is a very old-fashioned, formal way of saying “yes,” used mainly in voting. It’s the opposite of—and rhymes with—“nay.” When you want to write the common casual version of “yes,” the correct spelling is “yeah” (sounds like “yeh”). When the third grade teacher announced a class trip to the zoo, we all yelled “yay!” (the opposite of “boo!”). That was back when I was only yay big.




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https://commonerrorspodcast.wordpress.com/

On the podcast this week, we pick up our discussion of words related to government and politics. This week the topic is caucuses, lobbyists, PACs, and more.

Book sale! Through the end of the year, buy the Common Errors in English Usage book now for $15 with free shipping in the US.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

This Week: Book Sale Continues! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + capital/capitol

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?


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https://commonerrorspodcast.wordpress.com/

On the podcast this week, we pick up our discussion of words related to government and politics. This week we find out the origin of the word “veto,” talk of filibustering and reconciliation, and more.

Book sale! Through the end of the year, buy the Common Errors in English Usage book now for $15 with free shipping in the US.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

This Week: Book Sale Continues! Plus, Thanksgiving Leftovers on the Podcast + dolly/handcart

dolly/handcart
A dolly is a flat platform with wheels on it, often used to make heavy objects mobile or by an auto mechanic lying on one under a car body. Many people mistakenly use this word to designate the vertically oriented, two-wheeled device with upright handles and horizontal lip. This latter device is more properly called a “handcart” or “hand truck.”



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https://commonerrorspodcast.wordpress.com/

On the podcast this week, we pick up from last week and serve some Thanksgiving leftovers, including “dolly/handcart,” “duck tape/duct tape,” “between you and me,” and many more entries and cartoons from the book.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, Giving Thanks for the Book on the Podcast + bare/bear

bare/bear
There are actually three words here. The simple one is the big growly creature (unless you prefer the Winnie-the-Pooh type). Hardly anyone past the age of 10 gets that one wrong. The problem is the other two. Stevedores bear burdens on their backs and mothers bear children. Both mean “carry” (in the case of mothers, the meaning has been extended from carrying the child during pregnancy to actually giving birth). But strippers bare their bodies—sometimes bare-naked. The confusion between this latter verb and “bear” creates many unintentionally amusing sentences; so if you want to entertain your readers while convincing them that you are a dolt, by all means mix them up. “Bear with me,” the standard expression, is a request for forbearance or patience. “Bare with me” would be an invitation to undress. “Bare” has an adjectival form: “The pioneers stripped the forest bare.”


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https://commonerrorspodcast.wordpress.com/

On the podcast this week, we celebrate Thanksgiving by giving lots of thanks for the book.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + reactionary/reactive

reactionary/reactive
Many people incorrectly use “reactionary” to mean “acting in response to some outside stimulus.” That’s “reactive.” “Reactionary” actually has a very narrow meaning; it is a noun or adjective describing a form of looking backward that goes beyond conservatism (wanting to prevent change and maintain present conditions) to reaction—wanting to recreate a lost past. The advocates of restoring Czarist rule in Russia are reactionaries. While we’re on the subject, the term “proactive” formed by analogy with “reactive” seems superfluous to many of us. Use “active,” “assertive,” or “positive” whenever you can instead.


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + socialize

socialize
People socialize at a party or on Facebook. Socialist governments socialize their economies. Sociologists speak of people being socialized into particular customs or groups. Animals can also be socialized. These are the main standard uses of “socialize.”

But people in the business world have developed a new meaning for “socialize”: to get people to agree with. Examples: “have them socialize the material with their work groups,” “we need to socialize the idea.” To nonspeakers of business jargon this sounds pretentious and silly.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + Romainian/Romanian

Romainian/Romanian
The ancient Romans referred to what we call “the Roman Empire” as Romania (roh-MAHN-ee-ya). The country north of Bulgaria borrowed this ancient name for itself. Older spellings—now obsolete—include “Roumania” and “Rumania.” But although in English we pronounce “Romania” roh-MAIN-ee-ya, it is never correct to spell the country’s name as “Romainia,” and the people and language are referred to not as “Romainian” but as “Romanian.”

Ancient Romans were citizens of the Roman empire, and today they are inhabitants of the city of Rome (which in Italian is Roma). Don’t confuse Romans with Romanians.

 
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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + oppress/repress

oppress/repress
Dictators commonly oppress their citizens and repress dissent, but these words don’t mean exactly the same thing. “Repress” just means “keep under control.” Sometimes repression is a good thing: “During the job interview, repress the temptation to tell Mr. Brown that he has toilet paper stuck to his shoe.” Oppression is always bad, and implies serious persecution.



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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

This Week: More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + Democrat Party/Democratic Party

Democrat Party/Democratic Party
Certain Republican members of Congress have played the childish game in recent years of referring to the opposition as the “Democrat Party,” hoping to imply that Democrats are not truly democratic. They succeed only in making themselves sound ignorant, and so will you if you imitate them. The name is “Democratic Party.” After all, we don’t say “Republic Party.”



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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

This Week: More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + grow

grow
We used to grow our hair long or grow tomatoes in the yard, but now we are being urged to “grow the economy” or “grow your investments.” Business and government speakers have extended this usage widely, but it irritates traditionalists. Use “build,” “increase,” “expand,” “develop,” or “cause to grow” instead in formal writing.
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

This Week: Finishing Up on the Language of Health Care on the Podcast + sick/sic

sick/sic
The command given to a dog, “sic ’em,” derives from the word “seek.” The 1992 punk rock album titled Sick ’Em has helped popularize the common misspelling of this phrase. Unless you want to tell how you incited your pit bull to vomit on someone’s shoes, don’t write “sick ’em” or “sick the dog.”

The standard spelling of the “-ing” form of the word is “siccing.”

In a different context, the Latin word sic (“thus”) inserted into a quotation is an editorial comment calling attention to a misspelling or other error in the original which you do not want to be blamed for but are accurately reproducing: “She acted like a real pre-Madonna [sic].” When commenting on someone else’s faulty writing, you really want to avoid misspelling this word as sick.

Although it’s occasionally useful in preventing misunderstanding, sic is usually just a way of being snotty about someone else’s mistake, largely replaced now by “lol.” Sometimes it’s appropriate to correct the mistakes in writing you’re quoting; and when errors abound, you needn’t mark each one with a sic—your readers will notice.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

This Week: More Language of Health Care on the Podcast + able to

able to
People are able to do things, but things are not able to be done: you should not say, “the budget shortfall was able to be solved by selling brownies.


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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

This Week: More Language of Health Care on the Podcast + realize/realise

realize/realise
“Realize” is the dominant spelling in the US, and “realise” in the UK. Spelling checkers often try to enforce these patterns by labeling the other spelling as an error, but it is good to know that most dictionaries list these as acceptable spelling variants.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

This Week: More Language of Health Care on the Podcast + tradegy/tragedy

tradegy/tragedy
Not only do people often misspell “tragedy” as “tradegy,” they mispronounce it that way too. Just remember that the adjective is “tragic” to recall that it’s the G that comes after the A. Also common is the misspelling “tradgedy.”

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

This Week: More Language of Health Care on the Podcast + boost in the arm/shot in the arm

boost in the arm/shot in the arm
Early in the 20th century it used to be common for people feeling a bit run-down to go to the doctor to get injected with a stimulant. By 1916 this remedy had led to a saying according to which a positive stimulation of almost any kind could be called “a real shot in the arm.”
We still use this expression in a wide variety of ways. It can refer to an increase of business in a company, to a stimulus administered to the economy, to the hopes of a sports franchise or a politician running for office.

A simpler way of expressing the idea is to refer to a stimulus as a “boost.” Examples: “the flowers on my birthday gave my spirits a real boost,” “the large donation by the pharmaceutical company gave his campaign a major boost,” “the President is looking for ways to boost the economy.”
It’s easy to understand how these two expressions came to be confused with each other in the popular form “a boost in the arm.” After all, we go to the doctor for a booster shot. But the boost in this expression is a shove from underneath to raise the whole body, not a needle in the biceps. It makes more sense to stick with the traditional expression “a shot in the arm” or to simply use “boost.”


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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This Week: The Language of Health Care on the Podcast + anecdote/antidote

anecdote/antidote
A humorist relates “anecdotes.” The doctor prescribes “antidotes” for children who have swallowed poison. Laughter may be the best medicine, but that’s no reason to confuse these two with each other.

 
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https://commonerrorspodcast.wordpress.com/

On the podcast this week, we discuss health care terms.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

This Week: Smart Talk on the Podcast + genius/brilliant + Paul Brians' latest blog post

genius/brilliant
In standard English “genius” is a noun, but not an adjective. In slang, people often say things like “Telling Mom your English teacher is requiring the class to get HBO was genius!” The standard way to say this is “was brilliant.”



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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

This Week: More Stupid Adjectives on the Podcast + gull/gall

gull/gall
“How could you have the nerve, the chutzpah, the effrontery, the unmitigated gall to claim you didn’t cheat because it was your girlfriend who copied from the Web when she wrote your paper for you?”

This sense of “gall” has nothing to do with seabirds, so don’t say “How could you have the gull?”



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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

This Week: Stupid Adjectives on the Podcast + French dip with au jus/French dip

French dip with au jus/French dip
This diner classic consists of sliced roast beef on a more or less firm bun, with a side dish of broth in which to dip it. Au jus means “with broth,” so adding “with” to “au jus” is redundant. In fancier restaurants, items are listed entirely in French with the English translation underneath:

TĂȘte de cochon avec ses tripes farcies
Pig’s head stuffed with tripe
Mixing the languages is hazardous if you don’t know what the original means. “With au jus broth” is also seen from time to time. People generally know what a French dip sandwich is, and they’ll see the broth when it comes. Why not just call it a “French dip”?


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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Week: Oafs, Goofs, and Goons on the Podcast + ignorant/stupid

ignorant/stupid
A person can be ignorant (not knowing some fact or idea) without being stupid (incapable of learning because of a basic mental deficiency). And those who say, “That’s an ignorant idea,” when they mean “stupid idea” are expressing their own ignorance.


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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

This Week: More Insulting Language on the Podcast + disrespect

disrespect
The hip-hop subculture revived the use of “disrespect” as a verb. In the meaning “to have or show disrespect,” this usage has been long established, if unusual. However, the new street meaning of the term, ordinarily abbreviated to “dis,” is slightly but significantly different: to act disrespectfully or—more frequently—insultingly toward someone. In some neighborhoods “dissing” is defined as merely failing to show sufficient terror in the face of intimidation. In those neighborhoods, it is wise to know how the term is used; but an applicant for a job who complains about having been “disrespected” elsewhere is likely to incur further disrespect . . . and no job. Street slang has its uses, but this is one instance that has not become generally accepted.


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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

This Week: Idiots and Imbeciles on the Podcast + asocial/antisocial

asocial/antisocial
Someone who doesn’t enjoy socializing at parties might be described as either “asocial” or “antisocial,’ but “asocial” is too mild a term to describe someone who commits an antisocial act like planting a bomb. “Asocial” suggests indifference to or separation from society, whereas “antisocial” more often suggests active hostility toward society.





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