Checking In on Worn-Out Words and Phrases: First Quarter 2019 |

It has been a while since we posted a GrammarBook.com item, so on this “Word Wednesday” let’s do this one that focuses on good grammar through good word usage.

This particular article adds to GrammarBook.com‘s ongoing lists of “worn out words and phrases.” This one covers the first quarter of this new year. And, as you will see from this list, these are indeed some that need to be put away and replaced with better words and phrases – which they also suggest here.

Read the introduction below, review the list, compare it with your own vocabulary in speech and writing, and see what changes you can to make to bring clarity and precision to your English.

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” Aristotle once said, and the same holds true for language. If we detect an empty lexical space because we feel existing words no longer occupy it well, we will look to fill it, often with something that seems or sounds fresh within our current culture and era.

For a time, we might embrace those updates to communication: They can make us feel original, cool, connected to the zeitgeist. Often, current language style will reduce formality of writing and speech through abbreviation, fusion, or invention of words. We assign labels for many as well: catch phrase, buzz word, lingo, parlance.

As we’re all aware, however, whether in fashion, music, cars, or language, trends come and go. Those with enough substance and utility might hang on; the others will simply complete their life cycles and then perhaps straggle a bit before fading into obscurity.

With you, we form a community that is focused on an optimal use of English. We therefore find it fitting to monitor words and phrases that have grown old or stale or may do so soon.

For a review of the worn-out words and phrases we’ve compiled to date, you can visit any of our four preceding articles from 2017 and 2018:

Worn-Out Words and Phrases
Worn-Out Words and Phrases (Follow-up)
Worn-Out Words and Phrases: Resolving to Keep Writing Fresh in 2018
Still on the Stakeout for Worn-Out Words & Phrases

The following table includes our latest additions to words and phrases on our radar of overuse or untenability so far in 2019. In some cases, you might still consider some of them useful or relevant when writing or speaking. If however you’re particular about articulation that will endure rather than just conform to current style, you might consider alternatives that have maintained their lasting positions in English.

 

Worn-Out
Word/Phrase
Contemporary
Meaning
Alternatives in
Careful Writing
in the wheelhouse (prep. phrase) identifying something or someone as being in a position of strength or skill skill, strength, specialization (use nouns instead of the phrase)
in the books (prep. phrase) noted, completed noted, done, completed, finished
wrap one’s head around (verb phrase) contemplate, understand consider, reflect, contemplate, ponder, mull over, understand
thought leader (noun) subject expert whose ideas and opinions influence other people, especially in business leader, influencer, subject expert, specialist
ghost (verb) disappear or abandon, especially as it applies to leaving a relationship leave, disappear, abandon, flee
epic (adj.) impressive, very good memorable, impressive, exceptional, outstanding
so ye-ah/ya-uh (interj.) “well, okay,” “alrightee then” (strike as unnecessary)
I can’t even (interj.) I am losing patience, at a loss for words, annoyed about something (strike as unnecessary)
for real (interj.) serious, legitimate, really true, good, great(!)
It’s lit (idiomatic clause) something exciting is happening and you’ll want to be there (strike as unnecessary)
woke (adj.) aware of current affairs, enlightened aware, current, heard about it, enlightened
killing it (verb phrase) excelling at something achieving, excelling, doing great
suh, sup (interj.) what’s up? how are you, what are you doing
cray (adj.) crazy crazy, strange, silly, wacky
troll (verb) follow others online, especially on social media, to criticize them or otherwise smear their image or opinion (noun) one who does so (verb) hassle, heckle, hound, pester, disrupt (noun) heckler, hound, pest, antagonist
said no one ever (idiomatic clause [sarcasm]) negation of almost any statement— e.g., I love shoveling heavy snow…said no one ever. don’t, do not
as to whether (conj.) (unnecessarily wordy expression of whether) whether
necessitate (verb) bloated word for require call for, entail, require
on account of (prep. phrase) because of because of, due to, owing to
with all due respect (prep. phrase) polite set-up for I disagree (strike as unnecessary—what follows is often not an expression of respect)
It’s not brain surgery (idiomatic clause) the item at hand is not difficult it’s simple, easy, not challenging
get your ducks in a row (idiomatic clause) complete preparations, become efficient and well organized plan, prepare, organize, get organized
play hardball (verb phrase) be serious or aggressive in response resist, push back, not cooperate

Source: Checking In on Worn-Out Words and Phrases: First Quarter 2019 |

Published in: on February 13, 2019 at 10:34 PM  Leave a Comment  

GrammarBook Year-End Quiz (2018)

Today’s GrammarBook.com email contained a great review quiz on the grammar lessons they featured in 2018. Even though we did not by any means highlight all of these lessons, we hope you were encouraged to learn a little grammar (or re-learn, as the case may be). And taking the quiz will show you that it is never too late to learn even more.

So, take the quiz, review your grammar, and if you do poorly, don’t fret; you have all of 2019 to get on board and make this year a better grammar-learning year.

Here is their introduction to the quiz, and then the first few items from the review (find the rest at the link below).

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired.

We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review is always a great way to revisit and further retain what we’ve examined.

The 2018 master quiz consists of twenty-five sentences addressing subjects from many of this year’s GrammarBook articles. Choose your answers and then check them against our answer key that follows the quiz.

Each answer also includes the title and date of the article that focused on the topic. Because some answers require particular knowledge from months past, please feel free to refer to their associated article if you wish to refresh your memory.

1. When I was in high school, I [would / used to] lift weights in the gym almost every day. Would vs. Used To 1-24

2. When I was a kid, I [would / used to] feel like every day was a new adventure. Would vs. Used To 1-24

3. Juan received the highest score on the test [since / because] he studied the most. Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: As, Because, and Since 2-21

4. [Since / Because] Rich was the most qualified, he was offered the promotion first. Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: As, Because, and Since 2-21

5. She is perhaps the most [well spoken / well-spoken] project manager to have ever led the initiative. Are We Hyphenating Well? 4-4

Source: Year-End Quiz |

Published in: on January 9, 2019 at 10:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

Remembering the birthday of C. S. Lewis – November 29, 1898

cs-lewis-1Today marks the 120th anniversary of the birthday of C. S. Lewis, 1898-1963.

In remembrance of that great writer and Christian apologist, we quote from the first letter of his The Screwtape Letters, in which the senior demon, Screwtape, wrote letters to his trainee, Wormwood.

screwtape-latters-lewis

This is the opening paragraph:

My dear Wormwood,

I note what you say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naif? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons, we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false,” but as “academic” or “practical,” “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong or stark or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.

In the “Preface” to The Screwtape Letters, Lewis addresses a question often put to him after he wrote the book, the answer to which reveals some interesting truths about God and about the Devil, some we often lose sight of ourselves, in my estimation. I quote:

The commonest question is whether I really ‘believe in the Devil.’

Now, if by ‘the Devil’ you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No. There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite.

…The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God and, as a corollary, to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels, but their nature is depraved. Devil is the opposite of angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man. Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael. [p.vii]

Nick Roark also has a nice little tribute to Lewis today at “Tolle Lege”. Look that up as well.

And you do remember what those initials “C.S.” refer to, right?

Published in: on November 29, 2018 at 11:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday Language Feature: Orwell and Newspeak

This morning I received the weekly GrammarBook.com email, and it was a dandy. The title is “Orwell and Newspeak,” and takes off on George Orwell’s famous novel 1984. The author (Tom Stern) uses Orwell’s concept of “Newspeak” to address the decline of English and the corruption of the meaning of words in our own day, a reality Orwell’s novel prophesied.

Below is the beginning of the GrammarBook article; find the rest at the link at the end. And be reminded that language has power and words have meaning. Use them carefully!

It’s not just professors and snobs who deplore the decline of English. The great essayist and novelist George Orwell (1903-50) had much to say about the corruption of language—and how it enables tyranny. The warning was clear: a distracted populace with diminished reading, writing, and speaking skills is vulnerable.

Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949, is a demoralizing post-World War II vision of global totalitarianism. It is set in London—the British Isles are now part of a superstate called Oceania, which also includes the Americas. Oceania is always at war with either of the world’s other two superstates, Eurasia and Eastasia.

In Oceania, “the Party,” a cadre of megalomaniacal despots, wields absolute power. This regime has destroyed society as we know it, setting children against parents and wives against husbands, enforcing unwavering loyalty to “Big Brother,” the potentate whose Stalin-like countenance stares out balefully from posters no one can avoid.

One of the Party’s acknowledged goals is the end of independent thought, which it hopes to bring about by instituting one of its pet projects: a language called “Newspeak.” Orwell worked Newspeak out in exhaustive detail and added an appendix at the end of 1984 titled “The Principles of Newspeak.” The brief essay describes how the Party dumbed down standard English, or “Oldspeak,” and mangled and perverted it into a streamlined, regimented version of English in which complexity and nuance were impossible.

Newspeak was designed to make a heretical thought “literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.” The Party abolished all but the most mundane, unequivocal, easy-to-say words. Its aim was to render speech “as nearly as possible independent of consciousness” so that communication might become “a gabbling style of speech, at once staccato and monotonous,” allowing speakers to “spray forth the correct opinions as automatically as a machine gun spraying forth bullets.” And “the texture of the words, with their harsh sound and a certain willful ugliness … assisted the process still further.”

Source: Orwell and Newspeak – Grammar and Punctuation

Word Nerd Wednesday: Irregardless and more

GrammarBook.com had another recent online article on word usage – or rather, we should say, word mis-usage. Once more, they point to common words and phrases that are frequently misused.

The author, Tom Stern, begins with the usual “word nerd” disclaimer, stating that such language sticklers are indeed ‘nerdy’ perhaps, but do not judge themselves to be superior. They are simply “verbal custodians trapped in a time warp.” Or, as he puts it, quoting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “[T]he little things are infinitely the most important.”

So, with those nerd words out of the way, we can get down to the real business of words – for nerds and for the rest of you too! Remember, it pays to be proper and precise in speaking and writing! 🙂

Anyway, onward to this week’s entries of infamy…

Irregardless  I’ve heard a lot of bright people say this nonsense word, which results from confusing and combining regardless and irrespective. If people would just think about it, what’s that dopey ir- doing tacked on? In technical terms, ir- is an “initial negative particle.” So if “irregardless” means anything, it means “not regardless” when its hapless speaker is trying to say the exact opposite.

Center around  The whole play centers around the consequences of ill-gotten gains. This common, misbegotten expression results from the unhappy union of two similar terms: center on and revolve around. Because the phrases are roughly synonymous, if you use them both enough, they merge in the mind. What’s annoying about “center around” is that it’s imprecise, and disheartens readers who take writing seriously. The center is the point in the middle. How, exactly, would something center around? You get dizzy trying to picture it.

Hone in  This is another mongrel, like the two that preceded it. It’s the brain-dead combo of hone and home in. We simply can’t allow confusion to be the basis of acceptable changes in the language. In recent years, “hone in” has achieved an undeserved legitimacy for the worst of reasons: the similarity, in sound and appearance, of n and mHoning is a technique used for sharpening cutting tools and the like. To home in, like zero in, is to get something firmly in your sights: get to the crux of a problem.

Reticent  This trendy word properly means “uncommunicative,” “reserved,” “silent.” But sophisticates who like to fancy up their mundane blather are now using it when they mean “reluctant.” I was reticent to spend so much on a football game.

Allude  Allude to means mention indirectly. In one of its most unspeakable moves, Webster’s lists refer as a synonym. Horrors! When you refer to something, it’s a direct transaction: I refer to Section II, paragraph one, Your Honor. When you allude to something or someone, you don’t come out and say it; you’re being subtle, sly or sneaky: “Someone I know better wise up.”

Off (of)  “Hey! You! Get off of my cloud,” sang the Rolling Stones, unnecessarily. The of is extraneous, and off of is what’s known as a pleonasm. That means: starting now, avoid it.

Couple (of)  Hey, gimme a couple bucks, wouldja? When I was a kid, this is how neighborhood tough guys talked, while cracking their chewing gum. Don’t drop the of; one more little syllable won’t kill you.

—Tom Stern.

 

Published in: on October 17, 2018 at 11:10 AM  Leave a Comment  

Reading for Virtue’s Sake: A Conversation with Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs | Public Discourse

The authors of two new books on reading agree: reading good literature well is not only enjoyable, it is also a veritable school of virtue. The pleasure to be gained by reading well is a skill that, like virtue itself, is achieved through practice.

Such is the brief description of this instructive interview with authors Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs. Both present an interesting perspective on the power and purpose of good reading, by which we also mean reading good literature, books that teach universal virtues and, of course, book that teach distinctively Christian virtues.

We post a portion of the interview here; there is plenty more to read and digest in the rest of it. Follow the link below for that.

David Kern: Both of your books are about the ways literature can cultivate virtue in readers, so I have been thinking about the extent to which a teacher should explicitly state that the books she is teaching have been chosen for that end. Should a teacher directly tell her students that she is teaching, say, Persuasion, because of its capacity to make readers virtuous? Or should she let the book do its work secretly, if you will?

Joshua Gibbs: I think it depends on the audience. When I read my little girls The Velveteen Rabbit or Frog and Toad Are Friends, I don’t tell them that I want these books to help them develop virtue. Similarly, on the rare occasion that I teach a room full of adults, I don’t often lay all my cards on the table and say, “All right, people, let’s learn to be good.”

High school students are a little different, though, because they are more apt to believe that the value of a book depends on its being entertaining, enjoyable, thrilling, funny. If a lit teacher passes out copies of Augustine’s Confessions to high school sophomores and pretends the book is going to be a page-turner, he is deceiving his students. If you give a high school student a book that is difficult and dull (when compared with, say, The Maze Runner), you need to explain why these qualities should not turn them off from reading it. “When the book is difficult to read, the book is doing its work on you.” Acknowledge that the difficulty comes from the moral gauntlet the book throws down. A book suited to virtue often requires multiple readings, although exciting books generally do not. That is what makes them exciting. But explaining that a book is hard to read (yet worth reading) will usually lead to a discussion of virtue.

What you do not want is for high school students to believe that adults find Augustine’s Confessions as enjoyable to read as they find The Maze Runner, and that once you’re forty, Augustine is downright titillating.

Karen Swallow Prior: When I teach general education courses in English, the students are usually first- or second-year students who are not majoring in English. I like to begin these classes with something that I refer to as the biblical basis for the study of literature. I’ve found that students, especially Christian students, are so utilitarian and pragmatic in their worldviews that describing the sheer goodness of literary study helps them overcome barriers to reading literature and reading it well that they don’t even realize they have. I cover over a dozen points in this lecture, and only one of them addresses virtue directly. In other words, there are many, many reasons to read good literature (particularly for the Christian), including the joy of it. Yet all of these reasons contribute to cultivating virtue in the reader who reads well.

How do you respond to these initial thoughts about reading and virtue? Would you consider this a goal of your own reading? What type of books are going to help you accomplish this goal?

Source: Reading for Virtue’s Sake: A Conversation with Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs | Public Discourse

Punctuating Compounds That Precede – To Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate

In another recent posting at GrammarBook.com, the matter of punctuating compound modifiers was addressed. This is a commonly misunderstood matter – also by myself, so it is good to review this grammar lesson too.

Here is the first part of the article, treating especially hyphenation. The second part speaks to another, more complicated usage, which you may read further about later.

It’s enough to drive even the most exacting writers, proofers, and editors a little batty sometimes: More than one descriptive word precedes a noun, forming what we call a compound modifier. Do we need to hyphenate the words, or are they well enough left alone? What if we have two words modifying another word and all three describe the same noun, creating a package that begs for punctuation?

Sometimes the solution is simple, as we’ve covered in our hyphen rules. Rule 1 advises hyphenating two or more words acting as a single idea when they come before a noun (late-arriving train, ne’er-do-well teenager, one-of-a-kind invention).

Exceptions to this rule are compound modifiers that include adverbs such as much and very as well as any -ly adverb (much maligned administrator, very good cake, easily remembered song).

We also wouldn’t hyphenate a compound that’s an obvious unit such as most proper nouns (Social Security check) and foreign expressions (quid pro quo exchange).

When a two-word descriptor takes the form of a compound noun (e.g., real estate, high school, sales tax), hyphenation becomes a matter of preference. Some writers and editors identify the compound nouns as clearly understood units while others still hyphenate them to maintain stylistic consistency and remove any chance of confusion.

Examples:
real estate advisor vs. real-estate advisor
high school dance vs. high-school dance
sales tax increase vs. sales-tax increase

In Rule 5 of Hyphens, we also emphasize including a hyphen with a compound modifier anytime omitting one could lead to ambiguity.

Potentially misaimed: Springfield has little town charm. (If we omit the hyphen, we’re suggesting Springfield lacks appeal. Is that what we want to say?)
Clearer with hyphen: Springfield has little-town charm. (The punctuation establishes that Springfield has the charm of a small, cozy town.)

Potentially misaimed: That is a fast running machine. (Is it a machine that runs fast, or a running machine [i.e., a treadmill] that operates faster than others?)
Clearer with hyphen: That is a fast-running machine. (a machine that runs fast)
The guidelines thus far help define and apply hyphenation of preceding descriptors. The next question concerns what to do when we run into phrases such as stippling technique influenced painter and apple orchard scented candle.

I hope this has been helpful to you. I know it has been to me. I deal with this all the time in my editing work for the Standard Bearer, and there isn’t an issue in which I don’t face these very questions. I have to work to keep them straight. I hope you take the time to understand the importance of this for writing – and for reading with understanding.

For more on this, visit the link below.

Source: Punctuating Compounds That Precede – Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on September 19, 2018 at 11:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

Word Wednesday: Misspoken and Mispronounced Words and Phrases

PowerWords

This “part 1” of a recent GrammarBook.com post (June 2018) is a worthwhile reminder to speak accurately when using common words and expressions. How quickly the most ordinary expressions can become twisted – and we speakers look like uneducated bumpkins!

Pay attention to this “Word Wednesday” feature and grammar lesson, taking nothing for granite. But if it takes you a bit to get all this, don’t chomp at the bit; we won’t send in the Calvary just yet. Did I just misspeak and mispronounce some things? Read on and find out! 🙂

Writing serves us well in communication by providing us with a framework for arranging words into clear and thoughtful statements, including opportunities for eloquence.

Applying ourselves to concise writing can also reinforce articulate speech. We are often moved or impressed by those who express themselves with precision and power. Think of the historic public addresses by Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Conversely, misspeaking and mispronouncing words and phrases can quickly sabotage and discredit our intellectual or persuasive standing with another person. Plus, beyond sounding wrong, these verbal glitches can contaminate our writing. If our mind’s ear hears or spells a word a certain way, we might wind up writing it as such as well.

For this reason, we’ve compiled some words and phrases to watch out for. Maybe some of us have tripped over a few, and perhaps a few have caused us all to fall. Some of the entries might surprise even the most well spoken among us.

 

Word or Phrase (Glitch: S=misspoken, P=mispronounced) Correct Treatment
affidavit (to mean written statement sworn before an official) (P) (af-i-DEY-vit), not (af-i-DEY-vid)
all the sudden (S) all of a sudden
Antarctic (P), Arctic (P) (ant-AHRK-tik, AHRK-tik), not (ant-AHR-tik, AHR-tik)
Calvary (to mean military service that fights on horseback) (S) cavalry (KAV-uhl-ree)
chomp at the bit (S) champ at the bit
et cetera (to mean “and the rest”) (P) (et SET-er-uh), not (ex-ET-er-uh, ek-SET-er-uh)
escape (P) (ih-SKEYP), not (ex-KEYP)
espresso (P) (e-SPRES-oh), not (ex-PRES-oh)
for all intensive purposes (S) for all intents and purposes
forte (to mean strength or talent) (P) (fort), not (for-TAY)
genome (to mean full set of chromosomes) (P) (JEE-nohm), not (geh-NOHM)
jaguar (P) (JAG-wahr, -yoo-ahr), not (JAG-wire)
larynx (P) (LAR-ingks), not (LAR-niks)
mayonnaise (P) (mey-uh-NEYZ; MEY-uh-neyz), not (MAN-eyz)
meme (to mean cultural item transmitted by repetition) (P) (meem), not (mehm)
niche (to mean suitable position; distinct market segment) (P) (nich), not (neesh)
nuclear (P) (NOO-klee-er), not (NOO-kyuh-ler, NOO-kyoo-ler)
prescription (P) (pri-SKRIP-shuhn), not (per-SKRIP-shuhn)
probably (P) (PROB-uh-blee), not (PROB-lee)
realtor (P) (REE-uhl-ter), not (REEL-uh-ter)
take for granite (S) take for granted
veteran (P) (VET-er-uhn), not (VEH-truhn)
veterinary (P) (VET-er-uh-ner-ee), not (VEH-truh-ner-ee)
voilà (to mean “here it is”) (P) (vwah-LAH), not (wah-LAH)

You can find more often mispronounced words in our entry “You Lost Me After ‘Feb’ .”

When we open our mouths, our minds are on parade. By devoting attention to proper phrasing and pronunciation, we can make sure what marches out sounds and lines up as it should.

Published in: on August 22, 2018 at 11:09 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Word Nerd: Six Pitfalls Writers (and Others) Should Avoid

This great post at GrammarBook.com appeared back in May (cf. link below) but I saved it for an open blog post, and with a view to a “Word Wednesday” feature tomorrow I post it here tonight.

Yes, I also count myself a bit of “word nerd,” but I say so without shame. Words are not just interesting, even fun (especially origins); they are the way we communicate to one another. And, I trust, none of wants to be sloppy or lazy about how we communicate to each other. Words matter. They matter to God, because words are the means He chose to speak to us. So they should matter to us.

Precision in speech and writing is important, as these examples show. Nerdy? No, just correct. And correct is cool. 🙂 Let’s continue to learn together so that we communicate properly and precisely.

I post the GrammarBook online article in full here:

That’s right, I admit it. I’m a word nerd. I pick, pick, pick at the way you express yourself.

Despite protests of apathy, people of all ages care about how well they express themselves. Deep down, everyone likes to be right about language, and you can even hear little kids teasing each other about talking funny. We word nerds have an advantage here, but we certainly don’t choose to be word nerds. It’s thrust upon us. Believe me, a lot of us would rather be star quarterbacks. No one ever got a date by discoursing on split infinitives.

I thought you might be interested in some of the current trends and tendencies in modern ignorance. It might be fun to watch with me the inexorable erosion of our language—and civilization—and we can gnash our teeth and wring our hands and feel secretly smug and superior. That’s what word nerds do for a good time. So let’s roll:

Fortuitous It most emphatically does not mean “lucky” or “fortunate”; it simply means “by chance,” a much less optimistic denotation, since you can win the lottery fortuitously or get flattened by a truck fortuitously.

Notoriety Another badly botched word these days, “notoriety” has somehow become a good thing: “Burgess gained notoriety with his wildly popular children’s books.” But can’t you hear the “notorious” in “notoriety”? There are all kinds of fame; “notoriety” is one of the bad kinds, just down the pike from “infamy.”

Impact “How does the proposition impact property taxes?” or “Greenhouse gas emissions negatively impact the environment.” This is pretentious twaddle. “To impact” means to pack tightly together, as in “an impacted tooth.” In sentences like the two examples above, simply use “affect” instead, and you’ll sleep the serene slumber of the saintly.

Literally “Literally” is supposed to mean “100 percent fact”—period. But not today, when “literally” now is commonly used figuratively! How sad that a no-nonsense word with such a strict meaning has been so hideously compromised. Any sentence with “literally” means what it literally says, and when we hear it, we are being asked to believe our ears, rather than interpret or infer. So if you tell me you “literally hit the ceiling,” I’d suggest you move to a place with higher ceilings.

I recently read about a couple whose dreams “literally collapsed” when, unfortunately, a fixer-upper they bought came down in a heap as they started working on it. Now, we know what the writer meant, but just don’t mess around with “literally,” OK? The house literally collapsed, not the dream. How could a dream, the very essence of all that is beyond materiality, literally collapse? It’s utter gibberish.

The simple solution? Just say “virtually.” “Virtually” allows you to enhance and embellish to your heart’s content, options you relinquish by using “literally.”

Comprise is the most misused and misunderstood two-syllable word in common English usage. It seems straightforward enough: it means to contain, consist of, take in, embrace. But when used on its own, it’s usually mangled. “Joey, Johnny, and Fritz comprise a group of daredevils.” Sorry, but the group comprises (contains, consists of) Joey, Johnny, and Fritz. Which brings us to…

Comprised of This ubiquitous phrase is wrong every time. It’s the result of confusing and incorrectly combining “comprise” and “composed of.” It’s both ignorant and pompous, a lethal combo. “Composed of” is so mundane and “comprised of” just sounds ever so much cleverer, doesn’t it? Too bad there’s no justification for it. Quick fix: simply replace it with “comprise.” Wrong: “The team is comprised of Chicagoans.” Right: “The team comprises Chicagoans.” Far better: The team is composed of Chicagoans.

This Tom Stern classic was originally published on January 28, 2013.

Source: The Word Nerd: Six Pitfalls Writers (and Others) Should Avoid – Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on July 24, 2018 at 10:28 PM  Leave a Comment  

When to Say “Blest” and When to Say “Bless-ed” (Plus, a Little Quiz)

blessedFor our Wednesday post this week we are privileged to have a lesson on grammar while also incorporating a “word Wednesday” feature. That’s because today’s  GrammarBook.com lesson (sent by email to my box this morning) is on “Pronouncing the Word ‘Blessed’.”

“Blessed” is a familiar enough word to us – we hear people say all the time, ‘Have a blessed day” and we know the Bible uses this word frequently, as in Jesus’ Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” – but when do you pronouce it ‘blest” and when do you pronounce it “bless-ed”?

Let this grammar lesson help set us straight or keep us straight:

We received a number of inquiries from readers asking about the proper pronunciation of the word blessed when used in a way that we were not aware of when our original e-newsletter on this subject was issued on August 11, 2012. In order to provide what we hope is now complete coverage of the topic, today we are adding a fourth rule to our article:

Rule 1. When blessed is used as a verb, it is pronounced with one syllable (blest).
Example: Before we ate, our uncle Tony blessed [blest] the meal.

Rule 2. When the word blessed is used as part of an adverb (blessedly) or a noun (blessedness), it is pronounced with two syllables (bles-id).
Examples:
She hugged him blessedly [bles-id-lee, adverb] upon learning he had quit his bad habit.
The Eucharist is revered for its blessedness [bles-id-nes, noun] within the Christian faith.

Rule 3. When blessed is used as an adjective, it is typically pronounced with two syllables (bles-id). However, in certain cases, it may be pronounced with only one syllable (blest) as an isolated instance of inflection developed through familiarity with American English.
Examples:
Annie’s baptism was a blessed [bles-id] moment, particularly for her devoted grandparents.
Blessed [bles-id] are the poor. But The poor are blessed [blest, adjective].

Rule 4. When the blessed is used as a noun meaning “blessed one,” “people who are blessed,” or “those whose souls are in heaven” (Collins Dictionary), either pronunciation blest or bles-id may be used.
Example: They are the blessed [blest or bles-id] who live their lives selflessly.

And if you are up for the quiz, here you are (Don’t be overly critical of the way “blessed” is used in these examples; they’re just examples):

Pop Quiz

1. The priest blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) the candles at the ceremony.

2. The couple was blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) with a healthy baby girl.

3. I don’t have a blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) dime to my name.

4. The blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) walk with the angels.

Published in: on June 6, 2018 at 10:20 PM  Leave a Comment