Blogs about troublesome words
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Troublesome words Posted on 23 September 2016 by James Cowan in Troublesome words
"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean" Humpty Dumpty, in Lewis Carrolls Through the Looking Glass.
Sadly, while Humpty Dumpty may have been able to give words meanings that suited him at the time, the rest of us are forced to use them
to mean what the people we are trying to communicate with will understand them to mean. Consequences not predictable.
There are a lot of words in English that sound the same as other words with completely different meanings. Which,
Troublesome words 2 Posted on 12 November 2016 by James Cowan in Troublesome words
Here is another tranche of words that are frequently misused or misunderstood. "Flout" and "flaunt" are similar in sound, but not in meaning. You flout rules when you deliberately break them for whatever reason. When you drive faster than the limit, you "flout" the law; when you deliberately mismatch the subject and the verb of a sentence, you "flout" the conventions. The latter example may be acceptable depending on the context; the former example is less likely ... Read moreTroublesome words 3 Posted on 19 January 2017 by James Cowan in Troublesome words
More random words often misused, abused and generally causing confusion among readers as well as writers! "Partake" and "participate" are a wonderful pair. Partake is an interesting word in its own right and not because it is often mistaken with another similar word. "Partake" never means "to take part", even though it sounds as if it should. It used to mean to "eat", and it still does when it is used followed by "of", or by a full stop ("He partakes ... Read moreTroublesome words 4 Posted on 28 February 2017 by James Cowan in Troublesome words
Recently I found that I have been calling this series the same as Bill Bryson has called a book being touted to me by an Internet bookseller. Sorry Bill, didn't mean to step on your toes. But there is really a "principle" at stake here, the "principal" reason for my writing about it being that a lot of people don't seem to know they are different words, mean different things and are used differently. To start with, a principle has ... Read moreTroublesome Words 5 Posted on 30 April 2017 by James Cowan in Troublesome words
I am forever being amused (almost to tears) by the confusion between "amount" and "number". It's quite simple: you have amounts of things that can be divided petrol, sugar. You have numbers of things that can't such as people. You can have a litre of petrol, and half a litre of petrol. You can have a person, but really half a person is actually not much of anything. Some meat, and body parts, but it probably doesn't move or talk ... Read moreTroublesome words 6 Posted on 9 August 2017 by James Cowan in Troublesome words
A pair of non-interchangeable words that are sometimes in fact interchanged anyway, is "hung" and "hanged". "Hanged" is used almost exclusively to refer to a method of killing, usually following a judicial process. It is an instance of "passive voice", meaning that the process was or will be carried out on the person by someone else, generally unspecified. Thus "I sentence you to hang" or "to be hanged", and "Dick Turpin was hanged". "Hung" on the other hand, rarely involves ... Read moreTroublesome words 7 Posted on 08 September 2017 by James Cowan in Troublesome words
There are a lot of words which end either in "-ice" or in "-ise" for example advice and advise, device and devise which have different meanings, and occasionally (actually, I think, only the ones already mentioned!) have a different pronunciation. There are quite a lot, too, which have different spellings due to local idiosyncrasies "defence" does not exist in the USA, although "defensive" is used in both US and real English. However, as I am in an English-speaking ...Read more
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