Get it right, damn it.

Miscellaneous ignorant language abuses that bug the hell out of me, in no particular order.

Lead/Led. If you want the present tense verb, the word is lead, pronounced to rhyme with deed: “Lead me not into Penn Station.” If you want the heavy gray metal, the word is also spelled lead, but pronounced to rhyme with head: “I’m going to hit you on the head with a lead weight.” So far, so good; most people get those right. But if you want the past tense verb, it is led, not lead. ”English spelling has led you to drink.”

Eck Cetera. Where do you morons see a K in “et cetera”? That first syllable is pronounced exactly as it’s spelled. Et. Rhymes with bet, as in “I bet you don’t even hear yourself, do you?”

Ass trick. If there’s an “ass trick” at the end of your sentence, I don’t want to see it. Well, okay, maybe I do. But the star-shaped thing is an asterisk, and again it’s pronounced exactly as it’s spelled: as-ter-isk. Not ass trick.

Everyday/Every Day. Everyday is an adjective meaning ordinary, mundane, run-of-the-mill. If you mean “daily,” the term is “every day.” You can have everyday shoes, but that doesn’t mean you wear them every day.

Refute. In the Facebook world, people think their right to an opinion means no one has a right to question it, which may be the reason I’m seeing “refute” as a synonym for “dispute.” Refuted means proven wrong. If you express disagreement with someone’s position, you are disputing it, and that’s fine; but you haven’t refuted it until you’ve convincingly proved your case.

Rein/Reign. Reign is what royalty does. Rein is what you do to horses. The terms at issue here are “free rein” and “rein in,” not “free reign” and certainly not “reign in.” I know nobody understands equestrian metaphors in the 21st century, but that’s no excuse for getting it wrong, especially when it changes the meaning. If you have “free rein,” you can do what you want. ”Free reign” would mean you are at liberty to make other people do what you want. In the former, you’re the horse; in the latter, you’re the rider. It makes a difference, especially when you’re the horse.

Loose/Lose. What the hell is wrong with you people? What other -oose word is pronounced to rhyme with ooze? Did you grow up reading a noosepaper? Do you go to the liquor store to buy boose? Do you call the big annoying bird shitting on your lawn a gooze? Did you lose your spelling book when you were in fourth grade? Sheesh. Some of the other ones are at least understandable confusion, but this one? I don’t even see how you got there.

Electrocute. No, you were not electrocuted. No. No, you weren’t. Yes, I understand you got an electric shock, but you were not electrocuted. How do I know this? Because you’re still here to tell me about it. Electrocute means to kill by electricity, a portmanteau of “electric” and “execute.” Electrocuted people are dead, no exceptions. It does not mean you got a little tingle from touching your tongue to a 9V battery, any more than you drowned when you inhaled your chocolate milk in the 7th grade lunchroom.

Waiting on. If you carry drinks and receive tips, you wait on people. If you’re just hanging around wondering how much longer it will take your date to get ready, you’re waiting for her.

Real-a-tor and Triath-a-lon. Where are you getting the extra syllable? Was there a sale at the syllable store? Real-tor has two syllables. Tri-ath-lon has three. I hear jewel-a-ry and burg-a-lar too. Why don’t you just go ahead and add that extra “a” between all your syllables? It’ll be fun. You’ll sound like Father Guido Sarducci.

Shoot. I’m suddenly starting to see this one in publications that should know better. If it’s something you’re doing with a camera or a gun, then yes, you shoot. But if you mean something to guide the path of objects, it is a chute, and why don’t you know this? What were you doing in third grade? Never mind, I don’t want to know. Probably shooting your education all to hell and flushing it down the chute.

Get this stuff right. It’s not that hard.

8 Thoughts on “Get it right, damn it.

  1. I would rather explain “every day” “everyday” in terms of adverb versus adjective, rather than the difference in concept between run-of-the-mill and daily, which seems to me to be a thin one. I rather like the word “quotidian” for the adjective.

    • dwasifar on November 2, 2013 at 8:42 am said:

      I did actually call “everyday” an adjective. But I’m not sure you can regard a two-word phrase as an adverb.

      • dwasifar on November 2, 2013 at 8:55 am said:

        For that matter, how is the difference between run-of-the-mill and daily “thin”? They’re entirely different things. You wouldn’t mix up “monthly” with “fabulous,” or “exceptional” with “periodic.”

  2. Hugo’s valid point notwithstanding, at least you got your facts straight.

    Recently I have noticed a pattern of such lists of language peeves posted online containing howlers of their own. And then those mistakes get picked up and repeated. And repeated. And repeated until the glaring errors become indisputable facts.

    The one I have been noticing over the last year is the notion that the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ is that the former is a noun and the later a verb. When I first started seeing this I would comment that no, the difference between the two is that they are different words, words generated by adding different prefixes to the same root. I would point out that both words assume various functions and give examples.

    I don’t think anyone even read my brief explanations. I can be pretty certain that no one paid any attention to my point. In fifty years ‘affect’ will probably be the correct nominal form of the verb ‘to effect.’

    • dwasifar on November 2, 2013 at 9:05 am said:

      > the notion that the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ is that the former is a noun and the later a verb.

      Who says this? That seems backward even as an oversimplification. Surely the former is most commonly used as a verb, and the latter as a noun. Wouldn’t such a rule of thumb disregard exceptions like “affect” (noun) in the sense of emotion, and “effect” (verb) in the sense of “bring about”? Or was that your point?

  3. I stopped bothering to correct this a while ago so I might have switched them in memory, but I find it absurd either way. With no more than a moment’s thought I easily provided examples of each used as noun and verb.

    And I probably haven’t seen it in a couple months. Maybe people did read my comments and the meme withered on contact with facts, but I doubt it. The internet seems similarly adept at spreading information and misinformation.

    Just this morning I saw a post that seemed to think it was making some point about government waste. It stated that with 317 million Americans and the cost of the healthcare roll-out being 360 million dollars it would make more sense to give each American a million dollars to pay for care and pocket the considerable saving. Now I’m hardly a math whiz but even I didn’t need to reach for a calculator to see the problem!

    That one will doubtless die quickly, but it staggers me that someone thought it worth starting in the first place. Maybe we really ARE that stupid.

  4. Adverbial phrase, then. For the second one you’re right, I had a morning brainfart from the influence of Norwegian, which has a variant on “daily” that does mean “run-of-the-mill”. My apologies.

    Affect and effect: I am not sure what is most commonly used as what, since almost all common usages are now wrong, as Urban describes. Suits now use “effectuate” to mean “effect” in the sense of “bring about”, presumably to save themselves the trouble of learning the original, while i confidently expect the advent of “affectify” to balance it.

  5. Coming soon, a film about labile emotions entitled “The Butterfly Affect”……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Post Navigation