Posted by: Jack Henry | December 23, 2016

Editor’s Corner: The 12 Days of English – DAY 12!

On the twelfth day of English

My true love gave to me

12 common errors from the book Common Errors in English Usage, by Paul Brians. He definitely has a sassy attitude at times; you may find it apparent in some of his definitions and explanations.

Happy Holidays!

1. accept/except: If you offer me Godiva chocolates I will gladly accept them—except for the candied violet ones. Just remember that the “X” in “except” excludes things—they tend to stand out, be different. In contrast, just look at those two cozy “C’s” snuggling up together. Very accepting. And be careful; when typing “except” it often comes out “expect.”

2. ambivalent/indifferent: If you feel pulled in two directions about some issue, you’re ambivalent about it; but if you have no particular feelings about it, you’re indifferent.

3. both/each: There are times when it is important to use “each” instead of “both.” Few people will be confused if you say “I gave both of the boys a baseball glove,” meaning “I gave both of the boys baseball gloves” because it is unlikely that two boys would be expected to share one glove; but you risk confusion if you say “I gave both of the boys $50.” It is possible to construe this sentence as meaning that the boys shared the same $50 gift. “I gave each of the boys $50” is clearer.

4. coma/comma: Some people write of patients languishing in a comma, and others refer to inserting a coma into a sentence. A long-term unconscious state is a coma; the punctuation mark is a comma.

5. explicitly/implicitly: To be explicit about something is to be clearer than to merely imply it, so it’s not surprising that people wanting to make clear that they really trust someone often mistakenly say that they trust the person “explicitly.” But the traditional expression is that you trust someone “implicitly” because your trust is so strong that you don’t need to say anything explicitly—it goes without saying.

6. flaunt/flout: To flaunt is to show off: you flaunt your new necklace by wearing it to work. “Flout” has a more negative connotation; it means to treat with contempt some rule or standard. The cliché is “to flout convention.” Flaunting may be in bad taste because it’s ostentatious, but it is not a violation of standards.

7. jam/jamb: The only common use for the word “jamb” is to label the vertical part of the frame of a door or window. It comes from the French word for “leg”; think of the two side pieces of the frame as legs on either side of the opening.
For all other uses, it’s “jam”: stuck in a jam, traffic jam, logjam, jam session, etc.

8. lama/llama: A Tibetan monk is a “lama” and the Andean animal is a “llama.” Although both are pronounced the same in English, those who speak Castillian Spanish pronounce the animal’s name “YAH-muh.”

9. Please RSVP/Please reply: RSVP stands for the French phrase Répondez s’il vous plaît (“reply, please”), so it doesn’t need an added “please.” However, since few people seem to know its literal meaning, and fewer still take it seriously, it’s best to use plain English: “Please reply.” It is a mistake to think that this phrase invites people to respond only if they are planning to attend; it is at least as important to notify the person doing the inviting if you cannot go. And no, you can’t bring along the kids or other uninvited guests.

10. sceptic/skeptic: Believe it or not, the British spellings are “sceptic” and “scepticism”; the American spellings are “skeptic” and “skepticism.”

11. squash/quash: You can squash a spider or a tomato; but when the meaning you intend is “to suppress,” as in rebellions or (especially) legal motions, the more sophisticated term is “quash.”

12. souse chef/sous chef: What’s a “souse chef”? Is it the fellow who adds a dash of brandy to your dessert?
No, it’s just a misspelling of sous chef, a French phrase meaning “assistant chef.” The first word is pronounced just like “sue.”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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