Saturday, May 31, 2014

How Many Trouble You?

I'm a word maven. I've loved the English language all my life. And I really can be a pain the arse sometimes about it. I'm kind of a stickler. My kids and my wife have complained over the the years about my correcting their grammar, pronunciation, or use the language. I know it's an embarrassment for me when--on those admittedly rare occasions--I myself get corrected. My friend Cecil catches me every so often in pronunciation faux pas. But usage . . . well, I'm pretty good on that. (Would you believe I have no less than half a dozen books on usage right here next to me?) So I was arrested today when I came across this little article about what was billed as the "30 Incorrectly Used Words That Make You Look Bad." Okay, I agree that misuse can make you look bad, but only in some circles. The vast American public doesn't know and doesn't care.

So how many of these give you difficulties?

  • adverse - averse
  • affect - effect
  • compliment - complement
  • criteria - criterion
  • discreet - discrete
  • elicit - illicit
  • farther - further
  • imply - infer
  • insure - ensure
  • its - it's
  • number - amount
  • precede - proceed
  • principle - principal
  • they're - their
  • whose - who's
  • you're - your
Now I have to tell you: I agree with the list and am pretty much appalled by how often you see them misused both in print and speech. But that's just me. As I said, the vast majority could not care less.

Oh, the only pair on the list that gives me trouble is farther-further, and I just read in one of my usage books that this is largely a distinction without difference. Further down the road = Farther down the road. Wouldn't you agree?
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