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Title: A Desk-Book of Errors in English - Including Notes on Colloquialisms and Slang to be Avoided - in Conversation
Author: Vizetelly, Frank H.
Language: English
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Bold text is indicated by ~swung dashes~, and italic text by


  A Desk-Book of

  Errors in English

  Including Notes on Colloquialisms and Slang
  to be Avoided in Conversation


  _Managing Editor of “Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary
  of the English Language”; Author of “Essentials of
  English Speech and Literature,” Etc._





  Copyright, 1906 and 1920, by

  [_Printed in the United States of America_]

  Copyright Under the Articles of the Copyright Convention
  of the Pan-American Republics and the United States,
  August 11, 1910

  Published January 1, 1920

  All Rights Reserved


The fact that this little book has passed through many editions,
and now enters on a new one in revised form, is ample answer to its
writer’s prayer when, with the aid of his Publishers, he launched it on
an uncertain voyage over the seas of time--

  “Go, little book, God send thee good passage,
  And specially let this be thy prayer:
  Unto them all that thee will read or hear,
  Where thou art wrong, after their help to call,
  Thee to correct in any part or all.”


It is with sincere gratitude to the Publishers that the author
acknowledges the results achieved to have been due wholly to their
kindly interest and indefatigable efforts. He ventures to hope
that this new edition, and such subsequent editions as time may
require, will be found to measure fully up to the expectations of the
discriminating Public on which it depends for support.

  F. H. V.

  NEW YORK, _January, 1920_.


In these days when the vernacular of the street invades the home; when
illiterate communications corrupt good grammar; and when the efforts of
the teachers in the public schools are rendered ineffective by parents
careless of their diction, constant attempts are being made to point
out the way to that “Well of English undefiled” so dear to the heart
of the purist. But, notwithstanding these efforts to correct careless
diction, the abuse and misuse of words continue. The one besetting
sin of the English-speaking people is a tendency to use colloquial
inelegancies, slang, and vulgarisms, and against these, as against the
illiteracies of the street, it is our duty to guard, nowadays more so
than at any other time, since what is learnt in the schoolroom is soon
forgotten or displaced by association with illiterate playfellows, or
by occasionally hearing words misused at home.

Of the purely syntactical side of the English language, no less a
master of its intricacies and niceties than Thomas Jefferson has
said “I am not a friend to a scrupulous purism of style; I readily
sacrifice the niceties of syntax to euphony and strength. It is by
boldly neglecting the rigorisms of grammar that Tacitus has made
himself the strongest writer in the world. The hyperesthetics call him
barbarous; but I should be sorry to exchange his barbarisms for their
wiredrawn purisms. Some of his sentences are as strong as language can
make them. Had he scrupulously filled up the whole of their syntax,
they would have been merely common. To explain my meaning by an English
example, I will quote the motto of one, I believe, of the regicides,
of Charles I., ‘Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.’ Correct its
syntax ‘Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.’ It has lost all
the strength and beauty of the antithesis.” And Jefferson continued:
“Where strictness of grammar does not weaken expression, it should be
attended to. But where, by small grammatical negligences, the energy
of an idea is condensed, or a word stands for a sentence, I hold
grammatical rigor in contempt.”

The English language is the most flexible language in the world.
Indeed, it is so flexible that some of its idioms are positively
startling. Could any phrase be more so than “I don’t think it will
rain”?--Simple enough as an idiom but positively absurd when analyzed.
We say “_I don’t think_ it will rain” when we mean “I do think it will
not rain.” Again, we say “All over the world” when we should say “Over
all the world,” and “the reason why” instead of “the reason that.”
Usage has made our language what it is; grammatical rules strive to
limit it to what it ought to be. In many instances usage has supplanted
grammatical rules. Hundreds of words have been used by masters of
English in ways that violate these rules. These uses are to be found
to-day recorded by the dictionaries because lexicographers recognize
it is their duty to present the language as they find it used by the
people. It is to the people, not to the purists, that one must look
for the enriching of our mother tongue. To them it is as impossible to
confine the English language within the bonds of grammatical rules as
it is to stem the tide of the sea. For them all matters that relate
to English speech can be decided only by the law of good usage. This,
and this alone is their Court of Last Resort. Withal, the observance
of certain conventional rules does no harm if it helps him who speaks
carelessly to produce a refined style of diction and writing, or if it
teaches him who does not know, what to say and how to say it.

The secret of strength in speech and writing lies in the art of using
the right word in the right place; therefore, careful speakers and
writers should aim to command not only a large vocabulary but a wide
and correct knowledge of the meanings of words. These can be most
readily acquired by noting the meaning of every new word across which
one may come in reading, and by constantly consulting a dictionary,
preferably one which compares or contrasts words in such a manner
as to bring out clearly the finer and nicer distinctions in their
meanings--such distinctions as are necessary to the student to put him
into possession of the essential differences of the words compared.
Learn the meaning of words and your tongue will never slip. As Southey
has said, “the greatest wisdom of speech is to know when, and what, and
where to speak; the time, matter, and manner.”

The best asset in life is knowledge. Knowledge well-grounded may
be secured by the systematic study of words. The desirability of
exercising great care not only in the selection of words, but in
marshaling them in their correct order must be apparent to any
one familiar with some of the errors committed by writers who,
notwithstanding the blunders they have made, have acquired reputation
as authors of good English. Dr. Samuel Johnson, in his “Lives of the
Poets,” is responsible for the following statement: “Shakespeare has
not only shown human nature as it is, _but as it would be found in
situations to which it cannot be exposed_”--a statement the absurdity
of which can not fail to impress the reader.

In the King James Version of the Bible, quoted by some authorities as
a standard of pure English, one may find the following, which occurs
in Isaiah xxxvii. 36: “Then the angel of the Lord went forth and
smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five
thousand; _and when they arose_ early in the morning, behold _they were
all dead corpses_.” It can hardly be supposed that the translators
meant to imply that the corpses arose early in the morning and found
themselves dead. In the second act of “Julius Cæsar,” Shakespeare puts
into the mouth of _Ligarius_ the following: “I will strive with things
impossible; yea, get the better of them.” For power of perseverance
_Ligarius_ is to be commended. Hallam, author of the “Literature of
Europe,” declared that “No one as yet had exhibited the structure of
the human kidneys, Vesilius having only examined them in dogs”--a
declaration which implies that the dog must have bolted them whole. The
London _Times_ has occasionally perpetrated absurdities which equal,
if they do not surpass, these. In an obituary announcing the death of
Baron Dowse it said, “A great Irishman has passed away. God grant that
many as great, and who shall as wisely love their country, may follow
him.” Here the intended wish is not that many great Irishmen may die
but that there may be many to follow him who shall love their country
as well as he did. An equally absurd example taken from an issue of
the _Freeman’s Journal_ of the year 1890, announces “The health of
Mr. Parnell has lately taken a very serious turn, and _fears of his
recovery_ are entertained by his friends,” which, one may add, was
rather unfriendly on their part. Isaac Disraeli in his “Curiosities
of Literature” himself was guilty of an absurdity when he wrote, “It
is curious to observe the various substitutes for paper _before its

Errors of a different sort found their way even into our earlier
dictionaries. Cockeram defined a lynx as “a spotted beast which hath
the most perfect sight in so much as it is said that it can see through
a wall.” The salamander he described as “a small venomous beast with
foure feet and a short taile; it lives in the fire, and at length by
its extreme cold puts out the fire.” Both of these definitions show
the rudimentary stage of the knowledge of our forefathers in matters

Of slang no less eminent a writer of English than Richard Grant White
has said, “Slang is a vocabulary of genuine words or unmeaning jargon,
used always with an arbitrary and conventional signification,” and
because “it is mostly coarse, low, and foolish,” certain slang terms
and phrases have been included in the following pages, together with
a few undesirable colloquialisms. These are included because the
indiscriminate use of slang leads to slovenliness in speech. Not
all slang is slovenly, incorrect, or vicious; much of it is virile,
expressive, and picturesque. It is against the spread of that part
of slang which is slovenly, incorrect, foolish, or vicious, that one
should guard.

The purpose of these pages is not to dictate a precise course to be
followed, nor to lay down rules that will prevent any speaker or writer
from exercising his privilege as an individual of speaking or writing
freely and independently the thoughts that are uppermost in his mind.
It is, rather, to point out common errors which he may unconsciously
commit, and to help him to avoid them and the vulgarisms of the street
which have crept into the language, as well as those absurd blunders
that have been recorded as the unconscious acts of persons qualified
in other respects to rank as masters of English. To this end, and to
this end only, the following vocabulary of errors in English has been

Thanks are due to the Funk & Wagnalls Company for permission to cite
freely from the “Standard Dictionary of the English Language” in the
following pages.

      Mend your speech a little,
  Lest it may mar your fortunes.

  --SHAKESPEARE, _King Lear_, Act i, Sc. 1.




~a~, ~an~: Before an aspirated “h,” as in “Hibernianism,” the article
“a” should be used. “A” is used when the next word begins with a
consonant sound; “an” when it begins with a vowel or silent “h.” Though
never so feebly aspirated, “h” has something of a consonant sound, and
the article in this case ought to conform to the general principle, as
in “_a_ historic introduction has generally _a_ happy effect to arouse
attention.” To be correct one should say: _an_ island, _a_ Highlander;
_an_ oysterman, _a_ hoister; _a_ hotel, _an_ onion; _a_ herb, _an_
heir; _a_ house, _an_ owl. Some persons do not aspirate the “h” in
“herb”; when the “h” is not aspirated, the word takes the article “an,”
not “a.”

~abandon~, ~forsake~, ~desert~: To _abandon_ is to give up entirely, as
home and friends, and implies previous association with responsibility
for or control; to _forsake_ is to leave or withdraw from a person
or place, and suggests previous association with inclination or
attachment. _Abandon_ and _forsake_ may be used in a favorable or
unfavorable sense. _Desert_ is to leave permanently and especially
without regard for the person or thing deserted; it is used only in an
unfavorable sense and usually implies a breach of duty.

Some writers assert that _desert_ is used only “of causes or persons
but not of things.” This is erroneous. There is ample evidence of its
correct application to things; as the soldier _deserts_ his colors; the
sailor _deserts_ his ship.

~abbreviate~, ~abridge~: Discriminate carefully between these words. To
_abbreviate_ is to shorten a word so that a part stands for the whole;
to _abridge_ is to condense or epitomize, as a report, in such manner
that the spirit of the original is retained though it is expressed in
fewer words.

~ability~, ~capacity~: These words are not exactly synonymous in
meaning when used in the singular. _Ability_ is bodily or mental power;
_capacity_ is receptive or containing power. _Ability_ when used in the
plural embraces both meanings.

~about~. Compare ALMOST.

~above~: Inelegantly used as a noun by ellipsis of some noun as “He
wrote the _above_,” for “the _above phrase_.” A more objectionable use
is as an adjective; as, “I submit the _above_ facts” for “I submit the
_above_-mentioned facts.” The use of the word “foregoing” or the more
legal expression “before-mentioned” would better meet the case. Lamb,
always inclined to be humorous, ridicules the expression by referring
to “the _above_ boys and the below boys.”

~above~ should not be used for “more than.”

~acceptance~, ~acceptation~: Terms sometimes used interchangeably but
incorrectly so. “Acceptance” is the state of being accepted; as the
_acceptance_ of a position or office; _acceptation_ is the favorable
admission of or acquiescence in a matter, or assent to a belief.

~accept of~: A visitor does not _accept of_ the hospitality of his
host, but _accepts_ his hospitality. In this phrase “of” is redundant.

~accident~, ~injury~: These words are used sometimes incorrectly. An
“accident” is that which happens without known or assignable cause
or without deliberate intention; an “injury” is a hurt that causes
physical or mental pain resulting, as from an accident. An accident
may be injurious, and injuries painful; but accidents should never be
spoken of as painful.

~accord~ should not be used for _give_. To _accord_ is “to render or
concede as due and proper, as honor or veneration;” to _give_ is “to
bestow as appropriate; as to _give_ thanks, praise, or welcome.”

~accord~, ~award~: The first of these words implies a spontaneous
bestowal prompted by the dictates of the heart (Latin _cor_, _cord_-,
heart); the concession or grant due to inherent merit that cannot
be denied. _Award_ is colder and more unimpassioned and formal, and
implies a grant only after careful observation and judgment. You
_accord_ honor where honor is individually due, but _award_ a medal to
a victor out of many (actual or possible) contestants.

~accord~, ~grant~: Privileges may be either _accorded_ or _granted_.
To _accord_ is to concede as due and proper; grant; bestow; allow; to
_grant_ is to bestow or confer; give, as a concession; allow. Some
writers erroneously restrict the meaning of _accord_ to “agree with;

~acknowledgment~: Do not spell this word _acknowledgement_; preferably
it is _acknowledgment_--omit “e” after the “g.”

~acme~. Compare CLIMAX.

~acoustic~ (_a._), ~acoustics~ (_n._): When the adjective is used the
verb must agree in number with the noun which the adjective qualifies;
as, “the _acoustic_ properties of this theater _are_ good.” But the
noun though plural in form is singular in construction and always takes
a verb in the singular as, “acoustics _is_ a branch of physics.”

~acquaintance~. Compare FRIEND.

~acquiesce~: Never use the preposition “with” after this word. You
acquiesce _in_ an arrangement.

~act~, ~action~: Do not use one word for the other. A man does a good
_act_ rather than a good _action_. An _act_ is accomplished by an
exercise of power, whereas an _action_ is the fact of exerting such
power and refers to the _modus operandi_. A party to a conveyance
signifies his exercise of power by the formula “This is my _act_ and
deed,” but the course pursued, the procedure--the fact of sale and
purchase--may be referred to as a _wise action_.

~adherence~, ~adhesion~, ~attachment~: These terms are no longer
synonymous, although originally so. _Adherence_ is used of things
mental or spiritual, as principles, while _adhesion_ is applied
to material things. The figurative meaning of _adhere_ appears in
_adherence_, which is somewhat synonymous with _attachment_ and applies
to mental conditions or principles. _Adhesion_ is generally reserved
for physical attachment; as, “an _adhesion_ effected by glue,” although
Dowden in his “Studies in Literature” (p. 230,) has written “Browning’s
courageous _adhesion_ to truth never deserts him.” Far better is
Johnson’s “Shakespeare’s _adherence_ to general nature has exposed
him to the censure of critics, who form their judgments upon narrower

~adjective~ and ~adverb~: In selecting the correct word to use, bear in
mind that where a phrase denoting manner can be substituted an adverb
is required; where some tense of the verb _to be_ can be used the
adjective is necessary; as, “The surgeon felt the limb _carefully_ and
found that one of the bones was _broken_.”

~admission~. Compare ADMITTANCE.

~admit~, ~admit of~: Very different in meaning. “This gate _admits_
(affords entrance) to the grounds, but the size of the vehicle will not
_admit of_ (allow or permit) its passing through.” Where Emerson says
“Every action _admits of_ being outdone,” the simple _admit_ could not
be substituted.

~admittance~, ~admission~: These words are not merely synonymous.
_Admittance_ refers to place, _admission_ refers also to position,
privilege, favor, friendship, etc. An intruder may gain _admittance_
to the hall of a society who would not be allowed _admission_ to its

~adore~: Often misused as an emphatic for “like.” One may _adore_ that
which one reveres or venerates or has profound regard or affection
for, but not that which is pleasant to the palate. A child may _like_
cherries and _adore_ its mother, but it does not _adore_ cherries
though it _likes_ its mother.

~advantage~, ~benefit~: Exercise care in using these words. _Advantage_
is that which gives one a vantage-ground, either for coping with
competitors or with difficulties, needs, or demands; as, “to have the
_advantage_ of a good education.” It is frequently used of what one
has beyond another or secures at the expense of another; as, “to have
the _advantage_ of another in an argument,” or “to take _advantage_ of
another in a bargain.” _Benefit_ is anything that does one good.

~adverbs and the infinitive “to.”~ See SPLIT INFINITIVE.

~a few~. Condemned as employing the singular article before an
adjective plural in sense. Usage sanctions _a hundred_ and _a_ great
_many_, these expressions being viewed as collective. _A few_ is
correct idiomatic English, with a sense distinctively different from
that of the adjective used alone; as, “_A few_ men can be trusted” (_i.
e._, a small but appreciable number). “_Few_ men can be trusted” (_i.
e._, scarcely any) is practically equivalent to the negative statement
“_Most_ men are _not_ to be trusted.”

~affect~. Compare EFFECT.

~against~: Never shorten this preposition into _again_. Such a usage
is either dialectical or obsolete; and save in such usage there is no
preposition _again_, or as sometimes spoken by persons careless with
their speech _agen_.

~aggravate~, ~exasperate~, ~irritate~, ~provoke~: A fever or a
misfortune may be _aggravated_, but not a person. The person is,
perhaps, _exasperated_ or _provoked_. To _aggravate_, from the
Latin _aggravo_ “to make heavy,” is to intensify, and applies only
to conditions of fact; _provoke_, which calls forth anger, and
_exasperate_, which heightens (or roughens) anger already provoked,
allude to mental states. A patient may be so _irritated_ that his
condition is _aggravated_. Here to _aggravate_ is to make worse; to
_irritate_ is to annoy, provoke.

~ago~. Compare SINCE.

~agreeable~: Do not spell this word _agreable_. Its component parts are
_agree_ plus _able_; always double the “e” before the “a.” _Agreeable_
is often erroneously used for _agreeably_ in correspondence. In this
sense it is a commercial colloquialism, meaning “being in accordance
or conformity,” as with some previous action. “_Agreeable_ to your
request I have forwarded the goods.” Correctly, this should be rendered
“_Agreeably_ with your request, etc.,” meaning “so as to be agreeable.”

~agreeably~. Compare AGREEABLE.

~aid~. Compare HELP.

~ain’t~: Avoid as inelegant. In such a phrase as “he ain’t,” it is
both vulgar and ungrammatical; “he isn’t” is the preferred form. “The
contraction _ain’t_ for isn’t is a vulgarism which ought not to need
criticism. Yet ‘_’tain’t_ so’ said an educated preacher once in my
hearing. The safe rule respecting contractions is never to use them in
public speech. This is the instinct of a perfect taste.” AUSTIN PHELPS,
_English Style_, lecture ii. p. 25.

~alienate~, ~antagonize~: _Alienate_ which means “estrange,” should
never be used for _antagonize_, meaning “contend against” or “bring
into opposition.” Thus, you _alienate_ your friend because you
_antagonize_ his views.

~all~. See under ANY, WHOLE, and compare UNIVERSALLY.

~allege~: Do not spell this word _alledge_. It has no connection
whatever with _ledge_, a shelf. _Allege_ is derived from the Latin
_adlegio_, clear, and came to England with the Normans in the Norman
French form _aligier_, Old French, _esligier_, from the Latin, _ex_,
out, and _litigo_, to carry strife. It means, to assert.

~alleviate~, ~relieve~: Distinguished from relieve, as _alleviate_, by
lightening (Latin _ad_, to, + _levis_, light), mitigates or makes less
burdensome, and _relieve_, by removing (Latin _re_, again, + _levis_,
lifting up), supplies what is wanting.

_Alleviation_ affects internal sensations, affording comparative ease,
whereas _relief_ operates upon external conditions, removing pain. You
_alleviate_ suffering and _relieve_ distress or poverty.

~all of them~: This phrase furnishes an excellent example of the
common carelessness of speech. _Of_ signifies _from_ or _from out_;
and whereas one can subtract a certain quantity _from_ an entire
number, one can hardly refer to that number as still existing, in any
shape whatever, if one subtracts the whole; for _from out_ implies a
remainder. You may say “ship _some_, or any definite number, say _ten
of them_,” or “ship _them all_,” but not “ship all of them.”

~all over the world~: A common but undesirable locution for “all the
world over” or “over all the world.”

~allow~, ~permit~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _Allow_
implies no attempt at hindrance; _permit_ suggests authorization to do.
One _allows_ that to which one interposes no objection or takes no step
to prevent; one _permits_ that to which one gives express consent or
authorization. In some parts of the United States _allow_ is used in
the sense of “think, think likely, intend”; as, “he _allowed_ he would
go”; “he _allowed_ to pay it.” It is used also in the sense of _say_.
Both uses are wholly inadmissible.

~all right~: In best usage this term is always written as two words.
Formerly _alright_ was in vogue, but it is now obsolete.

~allude~: This word is frequently used as synonymous with _mention_,
but this is a careless and improper treatment of the term.

  “Allude is in danger of losing its peculiar signification, which is
  delicate and serviceable.... (It) means to indicate jocosely, to
  hint at playfully.... Allusion is the by-play of language.”--R. G.
  WHITE _Words and Their Uses_, ch. 5, p. 90. (S. H. & Co. ’70)

Allude is from the Latin _alludo_, treat lightly, from _ad_, at, and
_ludo_, play, and should be used only with the sense of “to refer
incidentally, indirectly, or by suggestion.” When you toast a hero by
name, you certainly do not allude to him, although in so doing you make
a pretty allusion to the heroic act with which his name is identified.
In toasting Dewey, you do not allude to him but to his deeds off Manila.

~allusion~: Distinguish between this word and _illusion_. The former
is derived from the Latin _ad_, at, + _ludo_, play (treat lightly),
and means an incidental suggestion or passing reference, a species of
innuendo; the latter is derived from _in_, on, + _ludo_ play (play
tricks on), and means an unreal image presented to the senses.

~almost~: “An adjective in early English, the use of which has
recently been revived, but it has not received the sanction of general

An “_almost_ Christian” is, however, a most expressive term, and
would oftentimes more nearly express the truth than the absolute and
unqualified “Christian.” Compare MOST.

~almost~, ~about~: These words are now commonly used as interchangeable
synonyms. Formerly, such use was condemned. One may say of a task that
it is “_almost_ completed” or that it is “_about_ completed” meaning
that it is nearly accomplished or approaches closely to a completed

~already~: Although this word consists of two elements “all” and
“ready,” it is not correctly spelled with two “l’s” but _already_.

~also~, ~likewise~: According to some writers _also_ merely denotes
addition, and _likewise_ denotes connection with some person or thing
that has previously been referred to. _Likewise_, which means “in
like manner,” of necessity refers to states and conditions which are
susceptible of manner, and should not be used indiscriminately for
_also_, which properly connects facts and qualities. There is, for
example, a considerable difference between the expressions “He spoke
_also_” and “He spoke _likewise_.” In the second case, the matter of
speech may be considered to have been to the same effect as the speech
first alluded to. Lexicographers do not recognize this difference.

In practise, the choice between these words is largely to secure
euphony and avoid repetition. _Also_ and _likewise_ affirm that what is
added is like that to which it is added.--STANDARD DICTIONARY, p. 59.

~alternative~: “This word means a choice--one choice--between two
things. Yet popular usage has so corrupted it, that it is now commonly
applied to the things themselves, and not to the choice between them,
as ‘You may take either _alternative_,’ ‘I was forced to choose between
two _alternatives_.’ And, indeed, some people go so far as to say
‘several _alternatives_ were presented him.’”--E. S. GOULD, _Good
English, Misused Words_, p. 45.

~always~, ~all ways~: Discriminate carefully between these terms.
_Always_ means “during all time”; _all ways_ means “in every way.”

~amateur~, ~novice~: These terms are not synonymous. The distinction
between them is that an _amateur_ may be the equal in skill of a
professional, but a _novice_ is a beginner, and as such does not equal
the professional in skill.

~ambidextrous~: Do not spell this word “_ambidexterous_.” It is derived
from the Latin _dextra_, the right hand, and _ous_. Although the form
_ambidexterous_ was common in England in the nineteenth century, it is
not now in use.

~ambition~ should not be used to signify mild energy as it imports
persistent and inordinate or steadfast desire. “The heat leaves me
without _ambition_ for work” illustrates an altogether wrong use of the

~amid~, ~among~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _Amid_
denotes position when one object is surrounded by others from which it
differs in nature or characteristics; _among_ denotes an intermingling
of objects of the same nature. A man may be _amid_ enemies but not
_among_ them; he may be _among_ friends but not _amid_ them.

~among~, ~between~: _Among_ may apply to any number; _between_ applies
to two only.

~among one another~: A pleonasm. Say, rather, “_among themselves_.”

~among the rest~: Say “_among them_ was he,” or “_with the rest_ was
he”--not _among the rest_. As “the rest” specifically excludes himself,
it is impossible for him to figure in the midst of them.

~amount~, ~number~: _Amount_ is used of substances in mass; _number_
refers to the individuals of which such mass is constituted.

~an~: Modern practice does not permit of the use of _an_ before words
beginning with an aspirated “h” as, “hair,” “hall,” “harangue,”
“hero,” “history,” “historical,” “historian,” “house,” “hypothesis,”
“heraldic,” etc. However, it may be correctly used before words in
which the initial “h” is not aspirated. Compare A, AN.

~ancient~, ~antiquated~: Anything _antiquated_ is _ancient_ but not all
things that are _ancient_ are _antiquated_; thus _ancient_ refers to
things that existed in olden times; _antiquated_ to things obsolete or
that have fallen behind the times.

~and~, (~the relative preceded by~): Where “and” is used to connect two
clauses the clauses must be of similar construction. Therefore, do not
say, “I met Florence on Wednesday, _and which_ was very pleasing to
me,” which is not only grammatically incorrect, but is faulty in that
it introduces an altogether useless word. Omit the “and.”

~and~, ~to~: These terms are not interchangeable. One does not “try
_and_ do a task,” but “one tries _to_ do it.”

~anger~. Compare TEMPER.

~angry~. Compare MAD.

~angry at~, ~with~: A man may be angry _at_ or _about_ a hurt, never
_with_ it; he is angry _at_ rather than _with_ a dog. We may be angry
_with_ a person.

~annoyed at~, ~by~, ~with~: Note the correct use of the prepositions.
“He will be annoyed _at_ or _by_ complaints” (if they are made); “He
will be annoyed _with_ complaints” (because they will surely be made).

~another from~: Misused for _another than_; as, “judges of quite
_another_ stamp _from_ his Majesty’s judges of Assize,” for “of quite
_another_ stamp _than_,” etc.

~another such~: These words should be used always in this order. Avoid
“_such another_ mistake,” as incorrect; “_another such_ mistake” is

~answer~, ~reply~: Discriminate carefully between these words. The
Standard Dictionary, quoting Crabb says, “an _answer_ is made to a
question; a _reply_ is made to an assertion;” but, it continues, “this
statement is too limited, as an _answer_ is made to a charge as well as
to a question.... A _reply_ is an unfolding, and implies both thought
and intelligence. _Reply_ implies the formal dissection of a statement
previously made; _answer_, a ready return of words to a question or
charge that is made.”

~antagonize~, ~veto~, ~oppose~, ~forbid~: _Antagonize_ is distinguished
from _veto_ or _oppose_. In the sense of “neutralize” or “deprive of
active power” you may _antagonize_ a disease, while you _oppose_ or
_veto_ a bill. To _forbid_ is to prohibit with authority; to _veto_ is
to forbid authoritatively, with or without the right to do so. Compare

~ante-~, ~anti-~: Discriminate carefully between these prefixes.
_Ante-_ means “before;” _anti-_ means “opposite to.” _Ante_diluvian
means “before the flood”; _Anti_christ means “opposed to Christ.”

~anticipate~, ~expect~, ~hope~: As anticipate implies “expectation with
confidence and pleasure,” never use it where mere expectation is meant,
which applies to that which we have good reason to believe will happen.
“I _hope_ for a visit from my friend, though I have no word from him;
I _expect_ it, when he writes that he is coming; and as the time draws
near I _anticipate_ it,” for I look forward to it with confidence and

~antiquated~. Compare ANCIENT.

~any~, ~all~, ~at all~: Avoid using _any_ adverbially in place of the
adjective. Don’t say “Did you sleep _any_?” when you mean “Did you have
_any_ sleep?” or “Did you sleep _at all_?”

Since _any_ individualizes or separates, signifying one or some out
of a certain quantity or number, and thus differentiating from the
whole or entire quantity or number, the word should not be used
interchangeably with _all_. “He is the finest fellow of _all_” (not of
_any_ = of _any one fellow_) “I have known.”

~any~, ~either~: _Any_ is used of more than two; _either_ of two only.
Do not say “the United States or _either_ of them,” say, rather, “_any_
of them.”

~anyhow~, ~anyway~: “Forcible colloquial expressions often used to
indicate that something is to be done, admitted, believed, or the
like, be the circumstances, results or conditions what they may; as
‘_Anyhow_, I have lost it;’ ‘_anyway_, I am going.’ In place of these,
such expressions as ‘In any event,’ ‘At any rate,’ ‘Be that as it may’
are ordinarily preferred.”--STANDARD DICTIONARY.

~any place~, ~some place~: “He won’t go _any place_;” “I want to go
_some place_.” Say, rather, “He won’t go _anywhere_;” “I want to go
_somewhere_.” These are solecisms, unfortunately common, which should
be avoided. “Place” may be used as an indirect object only when
preceded by a preposition.

~anyway~, ~anywhere~: Frequently misspelled _anyways_, _anywheres_.
These words should never be written with a final _s_.

~apostasy~: In modern usage the last syllable is spelled with an _s_.
The alternative spelling, _apostacy_, though occasionally used, is not

~apparent~, ~evident~, ~manifest~: Do not confound _apparent_ with
_evident_, because what is _apparent_ may or may not be _evident_.
That is _apparent_ which appears to be, as _apparent_ sincerity; but
appearances may be false. Things are not always what they seem. “That
is _evident_ of which the mind is made sure by some inference that
supplements the fact of perception. That is _manifest_ which we can lay
the hand upon: _manifest_ is thus stronger than _evident_, as touch is
more absolute than sight.” See HEIR.

~appear~, ~seem~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _Appear_
refers to that which manifests itself to the senses; _seem_ applies
to that which is manifest to the mind on reflection. _Seem_ gives or
creates the impression of being. A man may _seem_ honest but cannot
_appear_ so.

~appreciate~: This verb has the intransitive sense of “to increase in
value,” despite the fact that some critics (though without justifiable
cause) object to its use in such a phrase as “real estate _appreciates_
as the city grows.”

~apprehend~, ~comprehend~: These terms are neither synonymous nor
interchangeable. To _apprehend_ is to perceive; to _comprehend_ is to

~approach~: Sometimes incorrectly used for _address_, _petition_, etc.
One is _approached_ by indirect or covert intimation, suggestion, or
question, which he may encourage if he will, or may put aside without
formal refusal. _Approach_ is often used in a bad sense, implying the
use of bribery or intrigue. Do not say “the teachers have _approached_
the Educational Department for longer intermissions,” when you mean
“the teachers have _petitioned_,” etc.

~apt~, ~likely~: Words sometimes misapplied. _Apt_ implies natural
fitness or tendency; _likely_ applies to a contingent event considered
as very probable.

~aren’t~: For _are not_ when the subject follows; as, “Aren’t you?”
“Aren’t they?” The best conversational usage contracts the verb when
the subject precedes: “we’re not,” “you’re not,” etc. Similarly we say
“I’m not,” “I’ll not.”

~argue~. Compare AUGUR.

~arraign~ ~at~, ~before~, ~for~, ~on~, ~after~: “The criminal was
arraigned _at_ the court” is incorrect; a criminal is arraigned _at_
the bar; _before_ the court; _for_ a crime; _on_ an indictment; _after_
the discovery of his crime.

~articles~: Two or more words connected by _and_ referring to different
things should each be preceded by the article; but when they denote
the same thing, the article is commonly used with the first only.
“_The_ black-and-white horse” would denote one horse marked with the
two colors black and white. “_The_ black _and the_ white horse” would
denote two horses, one black and the other white.

~as ... as~, ~so ... as~. The STANDARD DICTIONARY says: A shade of
difference in their meanings, as strictly used in comparisons, is often
neglected. _So ... as_ suggests that, in the comparison of the persons
or things mentioned, there is present in the mind of the speaker a
consciousness of a considerable degree of the quality considered; _as
... as_ does not carry this impression. In “John is not _as_ tall _as_
James” there is no implication that the speaker regards either John or
James as tall; there is merely a comparison of their heights. So, too,
in “John is not _as_ old _as_ James” there is merely a comparison of
ages. But if one says, “John is not _so_ tall _as_ James,” though the
_so_ is not emphasized, there is understood usually to be a reference
more or less distinct to something uncommon in the height of James as
compared with the stature of other men or of other boys of his age;
the speaker regards James as being _tall_. “John is not _so_ old _as_
James” suggests that, in some relation or other, James is thought of as
being _old_; as in “James is taller than John.” “Yes, but my boy is not
_so old as_ yours.”

In affirmative sentences _so_ ... _as_ can not properly be used except
in certain restricted constructions, and where the quality referred
to is to be emphasized. It occurs oftenest in sentences that, though
affirmative in form, carry a negative suggestion; as, “_So_ good a cook
_as_ Polly is hard to find,” that is, “It is not easy to find _so_ good
a cook _as_ Polly.”

  Few knights of the shire [in the 17th century] had libraries _so_
  good _as_ may now perpetually be found in a servants’ hall.

  MACAULAY, _History_, ch. 3.

That is, “not many knights of the shire,” etc. In a simple affirmative
comparison like “Jane is _as_ good a cook _as_ Polly,” _so_ ... _as_ is
not used.

In interrogative sentences, as in negative sentences, a consciousness
more or less distinct of a considerable degree of the quality referred
to is conveyed by _so_ ... _as_, but not by _as_ ... _as_. “Is John
_as_ old _as_ James?” and “Is your uncle _so_ old _as_ my father?”
convey different impressions as to what the speaker means by _old_. In
the question where _as_ ... _as_ is used there is no implication of
considerable age in _old_.

~as far as~, ~so far as~: Discriminate carefully between these terms.
_As far as_ expresses distance; _so far as_ expresses limitation, as of
one’s knowledge. Therefore, “_so far as_ I know” is preferable to “_as
far as_ I know.”

~as if~. Compare LIKE.

~as~, ~so~: Discriminate between these words; _as_ is used in comparing
persons or things of approximate caliber or size; _so_ when the
comparison is unequal.

~as~, ~that~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _As_ is often
improperly used for _that_. Do not say “not _as_ I know of”; “I do not
know _as_ I shall go.” Say, rather, “Not _that_ I know of”; “I do not
know _that_ I shall go.”

~ascent~ must be distinguished from ~assent~, its homonym. The former
is derived from Latin _ad_, to, + _scando_, climb, and means the act
of climbing; the latter is from Latin _ad_, to, + _sentio_, feel, and
means expression of concurrence in a proposition, acquiescence.

~aside~: An Americanism for _apart_. Not “auxiliary words _aside_,” but
“auxiliary words _apart_.”

~asparagus~. Compare SPARROW GRASS.

~assent~. Compare ASCENT.

~assume~, ~perform~, ~discharge~: We _assume_ responsibilities to
_perform_ a task and thus _discharge_ our duty. Duties are not

~astonish~, ~surprise~: Terms which some writers claim are not
synonymous or interchangeable, but usage has made them so. To
_astonish_ is “to affect with wonder and _surprise_”; to _surprise_ is
“to strike with _astonishment_ by some unexpected act or event.”

Obviously, when one says, “I am surprised,” he uses an expression
exactly equivalent to “I am struck with astonishment,” which is the
equivalent of “I am astonished.”

~at~: Commonly but erroneously used for _to_, as an intensive in such
phrases as “Where have you been _at_?” “Where are you going _at_?”
Used also occasionally to denote place: as, “Where does he live _at_?”
Wherever used in such connections the word is redundant.

~at all~: These words, supposed to have an intensive effect, are
frequently unnecessarily introduced. “It doesn’t rain _at all_,” would
be just as expressive if written “It doesn’t rain.”

~at auction~: In England this expression is known as an Americanism.
There, goods are put up _to_ auction and are sold _by_ it--that is
_by_ offering them to the highest bidder. “_At_ private sale” also is
peculiar to America.

~at best~: An erroneous form for “at _the_ best.”

~at~, ~in~: Always _in_ a country; either _at_ or _in_ a city, town,
or village; _at_, if the place is regarded as a point; _in_, if it is
inclusive; as, “We arrived _at_ Paris;” “He lives _in_ London.”

~at length~: The assumption that _at length_ means the same as ~at
last~, and is therefore superfluous, is an error. Both _at length_ and
_at last_ presuppose long waiting; but _at last_ views what comes after
the waiting as a finality; _at length_ views it as intermediate with
reference to action or state that continues, or to results that are
yet to follow; as, “I have invited him often, and _at length_ he is
coming”; “I have invited him often, and _at last_ he has come.”

_At length_ is used also of space; as, “He wrote me _at length_” (that
is, fully or in detail). _At last_ is used of time; as, “He came back
_at last_.”

~at that~: A vulgarism of speech, sometimes defended on the ground that
the phrase is elliptical, the omitted word or phrase being computation,
showing, or feature of the case. Avoid the usage, however.

~at you~: As a substitute for _with you_ this is an unpardonable
vulgarism, as in the sentence “I am angry _at_ (for _with_) you.”

~audience~, ~spectator~: An _audience_ is a number of persons assembled
to listen to a play, lecture, debate, etc.; a _spectator_ is an
eye-witness as of a pageant, panorama, etc.

~aught~, ~ought~: The former means anything whatever, any (even the
smallest) part; the latter, as a noun, is a corruption of _naught_, a
cipher. _Naught_ is of course _not aught_, that is, not anything, thus
nothing, and hence the figure 0, a cipher. Careful speakers do not
replace this word by _ought_.

~augur~: With the sense of _betoken_ or _portend_, this word must not
be confounded with _argue_. The racecourse may _augur_, but certainly
does not _argue_ poverty.

~authentic~, ~authoritative~, ~genuine~: Often misused as synonymous
terms. That which accords with the facts and comes from the source
alleged is _authentic_; that which has the character represented
and is true to its own claims is _genuine_; that which possesses or
emanates from proper authority and is entitled to acceptance as such is

Trench in “On the Study of Words” (p. 189), says: “A _genuine_ work
is one written by the author whose name it bears; an _authentic_ work
is one which relates truthfully the matters of which it treats.”
And an _authoritative_ work is one which contains the results of
the observations and conclusions of an author of special ability in
subjects of which he is an acknowledged master.

~auxiliary~: In this word the letter “_l_” is never doubled.

~avails~: An Americanism for _profits_ or _proceeds_.

~averse from~, ~averse to~: Originally _averse from_ was commonly used
to designate the turning from a subject, as from repugnance. Present
usage prefers _averse to_, denoting aversion in the sense of hostility
toward the subject.

~avocation~, ~vocation~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
An _avocation_ is that which takes one from his regular calling. It is
a minor or irregular occupation. The term is used loosely, sometimes
by good writers, for _vocation_, which signifies the main calling or
business of life. An _avocation_ is a diversion.

~award~. Compare ACCORD.

~aware~. Compare CONSCIOUS.

~awful~, ~awfully~: _Awful_ should not be used of things which are
merely disagreeable or annoying, nor in the sense of excessive,
exceedingly bad, great, or the like. It is sometimes incorrectly
used to designate surprise or distress, as, an _awful_ mouth, that
is, a mouth of surprising size. Do not say “He created an _awful_
scene,” when you mean that the scene he created was _distressing_.
Things cannot be “_awfully_ nice” nor persons “_awfully_ jolly,”
notwithstanding the sanction of colloquial usage. Phelps relates the
following: “Two travelers at Rome once criticized Michael Angelo’s
statue of Moses. ‘Is it not _awful_?’ said one. ‘Yes,’ answered the
other, ‘it is _sublime_.’ ‘No, no!’ rejoined the other, ‘I meant
_awfully_ ugly!’” That is _awful_ only which inspires awe.

~aye~, ~ay~: Meaning always, ever, and pronounced ê (e, as in eight),
is to be distinguished from _aye_, meaning yes, and pronounced ai (ai,
as in aisle).


~back on~, ~go~. Compare GO.

~back~ or ~back up~, with the signification of _uphold_ or _support_
has the countenance of high authority, but is still, except in the
sporting sense, regarded as savoring of slang.

~back down~: A colloquialism for _withdraw_ as from an argument, a
position or contest.

~back out~: A colloquialism for to _withdraw_ from or refuse to carry
out an agreement.

~back talk~: A vulgarism for any impertinent reply; as, “Don’t give me
any _back talk_.” Persons of refinement say, “Don’t be impertinent,”
or, “stop your impertinence.”

~bad~: This word is the antithesis of _good_ and embraces various
degrees of wickedness or evil as well as those of unsatisfactoriness.
_Bad_ is a term often misapplied. One may say “a _bad_ boy,” “a _bad_
egg,” but not a “_bad_ accident”; say rather, “a _serious_ accident.”
In referring to things which are necessarily _bad_, or the reverse of
good, select some less pleonastic adjective. An _acute_, a _severe_ or
_gnawing_ pain would be preferable expressions to a _bad_ pain.

~bad egg~: An undesirable expression used colloquially to designate a
worthless person: not used in polite society.

~bad grammar~: This phrase has been condemned as false syntax by some
persons unfamiliar with the different meanings of the word _bad_. The
phrase is not only good English but is cited by the STANDARD DICTIONARY
as a correct example under the word _bad_ to illustrate the meaning
“containing errors or faults; incorrect; as _bad grammar_.”

~badly~: This word should never be used for _greatly_ or for
_exceedingly_, _very much_, etc. Do not say “Your father will miss you
_badly_”; say rather, “... will miss you greatly.” Instead of “I wanted
that _badly_” say “I wanted that _very much_” or “I was in _great_
need of that.” “The carpet needs to be beaten _badly_” is a ludicrous
blunder for “The carpet _badly_ (or very much) needs to be beaten”--the
construction connecting _badly_ with _beating_ rather than with _needs_
which it qualifies.

~balance~, ~remainder~: These terms are not synonymous. A bookkeeper
obtains a _balance_ as by addition or subtraction. A mathematician
deducts a smaller sum from a greater and obtains a _remainder_. Do
not say “The _balance_ of the evening was devoted to music,” but “the
_rest_ of the evening....”

~ball up (to)~, is slang for “confuse,” “embarrass” either of which is
to be preferred.

~baluster~: Compare BANISTER.

~band, beat the~. Compare BEAT.

~banister~ is a corrupt form of _baluster_ which is one of the
individual pillars which unite to form a _balustrade_.

~banquet~: This word designating a sumptuous feast in honor of some
person or event should not be used as the synonym of “dinner” or
“supper,” which both designate less formal functions.

~bare~ in the sense of uncover must be differentiated from its homonym
_bear_, to suffer or endure.

~base~, ~bass~: Discriminate carefully between these terms. _Base_
means the bottom or support of anything, that part on which it rests;
also, that which is low. _Base_ is sometimes used in the sense of
_found_; as, “he _based_ his argument on the evidence.” In chemistry
it is a compound which unites with acid to form a salt. _Bass_ is the
name of various sea-fishes; also the name of a tree and of things made
from its fiber. In music the _bass_ consists of the lowest tones in the
scale, instrumental or vocal.

~bat~: Formerly a provincialism but now a vulgarism for “wink.” Do not
say “Quit _batting_ your eyes at me;” say rather, that is, if you must
say anything of the kind, “Stop winking at me.”

~bathos~ and ~pathos~ are sometimes separated by only a fine line, and
it may be rather a matter of intelligence than of philology that fails
to make use of the desirable term. _Pathos_ is from the Greek _pascho_,
suffer, and designates the quality that awakens the tender emotions,
as compassion or sympathy; _bathos_ is from the Greek _bathys_, deep,
and signifies a ridiculous descent from the lofty to the depths of

~battalion~: In this word the “t” is always doubled, as in _battle_,
from which it is derived; it is, however, correctly spelled with only
one “l.”

~bear~. See BARE.

~beastly~: A British colloquialism expressive of disgust or contempt;
as, “This is _beastly_ weather”; sometimes even used adverbially; as,
“I was _beastly_ tired.” This locution, essentially in bad taste,
though often affected by college students and others who should know
better, seems never to be defensible except in the phrase “_beastly_
drunk,” and even this is objectionable as being a libel on the beast.
Compare NASTY.

~beat~ should not be used for “defeat.”

~beat it~ should not be used for “go away” or “clear out.”

~beat the band~: A vulgarism for “to surpass or be immeasurably
superior to.”

~because~: Although this word means “for the reason” it is often used
in the same sentence with this expression--“The reason why I do this
is _because_ (= for the reason that) I please myself by doing it.”
Substitute _that_ for _because_.

~because why~: A term common among the illiterate. _Because_ is used
correctly when it precedes the explanation of an act; _why_, when used
interrogatively. Do not say “I did it, _because why_”; here omit “why”
and continue with the reason for the act. Instead of “I did not come
sooner; _because why_?” “I was delayed.” Say “I did not come sooner;
why? I was delayed.”

~beef~ is coarse slang for “boast” or “brag.”

~begin~: _Commence_ is frequently substituted for _begin_ work where
the change should not be made. _Begin_ is applied to order of time;
_commence_ relates to the work on hand with reference to its subsequent
completion. The man who strikes the first blow _begins_ a fight, but
both parties to a law suit _commence_ litigation at the moment when
they severally undertake the first step.

~begin by him~: This is incorrect; say, “begin _with_ him.”

~behave~: Strictly means “comport.” When used with a reflexive pronoun
as, “Behave _yourself_,” this word is correctly applied. When the
pronoun is omitted as, “Will you _behave_?” the sentence is incomplete
and the expression a mere colloquialism.

~being~: The phrases “is _being_ built,” “was _being_ built,” and
kindred forms of English imperfects passive are condemned by certain
critics as recent and unwarranted; Fitzedward Hall points out that they
are neither recent nor unwarranted, and have been used by the best
writers for a century. He says: “Prior to the evolution of _is being
built_ and _was being built_, we possessed no discriminate equivalents
of _ædificatur_ and _ædificabatur_; _is built_ and _was built_, by
which they were rendered, corresponding exactly to _ædificatus est_ and
_ædificatus erat_.”--_Modern English_, App., p. 350.

_Is growing_, _was growing_, indicate an activity from within; as, the
tree _is growing_ (from its own internal forces); _is being grown_,
_was being grown_, the activity of some agent from without; as, the
plant _is being grown_ (by the gardener). So also, and strikingly, _is
bleeding_ (as from a wound), and _is being bled_ (as by a surgeon).

~belong~: Used absolutely; as, “He doesn’t _belong_,” “We all _belong_”
(_sc._, to this organization, society, community, or in the place,
sphere, or associations where actually present): recent in the United
States, and apparently rapidly spreading in popular use, though with no
literary support.

~beneficence~, ~benevolence~: Although formerly the meanings of these
words were distinct they are not so any longer, and _benevolence_ now
includes _beneficence_. “_Beneficence_, the quality of being beneficent
or charitable: _benevolence_ is the disposition to seek the well-being
or comfort of others; charitableness.” According to the etymology
and original usage _beneficence_ is the doing well, _benevolence_,
the wishing or willing well to others; but _benevolence_ has come to
include _beneficence_ and to displace it. We should not now speak of
_benevolence_ which did not help.

~benefit~. Compare ADVANTAGE.

~bequest~, ~devise~, ~legacy~: These words are not exactly synonymous.
A _bequest_ is a leaving by will of personal property of any kind; a
_devise_ is a gift of land by a last will and testament; a _legacy_ is
personal property bequeathed. _Devise_ is sometimes used loosely for
any testamentary disposition of property but, applied strictly, refers
specifically to land, whereas _legacy_ applies to any kind of personal

~berth~, ~birth~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _Berth_,
which is probably derived from _bear_, (Anglo-Saxon _beran_, carry),
means a place of accommodation, whether as bunk or bed, apartment, or
engagement. _Birth_, similarly pronounced and derived, means “a coming
into existence.”

~beside~, ~besides~: Much confusion exists, and has long existed
regarding these words. Gould, who in his work on “Good English”
explained the use of these terms in 1856, from which Webster borrowed
in 1876, states that “besides is always a preposition and only a
preposition.” This is not so. It is sometimes an adverb when used in
its prepositional sense of “by the side (of).”

Of _besides_ as a preposition, Skeat, in his “Etymological Dictionary,”
says:--“The more correct form is _beside_; ‘besides’ is a later
development, due to the habit of using the suffix -es to form adverbs;
the use of _besides_ as a preposition, is, strictly incorrect, but is
as old as the 12th century.”

_Beside_ is also a preposition in the sense of “in comparison with” and
“physically or mentally remote from.” “_Beside_ your work his is poor”;
“_Beside_ the point at issue”; “The poor fellow is _beside_ himself.”
_Besides_ as a preposition means “in addition to” or “except.”
“_Besides_ wealth he had health”; “_Besides_ death he knew no fear.” As
an adverb it means “moreover” or “other than.” “_Besides_, it is late”;
“He was heedless of all the world _besides_.” _Beside_, then, conveys
the idea of conjunction, separation or comparison; whereas _besides_
implies addition or exception.

~between~. Compare AMONG.

~between you and I~: This is incorrect. Both pronouns are objects of
the preposition _between_ and should be in the objective case; say
“_between you and me_.” Compare YOU AND I.

~bevy~: A word sometimes misapplied. It is applied correctly to a
company of girls, a flock of birds, as, quail, grouse, or larks; also
to a small herd of deer or heifers.

~big~, ~great~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _Big_ is
not synonymous with _great_. A man may be physically _big_ but is not
necessarily _great_ mentally. Emerson was mentally a _great_ man, and
although tall physically he was not a _big_ man. _Big_ and _large_ are
synonymous, but while _big_ is more emphatic, _large_ is a more refined
or elegant term.

~big-bug~: A slang term used to denote a person of consequence, actual
or self-imagined. Say rather, “A prominent” or, “an important man.”

~big-wig~: A slang term common in England for a person in authority or
of prominence. Compare BIG-BUG.

~bird~: In the phrase “You’re a bird” an inane and, therefore,
undesirable expression.

~bit~: Primarily a _bite_, a small _piece_, or by extension a small
quantity; as, a _bit_ of bread, a _bit_ of fun. By error, the word is
sometimes applied to liquids; as, “there is not a _bit_ of water on
the farm.” But when reference is to liquid to be drunk, it is more
discriminating to say, not a _bit_, but a _sip_.

~blame on~: Indefensible slang. We blame a person _for_ a fault, or
lay the blame _upon_ him. Not, as in a New York newspaper, after the
last Presidential election, “I do not _blame_ the defeat _on_ the
President,” but “I do not _blame_ the President _for_ the defeat,” or
“I do not _lay the blame ... upon_,” etc.

~blow~: A colloquialism for boastful talk, which is expressed less
coarsely but with as much force by “bluster” or “brag.”

~blowhard~: A coarse term for “boaster” synonymous with windbag; not
used by persons of refinement. Compare WINDBAG.

~boiled shirt~: A slang phrase designating a white linen shirt. It
originated in the Western States of America but its use is widespread
among persons addicted to careless diction.

~boost, to~: A vulgarism for “to assist”; used also as a noun, as “He
gave me a _boost_ in business” for “He assisted me....”

~borne~, the past participle of _bear_, must not be confounded with the
adjective ~born~. “Man is _born_ to sorrow, which may or may not be
well _borne_.”

~both~: When _both_ is used in a negative sentence, the meaning
intended is sometimes doubtful. “_Both_ applicants were not accepted.”
Were both applicants rejected? Or, was one rejected and the other
accepted? Or, was neither applicant accepted or rejected? A similar
confusion of sense occurs in some negative sentences containing _all_,
when _not_ is misplaced; this practically contradicts the sense
intended, or makes it ambiguous; as, _all_ will not go, that is, _not
all_ will go--meaning some will and some will not go. “_All_ were not
of that mind” (probably) _not all_ were of that mind, or (possibly)
_all_ were of a different mind or minds from the one spoken of. So,
also, when all is used substantively. “_All_ that glisters is not
gold”--_not all_ that glisters is gold. A peculiarity of _both_ is that
it can not be negatived by connecting _not_ immediately with it, except
elliptically in sentences of unusual form that are obviously arranged
for the prevention of misunderstanding--as in correcting the doubtful
meaning of the sentence cited above, “_Both_ applicants were not
accepted.” If one asks, in order to clear its confusing impression,
“Were _both_ rejected?” the reply may properly be, “_Not both_ were
rejected; one was rejected and one accepted”--a connection of _not_
with _both_ that is usually inadmissible. The confusion in meaning of
a negative sentence containing _both_ will be best avoided by making
the sentence affirmative; “_Both_ applicants were rejected,” “One of
the two applicants was rejected and the other accepted,” etc.--STANDARD

~both~: As an adjective or pronoun _both_ emphasizes the idea of _two_.
It has been well defined as “the two, and not merely one of them”; it
can not properly, therefore, be connected with or refer to more than
two objects. As a conjunction, however, _both_ has a more extended
meaning and employment than it has as an adjective or a pronoun;
thus, it is permissible to say, “He lost all his live stock--_both_
horses, cows, and sheep.” _Both_, as so used, emphasizes the extent or
comprehensiveness of the assertion. The use has been challenged, but
has abundant literary authority, and antedates Chaucer.

~both alike~: A pleonasm. Two things may be _alike_ but _alike_ should
not be used as an adjective. _Both_ daughters may be _like_ their
mother, but to say they are _both alike_, meaning that they resemble
each other, is incorrect. _Both_ should never be used with _alike_.

~bounce~: A colloquialism for “discharge” or “eject forcibly,” an apt
rather than an elegant term.

~bound~: This word may be the participial adjective of _buā_, prepare,
or the past participle of _bindan_, bind. The words should not be
confused. “I am _bound_ to have it:” yes, if constrained or compelled;
but no, if merely resolved. It is true that in the United States a
colloquial usage to this effect has become popular, but it is none the
less an error of speech.

~bountiful~, ~plentiful~: _Bountiful_ which originally meant “generous
in bestowing gifts” has gradually come to mean “showing abundance,”
“yielding in plenty.” In the latter sense it is synonymous with

~bourne~: From the French _borne_, bourne (Latin _bodina_, limit),
means that which marks the end, and hence the end or goal. It does
not mean _country_ which it is so often supposed to mean--presumedly
from Hamlet’s “undiscovered country, from whose _bourne_ no traveller
returns.” Readers who on this authority construe _bourne_ as country
make the mistake of substituting the word “which” for the phrase
“whose” bourne.

~brand-new~ often incorrectly written _bran-new_. The original and
etymologically correct form of this word is _brand-new_, from _brand_,
meaning “fire” or “burning,” and _new_ meaning “fresh”--the “fire-new”
of Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, act. iii., sc. 2) is best explained by
his own words, “fire-new from the mint,” meaning “fresh and bright”
like a new coin, as being newly come from the fire and forge.
_Bran-new_ is a colloquialism.

~brand of Cain~: By a peculiar perversion of facts, this is invariably
referred to as a stigma similar to the scarlet letter with which Hester
Prynne was indeed branded. But the brand was an act of mercy and “a
token of Divine protection,” for “the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest any
finding him should slay him.”

~bravery~, ~courage~: Inasmuch as the courageous may be without
_bravery_ and the brave without _courage_ a careful discrimination
should always be made in the use of these terms. _Courage_ is rather a
virtue of the mind, whereas _bravery_ is temperamental. Your _courage_
may ooze out, as it were, at the palms of your hands, but bravery
which is instinctive, remains. For this reason bravery may often be
misplaced, true _courage_--which ever seeks to do the right thing at
the right time, regardless of results--never.

~bred and born~: An erroneous sequence of words. One is _born_ before
one is _bred_; therefore say “_born and bred_.”

~brevity~, ~conciseness~: Words sometimes misused. _Brevity_ is
commonly applied to shortness of time, but it has the sanction of
literary usage for _conciseness_ or condensation of language into
few words. A speech may be _concise_ yet comprehensive; that is, it
may cover the entire range of a subject in few words and as such be
characterized by _conciseness_; another may be short in duration,
the theme being one that does not permit of expansion and as such be
characterized by _brevity_.

~bring~, ~carry~, ~fetch~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
_Bring_ expresses motion toward some person, place, or thing, and
implies to bear from a distant place to one nearer; _carry_ expresses
motion away from; _fetch_ expresses motion from a given place to
another, as for the purpose of obtaining some article, and return to
the given place with the article required. _Go and fetch_ is pleonastic.

~Britannia~: This word is often misspelled “Brittannia.” It is from
Britain and should be spelled with only one “t” but two “n’s.”

~broach~, ~brooch~: Discriminate carefully between these terms.
Although both are derived from the same source etymologically (Latin,
_broca_, a spike) they are now widely different in meaning. A _broach_
may mean “a boring into an opening, a spit, or a spire.” It is also the
name of the boring bits or drills used in carpentering or engineering.
It means also “to approach any one in conversation” on some particular
subject. A _brooch_ is “a breastpin or an ornamental pin or clasp used
as for display or to fasten some part of a dress.”

~broke~: A word often misused for “broken.” Do not say “I’m _broke_”
say rather “broken”--~To go broke~: A colloquial phrase common in
commercial circles for “to become bankrupt.” These terms are avoided by
persons who cultivate a refined diction.

~brothers~: Distinguished from ~brethren~. The one applies to those
who are _brothers_ by birth, whereas the other indicates fraternal
relationship in some order or society.

~building~, ~being built~: There are advocates of either form.
Fitzedward Hall has shown conclusively that “is being built” has
been used by the best writers for a century or more, and now has
universal literary sanction. Richard Whately, George P. Marsh, Richard
Grant White, and other critics have strenuously objected to this
use. In literature there is support enough for their views: Milton
wrote “while the Temple of the Lord _was building_.” Dr. Johnson, in
writing to Boswell, of his _Lives of the Poets_ said “My ‘Lives’ _are
reprinting_;” Macaulay followed the same style and wrote “Chelsea
Hospital _was building_”; “while innocent blood _was_ shedding.”
_Being_ has a special modern use with passive forms of verbs to
express progressive action. For example, is, are, or _was being_
built, expresses what is expressed also by is, are, or _was building_,
_a-building_, or _in building_. Both forms are permissible, but “is
_being built_” is more frequently heard and, perhaps, preferable.

~building~, ~construction~: Alfred Ayres (_Some Ill-used Words_, p.
44) quotes the following example of the misuse of these words: “These
two advisory bodies have recommended the _building_ of battleships.
It is understood that Mr. Long is opposed to the _construction_
[constructing] of any armorclads.” Mr. Ayres points out that if
_building_ is correct--and it is--then _construction_ is incorrect and
the correct word to use is _constructing_.

~bum~: A vulgar term for “an idle, dissolute fellow; a loafer,”--~on
the bum~. A vulgar phrase used to denote that that to which it is
applied is of poor quality, badly done, or has been subjected to
careless treatment.

~busted~: A slang term for financially broken, not used by persons
accustomed to a refined diction. Compare BROKE.

~but~, ~however~: Discriminate carefully between these words. Do not
say “He is suffering--not, _however_, acutely;” say rather, “He is
suffering, _but_ not acutely.”

~but that~: Implies a negative, but when it follows another negative
phrase (as “I _don’t know but that_ I did it”) it suggests the positive
or, as in the example given above, the likelihood or possibility that
some act has been done. Locutions of this kind should be avoided as
inelegant, say rather “I may have done it.”

~but what~: This is equivalent to _but that which_ and is an incorrect
expression for _but that_. “I am not sure _but what_ I shall be there”
should be written _but that_, and indicates the possibility or even
probability of being there; but note that if the _but_ be omitted from
the latter (and correct) usage, the indication is the reverse. Compare

~but yet~: Should not be used when either _but_ or _yet_ is sufficient
by itself; as, “Wealth may seek us; _but_ wisdom must be sought”; not
_but yet_. When, however, Archbishop Trench says, “_But yet_ these
pains hand us over to true pleasures” (_Study of Words_, p. 232), each
conjunction has its distinct adversative sense. This appears still
more clearly in “Ye are but common men, _but_ [on the contrary] _yet_
[notwithstanding that fact] ye think with minds not common.”--COLERIDGE
_Wallenstein_ 2, 3.

~bute~: A vulgar corruption of “beauty” used by illiterates; as, “She’s
a _bute_.” Correctly “She is a beauty” or “a beautiful woman.”

~butt in, to~: A vulgar although expressive phrase meaning “to
interfere officiously or inquisitively with,” not used by persons
accustomed to refined diction.

~by~: Properly used before the agent or doer; _with_ before the
instrument or means; as, “He was killed _by_ the assassin _with_ a
dagger.” But active forces are often thought of as agents, so that
we properly say “The house was destroyed _by_ fire.” “His friends
were displeased _by_ the selection of another chairman” means that
the action displeased them; “his friends were displeased _with_ the
selection,” etc., means that the man selected was not their choice.

“A gentleman _by_ the name of Hinkley.”

“Oh, no! You mean ‘A gentleman _of_ the name of Hinkley.’ This is
English, you know.”

One may say “I know no one _of_ the name of Brown,” or “I know no one
_by_ the name of Brown”; but the meaning is different. One might know a
man _of_ the name of Brown, but know him _by_ the name of Smith. It is
better to say simply “a man named Brown.”--STANDARD DICTIONARY.


~cabbage~ for “steal” or “crib,” as from a pony, is schoolboy slang.

~cake, takes the~: A slang equivalent for “wins the prize.” Used
usually to designate that the person, act, or statement to which it
is applied exceeds in impudence anything within the knowledge of the
persons present.

~calculate~: The verb signifies to ascertain by mathematical or
scientific computation; and the word _calculated_ therefore strictly
means adapted by calculation. It is then illogical to speak of
“measures _calculated_ to do harm” when the measures were in fact
designated for a specific purpose--that of doing good.

~calligraphy~ and ~cacography~ respectively mean good and bad writing.
It is therefore pleonastic to speak of excellent _calligraphy_ or
wretched _cacography_; and to describe the former as wretched would
simply be to say that at the same time it was both excellent and the

~cameo~: The plural of the word is not formed by adding “-es” as in
“potato” or “grotto” but by the adding of “-s”; as, _cameos_.

~can~: Misused for _may_. _Can_ always refers to some form of
possibility. An armed guard may say “You _can_ not pass,” since he has
physical power to prevent; hence the question “_Can_ I pass the guard?”
is perfectly natural. But where simple permission is required _may_
should be used. “_May_ I (not _can_ I) use your ruler?”

~can but~, ~can not but~: Discriminate carefully between these phrases.
Both these sentences are grammatically correct, though they have not
exactly the same meaning: “I _can not but_ believe your proposition”
means “I _can not help_ believing,” etc.; while “I _can but_ believe
your proposition” means “I _can only_ believe,” etc., a much less
strong assertion.

~canine~ should not be used for “dog.”

~cannon~, a tubular gun, comes from Greek _kanna_, reed, and must be
distinguished from ~canon~, a rule or law, which comes from the Greek
_kanon_, rule.

~capacity~. Compare ABILITY.

~caption~ is not to be used in the sense of title, save as to a legal
document “showing the time, place, circumstances and authority--under
which it was made or executed.” “The affectation of fine big-sounding
words which have a flavor of classical learning has had few more
laughable or absurd manifestations than the use of _caption_ (which
means seizure, act of taking) in the sense ... of heading.”--R. G.
WHITE, _Words and Their Uses_, ch. 5, p. 98.

~carnival~, which comes from the Latin _caro_, flesh, + _levo_, take
away, and alludes in Catholic countries to the pre-Lenten “farewell
to meat,” which concludes with Mardi Gras, has been stigmatized by
Dr. William Mathews as an “outlandish term” which “has not a shadow
of justification” in the popular sense of a gay festivity or revel.
Inasmuch as the pre-Lenten farewell is marked by festival, frolic
and fun, the stigmatization is undeserved, and such expressions as
“the crows are holding high _carnival_ on the hill” are not merely
permissible but good.

~carry~: Although formerly used with the meaning of “conduct,” “guide,”
or “escort” the term in this sense is now archaic. Do not say “Mr.
A. _carried_ Miss B. to the party;” say rather, “... _escorted_ Miss
B....” Compare also BRING.

~case~: Not to be applied to persons. The expression sometimes used of
an eccentric or vicious person, “He is a _case_” or “a hard _case_,” is
an objectionable colloquialism.

~casket~, which is from the French _casque_, helmet, is frequently
now used in the United States as a euphemism for ~coffin~, which
is from the Greek _kophinos_, basket. Such innovations are not to
be recommended. They savor of pedantry, or, worse still, of pride.
If _coffin_ is not good enough for the worthy deceased or for his
purse-proud relatives, why rest content with the simple _casket_, when
by a mere figure of speech ~sarcophagus~ may save the reputation of
both the living and the dead?

~casuality~ is an obsolete form of ~casualty~, and should be treated as

~cataclasm~ and ~cataclysm~ are often interchanged. The Greek _kata_,
down, is combined in the one case with _klaō_, break, and in the other
with _klyzo_, wash. Where sudden overwhelming change is intended, as
by revolution, _cataclasm_ is to be preferred to _cataclysm_, which,
though sometimes used to signify such a change, is strictly applied
to an overwhelming flood of water, and, specifically, to the Noachian

~catch on~, ~to~: A colloquialism having two distinct meanings, the
first bordering on the vulgar, is used by persons with little sense of
refinement in speech for “to understand”; the second, used instead of
“to suit the popular fancy” or “to please the popular taste.”

~ceiling~ which in derivation is allied with the French _ciel_, Lat.
_cœlum_, heaven, is to be distinguished from its homonym ~sealing~, the
act of attesting with a seal, which springs etymologically from the
Latin _sigillum_, dim. of _signum_, mark.

~celery~, ~salary~: Exercise care in spelling these words. _Celery_ is
a biennial herb; _salary_, a periodical allowance made as compensation
for services.

~cereal~, a word derived from _Ceres_, the goddess of corn. It has
nothing in common, save the sound, with _serial_, which fitly describes
a literary publication in parts issued successively (Lat. _series_,
_sere_ join). Exercise care in spelling these words.

~cession~, from Latin of _cedo_, yield, meaning surrender, must not
be confounded with _session_, from Latin _sedeo_, sit, as used in the
expression a _session_ of court.

~character~, ~reputation~: These are not synonymous terms. _Character_
is what one is; _reputation_ is that which one is thought to be.
_Character_ includes both natural and acquired traits; _reputation_
designates only those traits acquired as by contact with one’s fellow
men. Holland in _Gold Foil_ (p. 219) makes the following distinction:
“_Character_ lives in a man; _reputation_ outside of him.”

~chargeable~: Do not spell this word _chargable_. Remember its
components are _charge_ + _able_ and the “e” is retained before the
second “a.”

~cherubim~ and ~seraphim~: Do not use these plurals as singulars. There
is no such thing as _a cherubim_.

~chew the rag~: A low phrase sometimes used as an equivalent for
“wrangle;” as, “stop chewing the rag,” meaning, “cease wrangling.” The
use of expressions of this kind can not be too severely condemned.

~childlike~, ~childish~: There is a distinction between these words.
The one is used in a good sense, the other is spoken in derogation.

~chin music~: A low phrase sometimes used as an equivalent for “talk,”
but not uttered by persons of refinement.

~chuck-full~ is the American colloquial form of _choke-_ or
_chock-full_, but this form finds no literary favor, and indeed the
expression is far from elegant, both in sense and sound.

~circus~: This word should not be used as a synonym of “frolic;” as
such it is a vulgar perversion.

~cite~, from the French _citer_ (Latin _cito_, frequentative of _cieo_,
call), means “mention by name, summon” and has no relationship with
_site_, similarly pronounced, which means “local position,” and is
derived from Lat. _situa_, pp. of _sino_, put.

~citizen~: Not to be used for _person_, except when civic relations
are referred to. “All _citizens_ are entitled to the protection of
the law,” but not “Ten _citizens_ were walking up the street,” unless
reference is had to some civic relation, as when opposed to soldiers,
policemen, residents of the country, or the like.

~claim~: “He _claimed_ that the discovery was his,” “I _claim_ that
this is true,” etc. Incorrect if the meaning is simply _assert_ or
_maintain_; but correct if the meaning is _assert_ with readiness
to _maintain_, and confidence that the thing _asserted_ can be
_maintained_, with the added idea that it makes for the advantage or
side of him who _asserts_ and _maintains_ it.

~clever~: In American colloquial usage _clever_ means “_good-natured
and obliging_”; in English use it means “skilful.” The American synonym
for the English meaning of “clever” is _smart_, and the English synonym
for the American meaning of “clever” is _jolly_.

~climax~, ~acme~: Discriminate carefully between these words. A
_climax_ is a successive increase in force of language for the purpose
of intensifying it. The _acme_ is the highest point or greatest
intensity attained.

~climb down~: As _to climb_ signifies ascension, this colloquialism of
the United States is apparently unwarranted. If, however, a descent be
laborious, as though by hands and feet, _crawl_ should be used as a
substitute for _climb_.

~coeval~, ~contemporary~: Discriminate carefully between these terms.
_Coeval_ is said of things existing at the same time; _contemporary_ is
applied to persons living in the same period.

~coffin~. Compare CASKET.

~commence~. Compare BEGIN.

~commodious~. Compare CONVENIENT.

~common~. Compare MUTUAL.

~commonly~: Do not confound this word with _generally_, _frequently_,
_usually_. That is _commonly_ done which is common to all; that
is _generally_ done, which is done by the larger number; that is
_frequently_ done which is done by a large number or by a single person
on many occasions; that is _usually_ done which is customarily done
whether by many or one.

~community~ is not a common noun personified, and therefore should
always be preceded by the article. Congress and Parliament, State and
Church have been personified, and may accordingly be used definitely in
the singular number without the article; but to permit such treatment
to army, navy, public, or _community_ would be a literary solecism.

~compare to~ or ~with~: We compare one thing _with_ another to note
points of agreement or difference. We _compare_ one thing _to_ another
which we believe it resembles.

“As a writer of English he [Addison] is not to be _compared_ except
with great peril to his reputation, _to_ at least a score of
men.”--RICHARD GRANT WHITE, _Words and their Uses_, ch. 4, p. 79.

He should have said _with_. If Addison is to be _compared to_ the
(presumably) able writers referred to, it can not be with “peril to
his reputation.” If _comparing_ him _with_ these men is perilous to
his reputation, then for his sake the comparison should not be made.
The sentence is an attempt to combine two ideas incompatible in a
single construction, _viz._, “If he is _compared with_ these men, it
will be to his disadvantage,” and “He is not to be _compared to_ these

~complected~ for ~complexioned~ is dialectical in the United States,
and not sanctioned in general usage.

~complement~, ~compliment~: Discriminate carefully between these
words. _Complement_ means “full quantity or number; that which is
needed to complete or fill up some quantity or thing; or a complete
or symmetrical whole.” A _compliment_ is “a delicate flattery, an
expression of admiration or an act of civility or courtesy.”

~complete~: A speech may be _finished_ but far from _complete_. To
_finish_ is to bring to an end, but to _complete_ is to bring to a
state in which there is nothing more to do. You _finish_ your dinner,
but _complete_ your toilet.

~completion~. Compare FINAL.

~comprehend~. Compare APPREHEND.

~conciseness~. Compare BREVITY.

~conclude~ should not be used for “close.” To _conclude_ is a mental
process; to _close_ a physical one.

~condign~ means “well-merited”; therefore, the common phrase “_condign_
punishment” is correct, but the phrase “Deserving (or not deserving)
_condign_ punishment,” is absurd because tautological.

~conduct~: Although the dictionaries give both a transitive and
intransitive place to this verb in the signification of “behave,”
it should properly be used only reflexively, as a transitive. Say,
“How did the débutante _conduct_ herself?” rather than “How did the
débutante _conduct_?”

~confess~. Compare OWN.

~congratulate~. Compare FELICITATE.

~congregation~, ~corps~: Exercise care in the use of these words. A
_congregation_ is an assemblage of persons who meet as for religious
worship or instruction; a _corps_ is a body of men associated in
some specific work, as a marine _corps_; a _corps_ of engineers. A
_congregation_ embraces both sexes, _corps_ is restricted to the male

~con man~: A vulgar term for a swindler’s decoy or “bunco-steerer”; a
_confidence man_: not used in polite society.

~conscious~, which relates to knowledge within one’s self, should
not be used for _aware_, which implies being on the lookout. The one
refers only to the past, or a present allied to the past, the other to
the future. We are _conscious_ of suffering, but _aware_ of imminent
danger. One is _conscious_ of the inner workings of his own mind, but
_aware_ of that which exists without him.

~constantly~ does not always mean “continually.” A man eats
_constantly_ but he would soon cease to be a man if he were to eat
_continuously_. In this sense _constantly_ means “regularly” and
_continuously_ means “without ceasing.” _Perpetually_, which means
“incessantly,” must also, and for the same reason, be distinguished
from _constantly_. Compare PERPETUALLY.

~construct~: Although this verb formerly had the meaning of _construe_,
both words having the same etymology, being derived from the Latin
_con_, together, + _strua_, pile up, it must no longer be used as
synonymous therewith. You _construe_ a sentence but _construct_ a

~construction~. Compare BUILDING.

~construe~. Compare CONSTRUCT.

~consul~, ~counsel~, ~council~: Discriminate carefully between these
words. A _consul_ is an officer appointed to reside in a foreign port
or city as the representative of his country’s commercial interests;
a _counsel_ is a lawyer engaged to give advice or act as advocate in
court; a _council_ is a body of persons elected or appointed to assist
in the administration of government or to legislate; a _councilor_ is
a member of a council; a _counselor_ is one who gives counsel; or, who
is an adviser or a lawyer.

~contagious~, ~contiguous~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
A disease may be _contagious_, that is catching; fear is _contagious_
when it spreads from one to another. _Contiguous_ is used chiefly of
neighboring regions or places and means “adjacent or situated so as to

~contemplate~: May be used in the sense of _plan_, _intend_, but unless
the matter in question be somewhat doubtful and involves further
thoughtful consideration, it is better to say _intend_ or _propose_.

~contemporary~. Compare COEVAL.

~contemptible~, ~contemptibly~, ~contemptuous~, ~contemptuously~:
Discriminate carefully between these words. A _contemptible_ person is
one deserving of contempt as for meanness or vileness; _contemptibly_
means “in a contemptible manner” or “in a manner deserving of
contempt.” A _contemptuous_ person is “a disdainful person.” One who
speaks _contemptuously_ of another speaks of him with scorn or disdain.

~continual~, ~continuous~: _Continual_ implies the repeated renewal
of an act; _continuous_ means its unceasing continuity. The following
sentence will serve to illustrate the correct use of these words;
“_Continual_ interruptions impede _continuous_ work.”

~continually~. Compare CONSTANTLY.

~controller~, derived from the French _contre rôle_ and indicating
a person whose office it is to keep a counter roll or check in the
accounts of others, should not properly be spelt _comptroller_, which
word originates in a false derivation from _compter_, to count. Instead
of the word being thus derived, the spelling has been accommodated by
some to the imagined derivation.

~convenient~, ~commodious~: These terms are not always interchangeable.
A room may be “convenient” in that it is suitable for a required
purpose and “commodious” because it affords ample accommodation for the
purpose for which it is applied. A book may be _convenient_ in size or
arrangement but not _commodious_.

~correspond~. When the word means “answer or conform to” it is followed
by the preposition _to_; when it means “hold written communication” the
preposition is _with_.

~cotemporary~ which implies “equally temporary” should not be used for
“contemporary” which means existing at the same time.

~cough up~: Used as an equivalent for “pay up,” is vulgar and,
therefore, not used in polite society.

~council~, ~councilor~, ~counsel~, ~etc.~ Compare CONSUL.

~couple~: Does not mean merely two, but two united, as it were by
links. Thus a man and wife illustrate a _couple_; but to talk of “a
couple of weeks” is an absurdity for were two weeks coupled so as to
become one, the product (one week multiplied by two) would no longer be
a week but a fortnight.

~couple~, ~two~: Discriminate carefully between these terms. _Couple_
as an indefinite amount is a Teutonism common in America. Do not say
“He has a _couple_ of dollars in the bank”; say rather, “He has some
money in the bank.” Compare COUPLE.

~courage~. Compare BRAVERY.

~courier~, ~currier~: Discriminate carefully between these terms.
A _courier_ is a special messenger sent express with letters or
despatches; an attendant on a party of travelers. A _currier_ is a man
who dresses leather or combs a horse.

~covey~: As this word means “a brood or hatch of birds,” especially
quails or partridges, it should not be applied to persons or things as
is done by Thackeray in “The Virginians,” ch. 27.

~creditable~ is sometimes confounded with ~credible~, but the one word
means that which redounds to one’s credit, whereas the other signifies
that which is worthy of belief.

~crime~, ~sin~, ~vice~: Exercise care in the use of these words.
_Crime_ is an abstractly, flagrant violation of law or morality in
general; _sin_, disagreement in word, thought, deed, or desire,
whether by omission or commission, with the divine law; _vice_ is the
habitual deviation from moral rectitude.

~crow~, a colloquialism for _exult_.

~crush~ implies to force out of shape, therefore, it is pleonastic to
say “_crush out_,” of a mutiny.

~cultivation~, ~culture~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
While one of the various senses of _cultivation_ is culture, _culture_
should be used only of the development of the individual.

~cunning~, meaning “artful,” and by extension “innocently artful,” and
hence “bright,” “amusing,” or “characterized by quaint and playful
moods,” is often improperly introduced to imply “dainty,” “choice,”
especially if applied to anything diminutive. Such usage is not
permissible. A kitten may properly be said to be _cunning_, but not a
brooch, although (in archaic usage) that may exhibit the _cunning_ or
skill of the artificer.

~curious~, in such expressions as “It is a _curious_ fact” has been
hypercritically censured. The propriety of the usage is unquestionable.
“_Curious_ first ... denoted a state of mind, interest or diligence in
inquiry or prosecution; then it was predicated of things which exhibit
evident tokens of care (_cura_), dextrous application, ingenuity; and,
as such things are out of the common and are apt to arrest attention,
it naturally acquired the sense of ‘novel,’ ‘unusual,’ or more
generally ‘novel and noticeable.’”--FITZEDWARD HALL, _False Philology_,
p. 25.

~cuss~: A vulgar corruption of “curse,” designating a worthless or
disagreeable person, and as such it should be avoided.--~To cuss and
swear~, that is, “to use blasphemous language” is a phrase that also
should be avoided by persons having pretensions to refinement.

~custom~, ~habit~: It is the _custom_ of a person to do a thing until
it becomes a _habit_. From a voluntary act of the will it has grown
into an involuntary practise. It will thus be seen that whereas a
_custom_ is followed, a _habit_ is acquired. Moreover, as involuntary
acts are not predicated of bodies of people, _habits_ are of necessity
compared to individuals, “The _custom_ of social nipping tends to
individual _habits_ of dissipation.”

~customs~. Compare EXCISE.

~cut it out~, with the sense “eliminate,” is of recent introduction and
may be characterized as expressive though inelegant.

~cute~, which is an abbreviation of _acute_ and means “shrewd, smart,
clever, or bright” is a colloquialism, and as such is not favored in
certain literary circles.


~daisy~: A slang intensive, and as an equivalent for “fine” or
“charming,” applied to persons and things, sometimes carelessly as “a
daisy time,” for “a pleasant time.” In speaking of a woman, “Ain’t she
a _daisy_” is a vulgar way of saying “Isn’t she charming.”

~damage~ should never be used for “cost” or “charge.” _Damage_ is
injury or harm as to character, person, or estate; _cost_ and _charge_
involve or imply expenditure of money.

~dance, to lead one a~: A colloquialism for “to divert one from a
desired course, and thus create delay in its accomplishment.” There is
but little in the expression to recommend it.

~dander~ is a vulgarism for “anger” and as such should not be used.

~dangerous~: Avoid the vulgar use of this term in the sense of
“dangerously ill.” A man near death may be dangerously ill, but he can
not be _dangerous_.

~dare~, ~durst~ or ~dared~, ~daring~: “You daresn’t” “he durstn’t” are
frequently used--the former always incorrectly, the latter generally
so; for in nine cases out of ten, where the expression is used, the
speaker desires to signify the present and not the past. The form is
inelegant, but under certain conditions may be grammatically correct.
You dare not; he dares not (daresn’t): this for the _present_. In the
_past_ only, he durst not (or durstn’t).

~dead~, ~deceased~: Discriminate between these words. One may refer
correctly to a _dead_ man or a _dead_ horse, but the word _deceased_
is applied correctly only to human beings.

~dead slow~: A colloquialism for “lacking in spirit or liveliness, dull
or tedious;” applied indiscriminately to persons or things.

~deal~: Used sometimes loosely for ~serve~. Do not say “Deal the
potatoes;” here _serve_ is preferable.

~debase~. Compare DEMEAN.

~decease~ should never be used as a verb.

~deceive~: Deception implies the production of a false impression. It
is necessary, therefore, to distinguish between the accomplishment
of this object and the bare attempt. Yet one frequently hears the
expression “he is deceiving me,” when it is clear that (as the attempt
is unsuccessful) the idea intended to be conveyed is “he is attempting
to _deceive_ me.”

~decided~, ~decisive~: These terms are not exactly synonymous. A
_decided_ fact is one that is unmistakable and beyond dispute; a
_decisive_ fact is one that terminates a discussion. A _decided_
victory is not necessarily a battle _decisive_ of a campaign.

~deduction~ is frequently confounded with ~induction~. The _in-_
mounts up from facts to law and is the process of inferring general
conclusions from particular cases; the _de-_ descends from law to facts
and is that which is deduced from premises or principles. _Induction_
is termed analysis; _deduction_, synthesis.

~deface~, ~disfigure~: Discriminate between these words. Persons
_deface_ things, for to _deface_ implies a deliberate act of
destruction; but _disfiguration_ may take place to person or thing by
the operation of either. Thus, an inscription or bond is _defaced_, but
facial beauty is _disfigured_ by smallpox or the weight of care.

~delicious~, ~delightful~: These terms should be used with
discrimination. _Delicious_ is correctly applied to pleasures of
the senses; _delightful_ to that which charms, gratifies, or gives
pleasure. A dish may be _delicious_, but not _delightful_; an
entertainment may be _delightful_, but is certainly not _delicious_.

~delusion~, ~illusion~: Discriminate carefully between these terms. A
_delusion_ is a mental error arising from false views or an unbalanced
state of mind; an _illusion_ is an unreal image which is presented to
the senses. A mirage is an optical _illusion_.

~demean~ signifies “to behave” and does not mean _debase_ or _degrade_.
A man _demeans_ (_i. e._, comports) himself as a gentleman; but even
if he should _demean_ himself as a churl, the verb would not imply a
lowering of his dignity or _debasement_; his debasement would result
alone from the conduct he pursued.

~denominate~. Compare NOMINATE.

~depositary~, ~depository~: Discriminated in the best usage,
_depositary_ denoting a person with whom, and _depository_ a place in
which anything is deposited for safe-keeping.

~depravation~, ~depravity~: These terms are not synonymous.
_Depravation_ is the act or process of depraving or corrupting;
_depravity_ is the condition of being depraved.

~desert~. Compare ABANDON.

~desert~, ~dessert~: Discriminate carefully between these words. A
_desert_ is a barren waste; an uncultivated and uninhabited wilderness;
a _dessert_ is a service, as of fruits or sweetmeats, at the close of
a dinner.

~despatch~: This word may be spelt correctly either “despatch” or
“dispatch,” notwithstanding the fact that some writers condemn the word

~develop~ is to “unfold” or “bring to light _by degrees_” and should
not be used for “expose” which means to “reveal or lay bare,” without
regard to manner.

~device~, ~devise~: Discriminate carefully between these words. A
_device_ is something designed, invented, or constructed for a special
purpose or for promoting an end, and may be used in either a good or
bad sense. A _devise_ is a gift of lands by a last will and testament.
Compare BEQUEST.

~die~: A word often misapplied especially by persons accustomed to use
inane superlatives as “She died with laughing”; “I thought she’d have
died.” _Die_, as a hyperbole, means, “to have a great desire for,” and
this sense is an undesirable perversion.

~difference~: Careful note should be made of the appropriate
prepositions. The STANDARD DICTIONARY says: “Difference _between_ the
old and the new; differences _among_ men; a difference _in_ character;
_of_ action, _of_ style; (less frequently) a difference (controversy)
_with_ a person; a difference _of_ one thing _from_ (incorrectly _to_)

~different from~: _Different to_, though common in England, is not
sustained by good authority. The best literary usage is uniformly
_from_, following the analogy of the verb _differ_; one thing _differs
from_ or is _different from_ another.

~differ from~, ~differ with~: One thing may differ _from_ another, or
one person may differ _from_ another, as in physique; but one person
may differ _with_ another in opinion.

~dippy~: An extreme vulgarism for “mentally unbalanced.”

~direct~ should not be used where _address_ is intended. Do not say
“_Direct_ your letters to me at Cook’s;” say, rather, “_Address_ your
letters,” etc.

~directly~, which means “in a direct or straight course or manner,”
and so “without medium,” has not unnaturally been extended to signify
“without medium or intervention of time; immediately.” American
critics have objected to this use, but in England it is popular.

~disappoint~: Since _disappoint_ implies frustration or defeat, one
cannot be _agreeably disappointed_; rather agreeably _surprised_.

~discharge~. Compare ASSUME.

~discreet~, ~discrete~: Both words are derived from the Latin
_discretus_, pp. of _discerno_, _dis_ + _cerno_, separate, and
formerly _discreet_ was also spelt _discrete_, and even had the
meaning of “separate, distinct,” which sense now belongs exclusively
to _discrete_. _Discreet_ is used with the signification of “evincing
discernment, judicious, prudent.”

~discern~, ~discriminate~: The latter word is often treated as
synonymous with _distinguish_, and there is etymological reason
for this, as both words mean to separate, but to _discern_ is to
“distinguish by the difference or differences; differentiate.” “What we
_discern_ we see apart from all other objects; what we _discriminate_
we judge apart, or recognize by some special mark or manifest
difference. We _discriminate_ by real differences; we _distinguish_ by
outward signs.”

~disfigure~. Compare DEFACE.

~disremember~: Avoid this term as provincial and archaic, and use
_forget_ instead.

~dissociate~ is preferable to _disassociate_; for associate is from the
Latin _ad_, to, + _socius_, united, whereas _dissociate_ is from the
Latin _dis-_, used with separative force, and _socius_. _Disassociate_
is therefore nothing more or less than uniting to and at the same time
severing from. The word, then, though used, is illogically formed and
should be avoided.

~distinguish~. See DISCRIMINATE.

~divers~, ~diverse~; By inattentive persons not infrequently
interchanged. _Divers_ implies severalty; _diverse_, difference. Hence
we say; “The Evangelists narrate events in _divers_ manners,” but “The
views of the two parties were quite _diverse_.”

~do~: Often used unnecessarily. Do not say, “I shall succeed as others
have _done_ before me.” Here “done” is pleonastic. But _do_ may be used
where it is purely auxiliary to a missing verb, as “I shall succeed as
others _do_” (succeed).

~dock~ is not a synonym for _wharf_ although it is often used as such.
The _dock_ is water, the _wharf_ is the abutting land or landing.

_Dock_ is by many persons used to mean a wharf or pier; thus: “He fell
off the _dock_ and was drowned.... A man might fall into a _dock_; but
to say that he fell off a _dock_ is no better than to say that he fell
off a hole.”--R. G. WHITE, _Words and Their Uses_, ch. 5. p. 107.

~donate~: Incorrectly used as simply meaning _give_. As meaning to
_bestow as a gift_ or _donation_, it has been vehemently objected to by
some critics, but the word has certainly acquired a place in popular
use, and is no more rendered unnecessary by the previous existence of
_give_ than _donation_ is by the previous existence of _gift_. _Donate_
should be used of the bestowal of important, ceremonious, or official

~done~: Avoid using the past participle of verbs instead of the
imperfect. Do not say, “You _done_ it,” or “you _seen_ it,” when you
mean “you _did_ it,” or “you _saw_ it.” Nor use the past tense for the
perfect participle, as in, “If you had _came_” when you mean “If you
had _come_.”

~don’t~ is a contraction of _do not_, and in this sense is permissible;
but as signifying _does not_, the proper contraction for which is
_doesn’t_, its use is inaccurate. In writing, the uncontracted
forms are much to be preferred, though in conventional speech the
abbreviations are accepted.

~don’t believe~, ~don’t think~: “I _don’t believe_ I’ll go”; “I _don’t
think_ it will rain”; solecisms now in almost universal use. Say,
rather, “I believe I will not go”; “I think it will not rain.”

~don’t make no error~. See ERROR.

~dopey~: A vulgar substitute for “sleepy; dull; thick-headed.”

~dose~, ~doze~: Discriminate carefully between these words. That which
a physician prescribes is a _dose_; that which a sleepy patient may
fall into is a _doze_.

~do tell!~ An exclamation of surprise the equivalent of which is “Is it
possible!”--an inane provincialism to be avoided.

~doubt~. See WHETHER.

~doubt but that~: In this phrase _but_ is superfluous as it does not
add anything to the sense.

~dozen~: Exercise care in writing or uttering this word. If a number
precedes, then _dozen_ forms the correct plural: if not, the plural is
formed by adding an _s_. Say “six _dozen_ sheep,” but “many _dozens_ of

~draft~, ~draught~: Exercise care in using these words. A _draft_ is an
order drawn by one person or firm on another for the payment of money
to a third; a _draught_ is a current of air passing through a channel
or entering by an aperture. These words are pronounced alike and modern
American practise favors the spelling of _draft_ for both.

~drive~: Critics have seen fit to cavil at the distinction between
_drive_ and _ride_, objecting that the coachman _drives_ the lady,
and asking whether traveling by train or trolley-car is a _ride_ or
_drive_. The popular idea is that one _rides_ in a public conveyance
but _drives_ when in a private carriage. As a matter of convenience,
however, the old-time distinction so far as it concerns _riding_ on
horseback and _driving_ in a carriage is good, and in no way encroaches
on the question of travel submitted. Horse-back exercise and a
carriage drive are essentially exercises for pleasure and so not to be
confounded with travel; but if there were no distinguishing expression
for the two, we should have to add a qualifying term to “ride,” to
indicate the form of recreation enjoyed. Again, on the legal principle
of _Qui facit per alium facit per se_ (He who does a thing by another
does it himself), the lady who commissions her coachman to _drive_, is
herself the author of his driving, and _drives_.

~drunk~: In modern usage of the verb this word is confined to the past
participle. It is therefore not now proper to say “They drunk his
health” say, rather, “They _drank_ his health.” Do not say “I have
_drank_” when you mean “I have _drunk_.”

~dry up!~ A vulgar imperative for “be quiet” or “stop talking” and as
such not used in refined circles.

~dubersome~: Of a vacillating nature, doubtful: an absurd corruption of
_dubious_ to be avoided.

~due~, ~owing~: Words now often used interchangeably. _Due_ should be
limited in its use to that which has to be paid, the word _owing_ being
indicative of the source of the existing condition. An obligation may
be discharged as being _due_ to a man’s estate or his character. A
man’s wealth is _owing_ to inheritance, good fortune, toil or thrift.

~Dutch~: Often misapplied to the Germans from a mistaken idea of the
spelling of the German word _Deutsch_. The Dutch are Hollanders, and
the Germans are “Deutsch” in Germany.


~each~, ~every~: These words should never be used with pronouns or
verbs in the plural.

~each other~: Strictly applied to two only, whereas _one another_
implies more than two. “The two friends congratulated _each other_”
(_i. e._, each one the other). “This commandment I give unto you that
ye love one _another_:” Yet this expression is now used carelessly as a
reciprocal pronoun; and Whittier writes “To worship rightly is to love
_each other_.”

~effect~, ~affect~: Distinguish carefully between these terms. To
_effect_ means to accomplish; to _affect_, to influence. By concerted
action men may _effect_ reforms which shall _affect_ their condition.

~effluvia~: A word often used incorrectly from the mistaken idea
that it is of the singular number. Do not say “What a disagreeable
_effluvia_” when you wish to draw attention to an unpleasant smell. If
you must use the word, say “_effluvium_.”

~egg~. Compare BAD.

~either~: An adjective denoting “one or the other of two” often used
incorrectly with a plural verb; as, “Either _are_ likely to sail.”
Now, inasmuch as “either” means “one or _the other_” of two the verb
in the sentence should be in the singular and to be correct the
sentence should be “Either _is_ likely to sail.” However, in its best
and strictest usage _either_, as has already been said, means “one or
the other of these,” as, “_either_ horn of a dilemma”; but there is
authority for its use as “any” and “each of two” or “both.” The former
of these is, however, a distinctly improper use, and the latter--though
sanctioned by “on _either_ side one, and Jesus in the midst,” (_John_
xix, 18) is better left unsaid.

~either you or I are (am or is) right~: Which should it be? You _are_;
I _am_; who _is_--which of the two? The complete sentence is clearly
“Either you (are right) or I (am right).” If the pronoun had been
coupled, as in “Both you and I” the plural verb would of course follow;
but the very fact of this would seem to indicate that where they are
distinctly disjoined, as here, the verb should not be plural and should
therefore be singular. Yet who could say “either you or I _am_ right.”
Peculiar as it is--it being impossible to say either “you is” or “I
is” the solution is to be found in the use of _is_; and the correct
rendering is, “Either you or I--one of us,--_is_ right.” Dr. Latham
cites the rule thus, “Wherever the word _either_ or _neither_ precedes
the pronouns, the verb is in the third person.” He adds a second rule
to the effect that if the disjunctive is without the word _either_ or
_neither_, then the verb agrees with the first of the two pronouns. He
would therefore say “either you or I _is_ right,” but “you or I _are_
right.” It is, however, questionable whether usage bears with him.

~elder~, ~eldest~; ~older~, ~oldest~: Discriminate carefully between
these terms. _Elder_ and _eldest_ are correctly applied only to persons
and usually only to persons in the same family, as, “his _elder_
brother.” _Older_ and _oldest_ are used of persons or things without
any restriction, “the _oldest_ inhabitant”; “the older _road_ is now

~elegant~: Often misused for _pleasant_. _Elegant_ refers to qualities
of refinement, grace, taste or polish. One may say “an _elegant_ gown”;
“an _elegant_ outfit”; but not “an _elegant_ time” nor “an _elegant_

~else~: E. S. Gould and certain other critics take exception to
a possessive use of this word, upon which the former says “A
comparatively modern and a superlatively ridiculous custom has been
introduced by putting not the noun but the adjective, _else_, in the
possessive case.... _Else_, in the way it is used, means besides
... [one] might as well say somebody besides’s, etc. The proper
construction of the several phrases is somebody’s else, nobody’s else.”

On this subject the STANDARD DICTIONARY says: “The expressions ~some
one else~, ~any one else~, ~every one else~, ~somebody else~, which
are in good usage, are treated as substantive phrases and have the
possessive inflection upon _else_; as, _somebody else’s_ umbrella;
but some people prefer to treat them as elliptical expressions; as,
the umbrella is _somebody’s_ else (_i. e._, other than the person
previously mentioned).”

~embryo~: The plural of this word is formed by the adding of “s” not
“es” as in _potatoes_.

~emerge~, ~immerge~: Discriminate carefully between these terms.
To _emerge_ is to come out of; issue or proceed from something; to
reappear as in a new state; as, “the butterfly _emerges_ from the
chrysalis.” To _immerge_ is to plunge into anything, especially a
fluid; or to disappear; as, “some heavenly bodies _immerge_ in the
light of the sun.”

~emigrant~, ~immigrant~: These words are to be carefully distinguished
with regard, not to the person but to the country from which or to
which a person comes. The _e_ = _ex_, out of; the _im_ = _in_, into.
The _emigrant_ from Ireland is an _immigrant_ when he lands in New York.

~eminent~, ~imminent~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
_Eminent_ means distinguished, prominent, conspicuous. _Imminent_ means
impending; threatening.

~endorse~, ~indorse~: From the Latin _in_, on, and _dorsum_, back,
means to write or place upon the back of. It is therefore pleonastic to
say, as is frequently done, “_indorse_ on the back of.”

The spelling _indorse_ which follows the medieval Latin is that
preferred in law and commerce; _endorse_, a spelling which follows
middle English analogy, is the preferred form according to literary

~enjoy~: A word often misused. Do not say “I enjoy bad health” nor “I
enjoy good health,” when you suffer from illness or are in a perfect
state of health. One enjoys health (here good is superfluous), but how
can one _enjoy_ bad health?

~enthuse~, said to be of journalistic origin, is characterized as slang
by the STANDARD DICTIONARY, meaning “manifest enthusiasm or delight.”

~enthusiast~, ~fanatic~: Discriminate carefully between these words. An
_enthusiast_ is one who is ardently zealous in any pursuit; a _fanatic_
is one whose mind is imbued with excessive or extravagant notions on
religious subjects.

~epithet~: Often misused from the mistaken idea that an epithet must
necessarily be opprobrious in character or imply opprobrium. An epithet
is an adjective or a phrase or word used adjectively to describe
some quality or attribute of its object, as in “a _benevolent_ man,”
“_Father_ Æneas,” “benevolent” and “father” are epithets.

~equally as well~: An erroneous phrase rendered correctly _equally
well_. The introduced conjunction has no grammatical place in the
sentence, the meaning of which is clear without it.

~equanimity of mind~. A pleonasm since equanimity means “evenness of

~error, don’t you make no~: An ungrammatical and therefore incorrect
phrase sometimes used to assert a fact; say, rather, “make no error.”

~eruption~, ~irruption~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
An _eruption_ is a bursting forth as from inclosure or confinement. An
_irruption_ is a sudden incursion; an invasion.

~eternal~, ~everlasting~: Distinguish carefully between these words.
That which is _eternal_ is without beginning or end; that which is
_everlasting_ is without end only.

~euphemism~. Compare EUPHUISM.

~euphuism~ is often improperly used for _euphemism_. Added to the Greek
_eu_, well, is _phyē_, nature, in the former, and _phēmi_, speak, in
the latter. The former is general and denotes a style, an affectation
of speech or writing, whereas _euphemism_ is particular and denotes a
figure of speech.

~evacuate~ should be distinguished from ~vacate~. _Evacuate_ does not
mean to go away but to make empty; and when the word is used in regard
to military movements, evacuation is a mere consequence, result, or
at most, concomitant of the going away of the garrison. (R. G. WHITE,
_Words and Their Uses_, ch. 5, p. 109.) To _vacate_ is to surrender
possession by removal.

~event~: Care should be exercised in the use of this word. It
means strictly a happening; that which happens or comes to pass as
distinguished from a thing that exists. In interlocutory proceedings
a defendant was granted costs (which happened to be considerable)
_in any event_. The plaintiff was shrewd enough to drop all further
proceedings, and consequently there was no _event_ so the heavy costs
which he would have had to pay fell upon his opponent.

~eventuate~: Although some writers condemn the use of this word as a
synonym for “happen” the use is recorded by modern dictionaries and
may be considered good English. Originally and in a restricted sense
_eventuate_ meant “to culminate in some result”; now, it means also “to
be the issue of.”

~even up~: A slang expression much used in the South and West to
signify “get even with; exact compensation from”: an undesirable phrase.

~ever~: Where _ever_ is intended to be used as an adverb of degree
and not an adverb of time, it is improper to substitute _never_ (not
ever) for the word. If the substitution be made, it must be with the
understanding that the thought of the sentence is changed from degree
to time. “If he run _ever_ so well, he can not win” is not correctly
expressed by “If he run _never_ so well,” etc., unless the thought
intended to be conveyed is “If he run, and run so well, as _never_ in
his life before, he can not win.” The tendency has been to use both
_ever so_ and _never so_ loosely and vaguely.

~ever so~: The phrases _ever so great_, _little_, _much_, _many_,
etc., meaning “very” or “exceedingly great,” etc., may be carefully
discriminated from _never so great_, _little_, etc., meaning
“inconceivably great, little,” etc. Compare NEVER SO.

~every~: A collective pronominal singular that is sometimes incorrectly
used with a verb in the plural. Do not say “Every passenger of the
two hundred aboard _were_ detained at the dock.” Say, rather, “Every
passenger ... _was_ detained.”

~every confidence~: The phrase is objected to by some critics on the
ground that “_every_ is distributive, referring to a number of things
that may be considered separately, while confidence is used as a
mass-noun.” The adjective, therefore, as signifying _all_ or _entire_,
is not permitted, though the phrase is accepted by many as being
elliptical, the words “sort of” being understood after _every_; but
_implicit confidence_ is a preferable phrase.

~every which way~: A pleonastic colloquialism for “every way”; “in all
directions”; either of which phrases may be used in preference.

~evidence~, ~testimony~: These words are often used as if they were
interchangeable. Greenleaf says “_Testimony_, from the Latin, _testis_,
a witness, is, however, only a species of evidence through the medium
of witnesses. The word _evidence_, in legal acceptation, includes all
the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is
submitted to investigation, is established or disproved.” (_Evidence_,
vol. i. ch. 1, p. 3.) Again “_Evidence_ rests upon our faith in human
_testimony_, as sanctioned by experience” (vol. i. ch. 10, p. 70). We
may have the _testimony_ of a traveler that a fugitive passed his way;
but his footprints in the sand are _evidence_ of the fact.

~evident~. Compare APPARENT.

~exasperate~. Compare AGGRAVATE.

~executer~, ~executor~: Discriminate carefully between these words. An
_executer_ is one who performs some act; a doer. An _executor_ is one
who in law administers an estate.

~exceed~, ~excel~: Formerly _exceed_ (from the Latin _ex_, forth,
+ _cedo_, go, = to go beyond the mark) had for one of its meanings
_excel_ (from the Latin _ex_, out, + _celsus_, raised, = to go
beyond in something good or praiseworthy; outdo). Now these words
must be distinguished. This is to be particularly noted in the
derivatives _excessive_ and _excellent_--the former signifying an
excess in that which ought not to be exceeded, the latter in that
where it is praiseworthy to exceed. It is, therefore, not correct to
speak of weather as being _excessively_ cold; say rather, _very_ or
_exceedingly_ cold.

~except~, ~unless~: These words are not synonymous. Avoid such
locutions as “You will not enjoy it _except_ you earn it.” Say rather,
“You will not enjoy it _unless_ you earn it.”

~exceptionable~ is to be distinguished from ~exceptional~.
_Exceptionable_ conduct is that which is out of the common and forms
the exception to the rule.

~excise~, ~customs~, ~tolls~: Distinguish from each other. Mill in his
“Political Economy” says:

“Taxes on commodities are either on production within the country, or
on importation into it, or on conveyance or sale within it, and are
classed respectively as _excise_, _customs_, or _tolls_ and transit
duties.” (bk. v. ch. 3, p. 562.)

Thus, _excise_ is a charge on commodities of domestic production;
_customs_ is a charge or duty assessed by law levied on goods imported
or exported; _tolls_ are charges for special privileges as, passing
over a bridge or a turnpike.

~excite~, ~incite~: Exercise care in the use of these words. _Excite_
means to produce agitation or great stir of feeling in; _incite_ is to
rouse to a particular action.

~exemplary~ should not be used for “excellent.” That which is
_exemplary_ serves as a model or an example worthy of imitation: that
which is _excellent_ possesses distinctive merit or excels that which
is good or praiseworthy.

~exodus~: Sometimes misused for ~exit~ or ~departure~. Do not say “I
made a hasty _exodus_”; say, rather, “My _exit_ (or _departure_) was

~expect~ is commonly misused for _think_, _believe_, _suppose_; also
for _suspect_. _Expect_ refers to the future, not to the past or
present, usually with the implication of interest or desire. Yet “I
_expect_ it is,” or even “I _expect_ it _was_,” is very common.

~expect likely~, ~expect probably~. The STANDARD DICTIONARY says of
these careless locutions, it is not the expectancy, but the future
event, that is _likely_ or _probable_. One may say “I think it is
_likely_,” “I think it [the act, event, or the like] _probable_,” or
“It seems _likely_” or “_probable_.” When another person’s expectancy
is matter of conjecture, one may say “You _probably expect_ to live
many years”; _i. e._, “_I think it probable_ that _you expect_,” etc.;
but “Probably you expect,” etc., would be better.


~face the music~: Slang for to confront with boldness anything of an
unpleasant character or any task especially difficult: a metonymic but
inelegant phrase.

~fade away~: In modern parlance a slang phrase first introduced by
Thackeray (_Vanity Fair_, ch. 60, p. 540), and meaning “disappear or
vanish mysteriously.” The phrase is in good usage, however, in the
sense of “to pass away gradually; vanish; die out;” as, “religious
animosity would of itself _fade away_” (MACAULAY, _Hist. of England_,
vol. 2, p. 134).

~faint~, ~feint~, and ~feign~ all come from the French, _feindre_,
which is derived from the Latin, _fingo_, shape. The first two,
similarly pronounced, have very different significations. _Faint_ means
a sudden loss of consciousness or swoon; _feint_ signifies a deceptive
move or pretense. To _feign_ is to make a false show of; pretend.

~fake~: Slang term for imposition; fraud; also, fictitious or
manufactured news. Expressive but inelegant.

~fakement~: Slang for an act of fraud. Less desirable than preceding
and equally inelegant.

~fanatic~. Compare ENTHUSIAST.

~farewell~: When separated by a pronoun _farewell_ is written as
two words; as, _fare you well_. Exception has been taken to Byron’s
pathetic lines

  _Fare thee well_, and if for ever,
  Then for ever, _fare thee well_;

but this is hypercriticism for here the pronoun is nothing but the
Anglo-Saxon dative.

~farther~, ~further~: _Farther_ should be used to designate
longitudinal distance; _further_ to signify quantity or degree. Thus,
“How much _farther_ have we to go?” “Proceed no _further_ along that

~fault~: The different meanings of this word should be clearly
distinguished. A man perplexed or one who has made a mistake is _at
fault_; if he has done anything for which he may be blamed he is _in
fault_. A hound is _at fault_ when he has lost the scent.

~faun~, ~fawn~: Homophones each with a distinct meaning. _Faun_ is from
the Latin _Faunus_, god of agriculture and of shepherds, and signifies
a god of the woods; _fawn_, from the Anglo Saxon _faegen_, fain,
signifies to seek favor by cringing and subserviency.

~favor~ in the sense of “resemble” is a colloquialism, the use of which
is not recommended.

~faze~, ~feeze~: Slang terms for “disconcert” or “confuse,” either of
which is to be preferred.

~feel to~: A colloquial expression meaning “to have an impulse;” as “I
_feel to_ agree with you,” which can not be too severely condemned.

~feel bad~, ~feel badly~: Discriminate carefully between these terms.
If you mean to express the idea that you are ailing in health, _feel
bad_ is correct. _Feel bad_ is synonymous with _feel ill_ and is
correct. One might as well say _feel illy_ as _feel badly_ if the
latter were correct as applied to health. However, _feel badly_ is
correct when the intention is to say that one’s power of touch is
defective as through a mishap to the fingers.

~feel good~, ~feel well~: Distinguish carefully between these phrases.
_Good_ signifies having physical qualities that are useful, or that
can be made productive of comfort, satisfaction, or enjoyment, as, a
_good_ view, _good_ flour; _well_ signifies having physical health,
free from ailment; as, “two are sick, the rest are _well_.” Compare

~felicitate~, ~congratulate~: The distinction in the meanings of these
words should be carefully noted. To _felicitate_ is to pronounce one
happy and in the strict sense, applies to self alone; _congratulate_ is
to wish joy to another. In recent years _congratulate_ has been applied
to one’s self, and _felicitate_ to another; thus the application of the
meanings of these words have been reversed by careless usage.

Trench says, “When I _congratulate_ a person (_congratulor_) I declare
that I am sharer in his joy, that what has rejoiced him has rejoiced me
also.” _Gratulation_, does not signify participation, and therefore, is
a mere _felicitation_ (or admission of existing happiness or cause for
happiness) addressed to another.

~female~: An opprobrious or contemptuous epithet for woman. _Female_
should be restricted to its correct use. Do not say “With that modesty
so characteristic of a _female_”; say rather, “... so characteristic of
a woman.” Compare LADY.

~fermentation~, ~fomentation~: Exercise care in the use of these words.
_Fermentation_ is a chemical decomposition of an organic compound;
_fomentation_, is the act of treating with warm water.

~fetch~. Compare BRING.

~few~: Sometimes used incorrectly for “in some measure”; “to an
extent”; “somewhat”; “rather”; as, “Did you enjoy yourself?” “Just
a _few_.” _Few_ is correctly applied to quantity and incorrectly to
quality; therefore, its use as in the illustration given here is not
good English.

~few~ and ~a few~ must not be confounded. “_Few_ men would act thus”
means that scarcely any would; but “_A few_ men will always speak the
truth” means that there are some, though not many, whose custom this is.

~few~, ~little~: The first of these words is sometimes improperly used
for the second. Measurement by count is expressed by _few_, measurement
by quantity by _little_; as, “the loss of a _few_ soldiers will make
but _little_ difference to the result.” “The _fewer_ his acquaintances,
the _fewer_ (not the _less_) his enemies.” _Few_, _fewer_, _fewest_,
are correctly used in describing articles the aggregate of which is
expressed in numbers; _little_, _less_, and _least_ are used of objects
that are spoken of in bulk.

~figure~: E. S. Gould and other critics object to the use of the word
in the sense of an amount stated in numbers, as “Goods at a high
_figure_.” But Dean Alford is content to give his sanction to its use,
and the literary and general public have followed him.

~final~: Sometimes misused in such a sentence as “the _final_
completion of the work.” This is inadmissible, for completion
necessarily implies finality.

~financial~, ~monetary~, ~pecuniary~: Discriminate carefully between
these words. _Financial_ is applied correctly to public funds or to
the revenue of a government. _Monetary_ and _pecuniary_ apply only to
transactions between individuals.

~finish~. Compare COMPLETE.

~fire~: As this verb possesses the sense of impel, explode, discharge,
as by using fire; as, “_fire_ a mine or gun,” it has been humorously
applied to discharge from employment, as “_fire_ a clerk.” But the
usage is slang, and as such is avoided by careful speakers.

~first~: Say the “_first_ two” rather than the “two _first_,” for
unless they be bracketed equal there can not be two _firsts_. For a
similar reason the expression seen in cars, “Smoking on the _four rear_
seats,” is equally incorrect. There can not be four _rear_ (or _last_)
seats; but there can be “the _last four_ seats.” As meaning the four
seats collectively which are situated at the rear, the phrase has its
only justification.

~first~ and ~firstly~: _First_ being an adverbial form is the correct
form to use. _Firstly_ has been used by Dickens, De Quincey, and others
but in modern usage _first_ is the preferred form.

~first-rate~ is an adjectival not an adverbial expression. One may
say correctly, “He is a _first-rate_ walker,” but not that “he walks

~fish~: When speaking of fish collectively this word represents the
plural; speaking of fish severally the plural is formed by the addition
of _es_.

~fix~: The colloquial use of this noun for a position involving
embarrassment or a dilemma or predicament has not the sanction of
literary usage. Do not say “I am in a bad _fix_” say, rather, “...
in a bad _condition_.” As a verb, it is better unused in the sense
of _set_ or _arrange_. As meaning “put into thorough adjustment
or repair,” with the word _up_ added, it is sanctioned by popular
usage; but the expression is thought inelegant and indefinite. Some
more discriminating term is to be preferred. _Fix_, in the sense
of “disable, injure, or kill,” and “fix up” in the sense of “dress
elegantly,” are vulgarisms.

~flap-doodle~: An inelegant term for “pretentious silly talk
characterized by an affectation of superior knowledge.” _Twaddle_ is a
preferable synonym. Compare FLUB-DUB.

~flash~ for ostentatious display, as of money, is inelegant. _Display_
is a preferable word.

~flew~ is often misused for _fled_. Do not say “He _flew_ the city”
when you mean that he _fled_ from it.

~flies on~: “There are no _flies on_ him,” is a slang phrase not used
by persons accustomed to refined diction.

~flock~: A word sometimes misapplied. Do not say “a _flock_ of girls;”
say, rather, “a _bevy_ of girls” and “a _flock_ of sheep.” _Flock_ is
correctly applied to a company or collection of small animals as sheep,
goats, rabbits, or birds.

~flop~ is an inelegant word used sometimes to denote change of attitude
on a subject. Do not say “He _flopped_ over to the other side”; say,
rather, “He went over....”

~flub-dub~: A slang term used to designate a literary work that is

~flummux~: A vulgarism sometimes used for “perplex” or “disconcert.”

~fly off the handle~: A colloquial phrase meaning to “lose one’s self
control” as from anger.

~folks~: The modern colloquial plural use of this term is not to be
recommended. The word is properly used, both in singular and plural
form, as _folk_, its correct signification being “people, collectively
or distributively.”

~foment~, ~ferment~: Exercise care in the use of these words. _Foment_
is to bathe with warm or medicated lotions; _ferment_, to cause
chemical decomposition in. Both words are also used figuratively.

~fondling~, ~foundling~: Discriminate carefully between these words. A
_fondling_ is a person fondled or caressed; a _foundling_ is a deserted
infant whose parents are unknown.

~fooling~: The use of the word in the sense of “deceiving” has been
condemned by certain writers as a “very vulgar vulgarism,” but is
permissible, having the sanction not only of good literary authority
but of modern dictionaries. See Tennyson’s “Gareth and Lynette” (st.
127): “Worse than being fool’d of others is to fool one’s self.”

~for~ and ~to~: These words are often added at the end of a sentence by
careless speakers but are redundant. Do not say “Less than you think
_for_”; nor “Where are you going _to_?”

~forget it~: When used as the equivalent of “don’t talk about it,” is
a vulgarism that can not be too severely condemned.

~fork over~: Slang for “hand over,” a preferable phrase.

~former~: This word can refer to only one of two persons or things
previously mentioned, never to any one of three or more. Avoid such
construction as the following: “Mr. Henley says that had Rosetti and
Byron been contemporaries, some of the _former’s_ (meaning Rosetti)
verses would have caused the latter (meaning Byron) to blush.” Here,
_former_ refers to Mr. Henley, but the context shows clearly the
intention of the writer to refer to Rosetti.

~forsake~. Compare ABANDON.

~fort~, ~forte~: These two words similarly pronounced must be
distinguished. In each case the derivation is the same (the Latin
_fortis_ strong), and although there is an alternative spelling of
_fort_ for “forte” it is not the favored form. A _fort_ signifies
a fortification held by a garrison; _forte_ is that in which an
individual chiefly excels.

~fracas~: A _fracas_ is a brawl or an uproar, not a part of the human
anatomy. Therefore, avoid such expressions as “He was stabbed in the
fracas.” Say, rather, “During the fracas he was stabbed.”

~fraud~: Just as _cheat_ has been made to do duty both for the act and
the person committing the act, so in colloquial usage has _fraud_ been
made to represent not only the act but also its perpetrator. It has
even been extended to “a deceptive or spurious thing.” These usages of
_fraud_ are, however, not to be recommended.

~freeze~: This word has nothing in common with _frieze_ save the
pronunciation. The former is an Anglo-Saxon term, whereas the latter
comes from the French _frise_, for _fraise_, a ruff. To _freeze_ is to
convert into ice, congeal; to _frieze_ is to provide with a _frieze_,
which is, in architecture, the middle division of an entablature.

~freeze out~: A vulgar phrase for to “treat with coldness, as of manner
or conduct.”

~freeze to~: An inelegant colloquialism for “cling to,” sometimes found
in literature as in Kipling’s “Mine Own People,” p. 209.

~frequently~. Compare COMMONLY.

~fresh~ in the sense of “full of ignorant conceit and presumption” is
slang and as such is avoided by persons careful with their diction.

~friend~: Carefully distinguish between _friend_ and _acquaintance_.
The former is an acquaintance who has been admitted to terms of
intimacy, and who is regarded with a certain amount of affectionate
regard. A person to whom one has received a bare introduction is an
acquaintance--nothing more.

~frieze~. Compare FREEZE.

~from~: A preposition often incorrectly used for “of.” _From_ should
not be used elliptically. Do not say “He died _from_ pneumonia” when
you mean “_from the effects of_ pneumonia.” Here _effect_ suggests the
cause from which the result proceeded. “He died _of_ pneumonia” is

~froze~: A term sometimes misused for frozen. _Froze_ is the imperfect
of the verb _freeze_, while _frozen_ is a participial adjective. It is
incorrect to say, “My hands are _froze_,” here _frozen_ should be used.

~-ful~. The plural of compounds ending in _-ful_, as _spoonful_ is
formed in the same manner as the plural of other nouns of regular
formation--by the simple addition of a final “s,” as, _spoonfuls_. So
when a physician prescribes medicine to be taken by the spoonful more
than once a day, these are correctly spoken of as _spoonfuls_. But
supposing more than one medicine is to be taken and that the medicines
do not assimilate thus requiring _more than one spoon_ to administer
them; then it would be correct to refer to the different doses as
_spoons full_, since the words denote more than one spoon full.
_Spoonfuls_ denote one spoon filled more than once.

~fulfil~: Remember that in this word the “l” is not doubled but that it
is in _fulfilling_.

~full~, ~fuller~: Terms sometimes incorrectly used. A “_full_ cup,” is
a cup completely filled, therefore it would seem illogical to say “my
cup is _fuller_ than yours.” As a rule all words that in themselves
express the idea of completion or perfection should be used only in the
positive degree. A perfection greater than itself is inconceivable, yet
in literature, and with speakers who are accustomed to a careful choice
of words, this form of expression has been permitted for comparison in
the absence of an absolute standard of measurement.

~full~: A coarse substitute for “intoxicated.”

~funeral~: A term sometimes misused for “affair,” or “business,” as in
the phrase “Not my _funeral_” meaning “No business of mine.” The use is
not to be commended.

~funny~: As a colloquialism signifying “queer” this adjective should be
used with care. It is better retained for signification of that which
is mirth-provoking or ludicrous. _Funny_ is sometimes used incorrectly
to imply silly impropriety, as in the phrase, “Don’t get _funny_.” Such
usage should be avoided.

~further~. Compare FARTHER.

~future, the~: Used sometimes to signify the present; as, “I _shall
be_ happy to accept”--this is not what is meant. The meaning is “I
_am_ happy to accept, for I _shall be_ happy to come,” or “(Because)
I shall be happy to (come I am happy to) accept”; and the elliptical
result is that there is elision of the words in parentheses. In a
recent lawsuit the plaintiff lost $10,000 because a so-called guarantee
was given in these terms: “I _will_ guarantee” instead of “I (hereby
_do_) guarantee.” The guarantee provided had never been asked for,
given, or obtained. The credulous victim had accepted a promise,
without condition, for a performance; and he lost. Time has improved
his knowledge of the force of the English tongue.


~galaxy~: Exercise care in the use of this word. It signifies any
brilliant circle or group; as, a _galaxy_ of beauties or of gems, and
is never correctly used of any person or thing of inferior quality.

~gall~: Correctly used is “an intensely bitter feeling.” When used as
a synonym for “cool assurance” or “impudence” it is slang which should
be avoided.

~gang~ is correctly applied to a squad of laborers, and others detailed
to certain given tasks. But sometimes applied also, usually in an
uncomplimentary way, to a company of persons who meet habitually for
social intercourse; as, “He sent a letter to the _gang_ at Seelig’s.”

~gazebo~: A term often misused for “chief person.” A _gazebo_ is a
belvedere or elevated summer-house and as such is often the highest
point of a building: applied to a person the term is slang.

~gee whiz~: A slang exclamation of astonishment that it is best to

~geezer~: A vulgar term applied, usually in derision to elderly
persons, particularly women. Formerly it was used to designate a mummer
or other grotesque character.

~generally~. Compare COMMONLY.

~genius~, ~genus~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _Genius_
implies the possession of remarkable natural gifts through which their
possessor may attain ends or obtain results by intuitive power. _Genus_
is a class or kind. In the natural sciences it is the subordinate of an
order, tribe, or family.

~gent~: As an abbreviation for _gentleman_ this word is not permitted
in refined speech; and _gentleman_ is never correctly used for _man_
as a mere indication of sex. Compare LADY.

~genteel~ is sometimes improperly applied to persons who are preferably
spoken of as polite or well-bred. If used with regard to persons, it
should only be in connection with some specific characteristic, as “a
person of _genteel_ speech or appearance,” or to indicate suitability
to the condition of a well-bred person, as in the expression “a
_genteel_ fortune.”

~genuine~. Compare AUTHENTIC.

~get a gait~ or ~move on~: Slang phrases for “hasten one’s steps or
actions,” which, while it may not be so expressive, is more elegant and

~get over~: Sometimes used for _deny_ or _refute_. One doesn’t get over
a charge but _refutes_ it.

~git~: Vulgarism used in the imperative for _get out_.

~go~. See WENT.

~go back on~: A colloquialism for abandon, deceive, play false.
Inelegant and not used by persons accustomed to nice discriminations of

~going~ is sometimes used as a synonym for _just about_. One frequently
hears, “I am just going to sing,” from a person who is _about to_ do
so. The verb _go_, in the transitive, is sometimes used loosely in
the colloquial sense of “endure” or “wager.” Polite speech does not
sanction such locutions as “I can not _go_ that music;” “I will _go_
you a dollar on the race.”

~gone~: The phrase “He’s been _gone_ this month,” though frequently
used, is better rendered thus: “It’s a month since he went.” The verb
“to go” does not lend itself agreeably to this treatment which is
common with other verbs (as “He has been known and loved for years”),
and the expression “this month,” for “this past month,” is somewhat too
elliptical to be received with favor.

~gone case~: A vulgarism sometimes used to denote that the affection
bestowed by one person on another of the opposite sex shows him to be
serious in his intentions. It is also a vulgarism when applied to one
who is in a hopeless condition, as from illness.

~good~ should never be used for _well_. Do not say, “I feel pretty
_good_” or “she plays that pretty _good_” when you mean that you “feel
pretty _well_” or that “she plays fairly _well_.”

~go past~: “Go” usually implies motion forward, therefore, it is
pleonastic to say “go past.” Say, rather, that you “go _by_” and not
_past_. Nevertheless a march _past_ is a recognized expression.

~got~: This word is used correctly for acquired or obtained, but is
incorrectly used to denote simple possession and correctly implies
_effort to secure_ something. Sometimes it is used redundantly; as, “He
has _got_ it”; the simpler form, “He has it” is preferable. “We have
_got_ to do it,” while emphatic, is less so than “we _must_ do it.”

~go the whole hog~: An inelegant phrase used for “to go to the utmost
limit.” Carlyle traces the origin of this phrase from the Irish because
in Ireland _hog_ was a synonym for a ten penny piece, a coin once
current in that country.

~graduate~: The use of this verb in the intransitive has been condemned
by purists but is now well established. Thus, one may correctly say
“He _was graduated_ from a university” or, “_He graduated_ from a

~grammar~: The phrases ~good grammar~ and ~bad grammar~ have been
condemned as false syntax by some persons unfamiliar with the meanings
of the word “grammar.” One meaning recorded by the STANDARD DICTIONARY
is “speech or writing considered with regard to its correctness;
propriety of linguistic usage; as, he uses _good_ or _bad grammar_.”

The _New York Herald_ (March 4, 1906) says: “_Good grammar_ is one of
those cheap vulgarisms which most offend the scholarly ear. A phrase
is either grammatical or ungrammatical. It can not be characterized as
either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ grammar.”

The writer of the foregoing based his criticism on a misunderstanding.
The word “grammar” is not like the word “orthography,” a word made up
of _orthos_, correct, and _grapho_, to write. Grammar does not carry
with it the implication of correctness, and modern grammarians bear
this out. Prof. Edward Maetzner in his “English Grammar: Methodical,
Analytical and Historical,” so defines the term:

  “_Grammar_, or the _doctrine of language_, treats of the laws of
  speech, and, in the first place, of the _Word_, as its fundamental
  constituent, with respect to its _matter_ and its _form_, in
  _prosody_, or the doctrine of sounds, and _morphology_, or the
  doctrine of forms, and then of the _combination_ of words in speech,
  in _syntax_, or the doctrine of the joining of words and sentences”
  (vol. i. p. 12).

Syntax, which is a part of grammar, is sometimes confused with grammar
itself. It is that part of grammar which treats of the sentence and of
its construction, and embraces, among other features, the doctrine of
the collocation of words in sentences in connected speech, treating of
their arrangement and relative positions, as required by grammatical
connection, euphony, and clearness and energy of expression.

The “New English Dictionary,” edited at Oxford University by Dr. J. A.
H. Murray, treating this subject says:

  “The old-fashioned definition of grammar as ‘The art of speaking
  and writing a language correctly’ is from the modern point of view
  in one respect too narrow, because it applied only to a portion of
  this branch of study; in another respect it is too wide, and was
  so even from the older point of view, _because many questions of
  ‘correctness’ in language are recognized as outside the province
  of grammar_: _e. g._, the use of a word in a wrong sense, or a bad
  pronunciation or spelling, would not have been called a grammatical
  mistake. Until a not very distant date, grammar was divided by
  English writers into Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody, to
  which Orthoepy was added by some others. The division now usual is
  that into Phonology, treating of the sounds now used in the language,
  Accidence, of the inflexional forms or equivalent combinations, and
  Syntax, of the structure of sentences.”

In defining grammar, Lindley Murray wrote “English grammar is the art
of speaking and writing the English language with propriety.” Following
the style of the STANDARD DICTIONARY, Dr. Murray gives one of the
meanings of grammar as follows; “Speech or writing judged as good or
bad according as it conforms to or violates grammatical rules; also
speech or writing that is correct according to those rules.”

If grammar can not be good or bad, as contended by the _New York
Herald’s_ editor, then it can not be true or false. Yet Dryden wrote,
“And I doubt the word ‘they’ is _false grammar_” (Almanzor, II. Def.
Epilogue); and Macaulay writing of Frederick the Great, said: “He had
German enough to scold his servants, but his _grammar and pronunciation
are extremely bad_” (Essays; Frederick the Great). Again, elsewhere,
“The letter may still be read, with all the original _bad grammar_ and
bad spelling” (History of England, IV., xviii., 245). Both phrases are
permissible. Compare BAD.

~grammatical error~: A common locution, but “an error in grammar,” is
to be preferred as avoiding what is sometimes considered a violation
of grammatical precision.

~grant~. Compare ACCORD.

~grass, go to~: A vulgar imperative meaning “get away” or “clear out!”

~grass widow~: A common term of disparagement applied to a woman
abandoned by or separated from her husband: a term which is not used by
persons of refinement and one that, if used at all, should be applied
only with great care.

~grass widower~: A term used to denote a husband who lives apart from
his wife or one from whom the wife is temporarily absent.

~gratitude~, ~thankfulness~: Gratitude, from the Latin _gratitudo_,
from _gratus_, kind, is a sense of appreciation of favors received,
as indicated by actions. It is the actual feeling, of which
_thankfulness_, or the fulness of thanks, is the mere outward
expression. It is therefore quite possible, and indeed often the case,
for a person who at one time is _full of thanks_ to show subsequently
a want of gratitude.

~great~. Compare BIG.

~groom~ should not be used for “bridegroom.”

~grouchy~: A slang term for sulky or disgruntled.

~grow~ sometimes used for _become_ is gaining the sanction of usage;
as, “to _grow_ smaller.” In this sense _grow_ has been used by such
masters of English as Steele, Gray, Johnson, and Macaulay.

~guess~, ~suppose~, ~think~, ~conjecture~: Words sometimes used
incorrectly. We _guess_ when we are content to hazard an opinion based
on data which are admittedly insufficient, but we _suppose_ when we
have good ground for assuming a thing to be true. When we _think_, we
give thought to a matter on which we yet admit the thought has been
insufficient to furnish us with exact or certain knowledge. _Thinking_
is allied to _conjecturing_, in which, though holding a pronounced
opinion, this falls short of absolute _conviction_. We _guess_ the
outcome of an event, but _suppose_ that an event which has happened may
result in good. We _think_ that a certain medicine may effect a cure,
but if we have tried it successfully before for a similar complaint,
_conjecture_ that it will, although not being absolutely sure that the
conditions are precisely the same we are not _convinced_ and do not

~gums~. Compare RUBBERS.


~habit~, ~custom~, ~usage~: Discriminate carefully between these
words. In strict usage _habit_ pertains exclusively to the individual;
_custom_ to a race or nation of people, as, the _customs_ of the Jews.
_Usage_ refers particularly to habitual practise or something permitted
by it or done in accordance with it.

~had better~, ~would better~: Although according to grammatical rule
_had better_ is incorrect, it has been used by writers of correct
English and it may be found repeatedly in the English Classics.
Therefore, it is generally considered good usage and preferable to
_would better_ which, though correct, is seldom heard and usually
considered pedantic.

~had~, ~have~: In such a phrase as “_Had I have_ heard of it,” the verb
_have_ is redundant, for _had_ here is used elliptically for _if I
had_, and carries the contingency to the past. Care should be taken to
avoid such locutions as the example given which is one of a class that
stamps those who make use of them as grossly ignorant.

~had ought~: The use of any part of the verb _have_ with _ought_ is a
vulgarism. Not “I _had ought_ to have written,” but simply “I _ought_
to have written”; not “He _hadn’t ought_ to have done it,” but “He
_ought not_ to have done it.”

~had rather~, ~had better~: Forms disputed by certain critics, from the
days of Samuel Johnson, the critics insisting upon the substitution
of _would_ or _should_, as the case may demand, for _had_; but _had
rather_ and _had better_ are thoroughly established English idioms
having the almost universal popular and literary sanction of centuries.
“I _would rather_ not go” is undoubtedly correct when the purpose
is to emphasize the element of choice or will in the matter; but in
all ordinary cases “I _had rather_ not go” has the merit of being
idiomatic and easily and universally understood.

  I _had rather_ be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell
  in the tents of wickedness. _Ps._ lxxxiv. 10.

If for “You _had better_ stay at home,” we substitute “You _should
better_ stay at home,” an entirely different meaning is expressed,
the idea of expediency giving place to that of obligation.--STANDARD

“_Would rather_ may always be substituted for _had rather_. _Might
rather_ would not have the same meaning. _Would_ and _should_ do not go
well with _better_. In one instance _can_ is admissible. ‘I can better
afford,’ because _can_ is especially associated with _afford_. We may
say _might better_, but it has neither the sanction, the idiomatic
force, nor the precise meaning of _had better_.”--SAMUEL RAMSEY, _Eng.
Lang. and Gram._ pt. ii. ch. 6, p. 413.

~hail~, ~hale~: _Hail_ is pronounced as _hale_ (robust; sound) but
should be distinguished therefrom, although for that word there is an
alternative spelling _hail_, which, however, is rarely used. _Hale_
is from Icelandish _heill_, sound; _hail_ is from the Anglo-Saxon,
_haegel_, frozen rain.

~hain’t~: A common vulgarism for _have not_, _haven’t_, and made
worse, if possible, by being used also for _has not_ or _hasn’t_;
as “I _hain’t_,” “He _hain’t_,” etc. “I _haven’t_,” “He _hasn’t_,”
are permissible, “_haven’t_ I?” “_hasn’t_ he?” are acceptable in
conversation. But when the subject precedes in the first person
singular and the plural, it is preferable to abbreviate the verb; as,
“_I’ve not_” “_you’ve not_,” etc.

~half~: Inasmuch as in equivalent terms of the whole there can not be
a single _half_ but must be two _halves_, one should speak of dividing
(the whole) into two or into halves rather than of cutting (it) in

~half-cock, to go off at~: A colloquial phrase denoting “to speak
before one is ready”; not used by persons accustomed to refined diction.

~handful~: This word has for a plural _handfuls_. “Two _handfuls_ of
flour” means a handful taken twice, whereas _hands full_ means both
hands full. This last term is often erroneously written _handsful_.

~handy~: Properly said of articles on which one may lay the hand, or
possibly of persons, as attendants, ready at hand for service. Applied
to neighborhood, “near,” “near by,” “close at hand,” or the like are to
be preferred.

~hang~: This verb has for its perfect tense and past participle two
forms, _hanged_ and _hung_; but in the sense of execution (_sus per
col_), the former term is alone correctly used, whereas in other senses
the latter is applied. Thus, one may say, “A hat is _hung_ on a peg,
but a murderer is _hanged_ on the gallows,” and _not_ that the hat is
hanged _nor_ that the murderer is hung.

~hanger on~: A colloquialism for “a dependent or parasite:” the term is
inelegant and therefore undesirable.

~hangs on~: As a substitute for “remains,” the expression finds no

~happen~. Compare TRANSPIRE.

~happen in, to~: A colloquialism often met in rural districts and used
for “to make a chance social call,” or “to drop in casually” as one
passes by.

~happiness~. Compare PLEASURE.

~hard case~: An American colloquialism for a person of pronounced or
curious type.

~hardly~. Compare SCARCELY.

~hardy~. Compare RUGGED.

~hasten~, ~hurry~: Although both words imply a celerity of action, the
former presupposes consideration and is not opposed to good order,
whereas the latter is indicative of perturbation and a measure of
irregularity. Therefore these terms are not synonymous. Phelps in his
“English Style in Public Discourse,” says “the first does not imply
confusion; the second does.” Lexicographers do not restrict the meaning
of _hurry_ to “to confuse by undue haste or suddenness,” but define
it as “to cause to be done rapidly or more rapidly; accelerate.” You
_hasten_ to congratulate but _hurry_ to catch a train.

~have~: On the use of this word the STANDARD DICTIONARY says;
Used in the past tense following another past tense, a use often
indiscriminately condemned, though sometimes proper and necessary. (1)
_Improper construction._ Where what was “meant,” “intended,” or the
like was, at the time when intended, some act (as of going, writing,
or speaking) _future_ in its purpose and not _past_, and therefore not
to be expressed by a _past tense_; as, “He meant _to have gone_” for
“He meant _to go_”; “I meant _to have written_ to you, but forgot it,”
for “I meant _to write_,” etc.; “I had intended _to have spoken_ to him
about it,” for “I had intended _to speak_,” etc.; “I should like _to
have gone_” for “I should have liked _to go_.” The infinitive with _to_
expresses the relation of an act as so conceived, so that both analogy
and prevalent usage require “meant to go” instead of “meant to have
gone.” Such construction, although occasional instances of it still
occur in works of authors of the highest literary reputation, and still
often heard in conversation, is now generally regarded as ungrammatical.

(2) _Proper construction._ The doubling of the past tenses in
connection with the use of _have_ with a past participle is _proper and
necessary_ when the completion of the future act was intended before
the occurrence of something else mentioned or thought of. Attention
to this qualification, which has been overlooked in the criticism of
tense-formation and connection, is especially important and imperative.
If one says, “I meant _to have visited_ Paris and _to have returned_
to London before my father _arrived_ from America,” the past infinitive
in the dependent clause is necessary for the expression of the
completion of the acts purposed. “I meant _to visit_ Paris and _to
return_ to London before my father _arrived_ from America,” may convey
suggestively the thought intended, but does not express it.

~have seen~, ~seen~, ~saw~: In combining words that denote time always
observe the order and fitness of time. Do not say “I _have seen_ him
last month”; say, rather, “I _saw_ him _last month_.” Nor say, “I
_seen_ him _this week_”--a common error in grammar among the careless;
say, rather, “I _have seen_ him _this week_,” a form that should be
used also, instead of “I _saw_ him _this week_.”

~he~, ~she~, ~her~, ~him~, etc.: Pronouns often used incorrectly;
inexcusable errors in the educated, which are illustrated by such
expressions as “If I were _him_ (or _her_), I would,” etc. It should be
“If I were _he_ (or _she_), I would,” etc.

~healthful~, ~healthy~: Discriminate carefully between these words. A
_healthful_ thing is one efficacious in promoting or causing health;
_healthy_ denotes condition or characteristics; as “a _healthy_ child”;
“a _healthful_ climate.”

~heap~: A word sometimes used to designate a “large number.” A _heap_
is “a collection of things piled up so as to form an elevation”; any
other application of the word is colloquial.

~hearty~: As applied to the appetite is so common at this day that it
seems perhaps hypercritical to object to it; and the dictionaries of
course give the sense, for it is the lexicographer’s duty to record
the language as it exists _not_ as it ought to exist. That is _hearty_
which proceeds from the heart; to extend the sentiment to the appetite,
or to a meal, or to its eater, as is done by common usage, seems taking
a liberty with the word, and applying a fine and expressive term to a
comparatively unworthy object.

~heir~: Pronounce without aspirating the _h_. Distinguish between _heir
apparent_ and _heir presumptive_. The former is “one who must by course
of law become the _heir_ if he survive his ancestor”; the latter, “one
whose present legal expectation of becoming heir may be defeated by
the birth of a person in near degree of relationship.” Thus, a man may
to-day be _heir presumptive_ to his bachelor brother who by marriage
may in a year’s time become the father of a son, who will then become
_heir apparent_; and by this circumstance the claims of the former
_heir presumptive_ are quashed.

The STANDARD DICTIONARY says: “_Heir_ is often colloquially applied
to one who receives or is to receive a property by will. In legal
terminology such a person is a _devisee_ or legatee, not an _heir_.”
As an _heir_ does not exist till death either by will or operation of
law, it is only by impropriety of speech that one talks of the heirs of
the living.

~help~ has the meaning of “assist”; it has also the somewhat opposed
meaning of “prevent, hinder, or refrain from.” This veiled negative
makes the correct application of the word difficult. Take, for example,
the sentence “Make no more noise than you can _help_.” I can not _help_
doing a thing is I can not refrain from doing it: that is, I can not
_not_ do it, which means I must do it. The correct form of the sentence
just given is shown by filling in the ellipsis, whence it appears that
_not_ should also be supplied: “Make no more noise than (such as) you
can (_not_) _help_ (making).” _Help_ includes _aid_, but _aid_ may fall
short of the meaning of _help_.

~hence~, ~thence~, ~whence~: As in meaning these words embrace _from_
it is pleonastic to precede them by the word thus implied. Do not say,
“go from hence,” “from thence he went to Rome,” “from whence did you
come.” _From_ is redundant in all these sentences.

~hen-party~: A vulgar term for a social gathering of ladies. Compare

~herd~: A term sometimes applied indiscriminately to persons as well
as beasts. _Herd_ is correctly used to designate, “a number of animals
feeding or herding together;” when applied to persons the true
designation is “a disorderly rabble,” or “the lower classes,” as the
vulgar _herd_.

~him and me~: It is a vulgar error to use the objective for the
nominative. One should not say, “Him and me are going to Bermuda,”
say, rather, “He and I (or preferably ‘we’) are going to Bermuda.” Do
not say, “Between _you and I_,” but say, “Between _you and me_,” or
“Between _us_.”

~hire~. Compare LEASE.

~holocaust~: A term sometimes misused owing to a lexicographical error
which attributes to the word the meaning of “any great disaster.”
According to this the Johnstown Flood, the Galveston storm, and the
fire in the Paris bazaar all were holocausts, but this is erroneous.
_Holocaust_ is derived from the Greek _holos_, entire, whole, and
_kaustos_, burnt, and its principal meaning is “a sacrificial offering
burnt whole or entirely consumed.” Figuratively, the term may be
applied to destruction by fire, as the burning of the steamer “General
Slocum” in the East River, New York, or the great fire in Baltimore,
but not to loss as by shipwreck or collision unless attended by fire.

~holy~: The word means not only “morally excellent” but also “set
apart for the service of God”; and therefore the criticism that “to
keep _holy_ the Sabbath day” is a meaningless injunction as every
day should be kept _holy_, is without merit. The word is derived from
the Anglo Saxon and means “whole”; and the divine direction as to the
Sabbath is, therefore, simply that the day be observed in its integrity.

~holy mackerel~: An inane expression commonly used to denote surprise
and one to be avoided by all persons with pretentions to refined

~hoodoo~: A colloquialism designating any person regarded as bringing
ill luck, as a “Jonah,” on shipboard, in allusion to the Bible story of
the prophet Jonah.

~horde~: This word means “a gathered multitude of human beings; a
troop, gang, or crew; as the _hordes_ of Cambyses.” It is never
correctly applied to things. Do not speak of a _horde_ of rubbish.

~horse sense~: A colloquial phrase designating “rough common sense”
used by W. D. Howells in “Hazard of New Fortunes,” vol. i. p. 4.

~how?~ should never be used for “What did you say?” Nor in making a
_request_ for the repetition of any statement not heard clearly or not
readily understood. Condemned by Oliver Wendell Holmes in “A Rhymed
Lesson,” st. 43.

          “Do put your accents in the proper spot;
  Don’t--let me beg you--don’t say “How?” for “What?”

~how~ is an adverb, but it is sometimes most inelegantly used as an
interjection and very improperly used as a conjunction, which it is
not. On this subject the STANDARD DICTIONARY says, “_How_, as an
adverb, may be used as an interrogative or a relative in any of its
senses. In old or vulgar usage it is sometimes nearly equivalent to the
conjunction _that_: either (1) alone, as, he told me _how_ he had been
left an orphan; or (2) in the phrases _how that_ and _as how_; as, he
told _how that_ he saw it all; he told me _as how_ I angered him.”

~however~: As an adverb _however_ has proper and elegant use as,
“_However_ wise one may be, there are limits to one’s knowledge.” But
its use for _how_ and _ever_ as, “_However_ could he do it?” should be
avoided as a vulgarism; while its employment in the sense of “at any
rate; at all,” as in the example, “He tried to keep me, but I’m going,
_however_,” is provincial and archaic.

As a conjunction it should not be used indiscriminately, as it often is
used, for _but_ or _notwithstanding_. Not “He was sick; not, _however_,
so seriously as he thought,” but “He was sick, _but_ not so seriously,”
etc.; since the relation is sharply adversitive. “And Moses said, Let
no man leave of it till the morning. _Notwithstanding_ (not _but_) they
harkened not unto Moses”; since the preceding thought is represented
as no impediment to the succeeding one. “I have not seen her since
our quarrel; _however_ (not _but_, or _notwithstanding_), I expect
to be recalled every hour”; since the relation is one of concession
and simple transition, _however_ denoting that “in whatever manner
or degree what precedes is valid, what follows nevertheless stands

~hung~ should never be used for _hanged_. Beef is _hung_; a murderer is
_hanged_. Compare HANG.

~hunk, to get~: A vulgar phrase for “to get even” or “to retaliate

~hunky~ or ~hunky-dory~: Slang terms that should not be used for “all
right”; “safe”; or “done satisfactorily.”

~hurry~. Compare HASTEN.


~I~, ~and me~: “They had come to see _my sister and I_” is a common
error. In this sentence “they” stands in the nominative case, and “my
sister _and I_,” being the objects of the action of the nominative
“they,” should be noun and pronoun in the objective case. To be correct
the clause should read “my sister _and me_.” “They have come to see
_my_ sister _and me_.”

~ice-cream~, ~ice-water~: Common English idioms sometimes condemned as
incorrect. The STANDARD DICTIONARY recording usage recognizes the forms
_ice-cream_ and _ice-water_ as correct. Inasmuch as _iced_ means “made
cold with ice; as _iced milk_ or _iced tea_,” it would seem that by
analogy the correct phrases should be _iced cream_, _iced water_, for
one would not think of asking for _ice tea_ or _ice milk_, but these
idioms are so firmly established that it is doubtful if they will ever
be changed.

~idea~. Compare OPINION.

~ie~, ~ei~: The rule governing the use of these letters in spelling is
commonly expressed “I before E except after C.” Therefore, remember
_believe_ is correct, not “beleive”; _receive_ and not “recieve”;
_brief_, and not “breif”; _reprieve_, not “repreive”; _retrieve_, not

~if~, ~or~: Do not say “seldom _or_ ever,” say, rather, “seldom _if_
ever,” or “seldom _or_ never.”

~if~, ~whether~: Sometimes _if_ is incorrectly used for _whether_. It
is used correctly when supposition or condition is implied; _whether_,
chiefly when an alternative is suggested or presented. “If he sends the
money I shall then decide _whether_ or not I will go.”

~ill~: The STANDARD DICTIONARY says: The use of _ill_ and _sick_
differs in the two great English-speaking countries. _Ill_ is used in
both lands alike, but the preferred sense of _sick_ in England is that
of “sick at the stomach, nauseated,” while in the United States the two
words are freely interchangeable. Still Tennyson and other good writers
freely use _sick_ in the sense of _ill_. The tendency of modern usage
is to remand _ill_ and _well_ (referring to condition of health) to
the predicate. We say “A person who is _ill_,” rather than “An _ill_
person”; “I am _well_,” but not “I am in a _well_ state of health.”
_Ill_ in the abstract sense of _bad_ or _wicked_ is obsolescent, or
rather practically obsolete except in poetic or local use. Compare ILLY.

~illusion~. Compare DELUSION.

~illy~: This word should never be used for _ill_ since ill is both
an adverb and an adjective. Say, “He behaved _ill_”; not “he behaved
_illy_.” Illy is now obsolescent.

~immerge~. Compare EMERGE.

~immigrant~. Compare EMIGRANT.

~imminent~. Compare EMINENT.

~immunity~ and ~impunity~ are sometimes confounded. They are both from
the Latin, the former being produced by _in_, not, + _munus_, service,
and the latter by _in_ + _pœna_, punishment. Freedom from any burden,
or exemption from evil, duty or penalty has perhaps not unnaturally,
been associated with freedom from punishment. A boy may insult his
brother with _impunity_ but can not expect to enjoy a like _immunity_
from strangers.

~impending~. Compare EMINENT.

~imperative~, ~imperious~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
That which is _imperative_ may be either mandatory or authoritative;
while that which is _imperious_ may be domineering or overbearing.

~implicate~. Compare INVOLVE.

~inaugurate~: Phelps declares that this word in the sense of
“introduce” is improper and restricts its meaning to “investiture in
office.” But lexicographers disregard this distinction and declare that
_inaugurate_ may be correctly used to mean also “to set in operation;
to initiate; to originate; as to _inaugurate_ reforms.”

“~Indeed!~” “~Is that so?~” Discriminate carefully between these terms.
“_Indeed_” expresses surprise. “_Is that so?_” like “you don’t say?”
implies disbelief and calls for the reiteration of the statement made.
As these interrogations are used chiefly to discredit or disconcert the
speaker they may be characterized as specimens of “refined” rudeness.

~indentation~, ~indention~: An _indentation_ is a notch in an edge or
border; it is also a dent; and _indention_ is a setting of type in
such manner as to leave a blank space on the left side of a margin of
type-matter as at the beginning of a paragraph.

The printers’ _indention_ is not (as it is often said to be) a
shortened form of _indentation_, but an original word from _dent_
(_dint_), “a denting in, a depression,” and hence is the proper word,
rather than _indentation_, to express the idea.

~indices~: A plural form of _index_, generally and more properly
reserved for use in science and mathematics. In other cases the plural
_indexes_ should be used.

~indict~, ~indite~: Although the pronunciation of these words is
identical their meanings, in modern practise, differ materially. Both
words are from the Latin _in_ + _dico_, say. The first means to prefer
an indictment (or formal written charge of crime) against. The second
means “to put into words in writing” but it does not carry with it, the
legal signification of the preceding.

~induction~. Compare DEDUCTION.

~inferior~: In constant and approved use in such expressions as “an
_inferior_ man,” “goods of an _inferior_ sort”; corresponding to
such expressions as “a _superior_ man,” “materials of _superior_
quality”--all of which may be regarded as elliptical forms of speech.
In reply to Dean Alford’s challenge of this usage (_Queen’s English_ ¶
214, p. 82), it is enough to say that life would be too short to admit
of all such ellipses, being supplied, even if such supply would not
make speech too prolix for common use.

~inform~. Compare POST.

~ingenious~, ~ingenuous~: Words sometimes used erroneously. _Ingenious_
characterizes persons possessed of cleverness or ability; ready,
skilful, prompt, or apt to contrive. _Ingenuous_ means free from guile;
candid; open; frank.

~in~, ~into~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _In_ denotes
position, state, etc.; _into_, tendency, direction, destination, etc.

~inkslinger~: A vulgar term for a journalist, writer, or literary
worker, and as such one to be avoided.

~innumerable~ means “that cannot be numbered.” Therefore, avoid such a
locution as “an _innumerable_ number,” as absurd.

~in our midst~: An undesirable and ambiguous phrase for “among us” due
to the misinterpretation of “in the midst of us,” “in the midst of
them” (_Matt._ xviii, 20) but with some literary authority for its use.

~in so far as~: In this phrase the word _in_ is redundant and
meaningless. Do not say, “_In so far as_ I dared, I spoke the truth.”
Omit the _in_.

~in spite of~: A phrase which some persons declare not synonymous with
_notwithstanding_, yet the STANDARD DICTIONARY authorizes its use and
says, “formerly in contempt of; now, notwithstanding: used somewhat

~intend~, ~mean~: The use of _intend_ for _mean_, as in explanatory
sentences, is not commonly approved although it has the sanction of
literary usage, and is considered correct by lexicographers who in
defining the words treat them as interchangeable. When explaining
anything that has been said it is preferable to say, “By this I
_mean_,” rather than “By this I _intend_.” Do not say “Do you _mean_
to come?” when you wish to know whether or not the person you address
_intends_ to come. Compare CONTEMPLATE.

~in the street~, ~on the street~: Distinctions between these phrases
are invariably wiredrawn. Both forms are permissible; the writer’s
preference, which may be modified according to circumstances, is for
the first. “His home is _in_ Eighty-seventh street” is preferable to
“_on_ Eighty-seventh street.” One should not say “his home is _on_
Bermuda,” but “_in_ Bermuda.” “He lives _at_ Hamilton, _in_ Queen
street.” Compare ON.

~invest~: Properly used only of considerable transactions, and always
with a suggestion of permanent proprietary right. One does not _invest_
(except in a humorous sense) in a postage-stamp.

~invite~: Used in the sense of “invitation” this term, a colloquialism
formerly in wide use, is condemned as illiterate and bordering on

~involve~ is to be distinguished from ~implicate~. The latter has a
suggestion of wrong-doing or crime, whereas the former contains no such

~irritate~. Compare AGGRAVATE.

~irruption~. Compare ERUPTION.

~I seen him~: Vulgar and incorrect; say “_I have seen_ him” or “I _saw_

~Is that so?~ One of a class of vulgar phrases of which other examples
are “You don’t say”; “Don’t you know”; “You know”; “Well I never,”
commonly used but all of which should be avoided as ill-bred and
undesirable locutions.

~is~, ~are~: The correct use of these words depends in a measure on
the intention of the writer or speaker. Therefore, the choice of a
singular or plural verb in cases where either form would be proper is
often influenced by the writer’s way of looking at the subject. “The
purpose and conception of the scheme _is_ to do good.” Now the mistake
with this sentence is that either “purpose and conception” represent a
single idea (in which case they may, in combination, take a singular
verb), or they do not (in which case they require a plural verb),
and that in the former case, where the nouns express a similarity of
sentiment, one of the words is superfluously used. “Jones and Smith
_is_ solvent”: yes, as a firm, though as individuals they _are_ solvent.

~it~: Used sometimes in such manner as to violate the principles of
grammatical and rhetorical construction, as when referring to any one
of several words or clauses preceding, or perhaps to some idea merely
implied or hinted at in what has gone before, as in the following: “A
statute inflicting death may, and ought to be, repealed, if _it_ be in
any degree expedient, without _its_ being highly so.” In this sentence
“if _it_ be” should be replaced by “if _such repeal_ be,” and “_its_”
should be omitted.

In general, personal and relative pronouns with ambiguous reference to
preceding words or clauses in the sentence are stumbling-blocks of
inexperienced or careless writers.

~ivories~: A slang term used to designate the keys of a piano; hence,
the phrase, ~tickle the ivories~, a coarse way of expressing ability to
play the piano.


~jag~: Formerly a provincialism for “a load of hay”; now a euphemism
for “drunk”; but as such a term to be avoided in polite society.

~jar~: Used in the phrase “Doesn’t (or wouldn’t) it jar you” is an
erroneous use of the word _jar_ in vogue among persons addicted to
using the vulgarisms of the street. To jar is “to cause to shake as by
a shock or blow; to jolt”; _not_, to disconcert or discompose.

~jaw~ should not be used as a synonym for “mouth” or “talk.” Such
expressions as “Hold your jaw”; “Shut your jaw,” and “What are you
jawing about?” have no place in the vocabulary of persons of refinement.

~Jew~, ~Hebrew~, ~Israelite~: These terms are sometimes incorrectly
used as synonyms. _Hebrew_ is the ethnological and linguistic name,
_Israelite_ the national name, and _Jew_ the popular name of the
people; as, “The Egyptians oppressed the _Hebrews_”; “David was the
typical king of the _Israelites_”; “The _Jews_ revolted under the
Maccabees.” The three names have their special application to the
people in the premonarchical period (_Hebrew_), in the monarchical
period (_Israelite_), and in the period subsequent to the return from
the Babylonian captivity (_Jew_).

~jewels~, ~jewelry~: Words, sometimes, but mistakenly, used
interchangeably. _Jewels_ forming the stock in trade of a jeweler are
termed collectively _jewelry_; the articles of adornment, as gems and
precious stones, worn by a lady are her _jewels_.

~jiggered, to be~: A form of minced oath sometimes used as an
equivalent for “to be hanged”; as, “I’ll be jiggered if I do”: an
inelegant form of oath common among Englishmen.

~join issue~: Not to be confounded with to ~take issue~. To _take
issue_ means “to deny”; to _join issue_, in strict usage, “to admit the
right of denial,” but not also “to agree in the truth of the denial.”
In the example “In their career father and son meet, _join issue_, and
pursue their nefarious occupation in conjunction,” _join issue_ is
improperly used for “agree” or “come to an agreement.” To _join issue_
is properly “to take opposite sides of a case,” etc.

~jollier~: A slang term used to designate a person who treats another
(from whom he expects a favor, or with whom he desires cordial
relations) pleasantly and good-humoredly, or in an agreeable way so as
to obtain his end. In its English sense a _jollier_ is one given to
chaffing and joking at another’s expense.

~jolly~. Compare NICE.

~jolly, to~: The occupation of a jollier: slang of widespread usage.
Compare JOLLIER.

~josh~: A vulgarism for “chaff,” “hoax,” or “banter,” which are more
refined terms.

~journal~: From the French, properly means _daily_. Therefore to
speak of a “daily _journal_” is absurd. Say, rather, “daily _paper_.”
Likewise avoid “weekly _journal_,” “monthly _journal_,” “quarterly
_journal_” which mean weekly daily, monthly daily, quarterly _daily_,
and are forms of expression in popular use as examples of violent
catachresis. Say, rather, “daily newspaper,” “weekly newspaper,”
“monthly” or “quarterly magazine” or “review,” or simply “monthly” or

~jump at~ or ~to~: To embrace eagerly, as an offer or opportunity. In
this sense never “jump to,” but one may _jump to_ the floor, as from a

~just going to~. Compare GOING.


~kettle of fish, pretty~: A colloquial phrase for “a perplexing state
of affairs,” or “a muddle,” both of which are preferable expressions.

~key~, ~quay~: Exercise care in the use of these words. A _key_ is that
with which something is opened or disclosed; also, a small low-lying
island; a _quay_ is a wharf or landing place where ships discharge
passengers or cargo. These words are pronounced alike. Compare DOCK.

~kibosh~: A slang term for “humbug.” ~To put the kibosh on~, a slang
phrase for “to put an end to or stop anything.”

~kick~ is not used instead of “protest” by careful speakers,
notwithstanding the fact that George Eliot introduced it into
literature (see _Silas Marner_, ch. iv. p. 52). The term is slang.

~kid~: A common vulgarism for “child” and as such one the use of which
can not be too severely condemned.

~kid on~: A vulgarism used in England for “humbug; hoax; or, try to
induce one to believe something that is not true:”--~no kid~, ~no
kidding~: Vulgar terms for “without any humbug.” Undesirable locutions.

~killing~. Compare PERFECTLY.

~kinder~: For _kind of_, pronounced as one word, is merely a low
vulgarism. The same remark holds of ~sorter~ similarly used for “sort
of.” See KIND OF.

~kindness~: When used in the plural is sometimes objected to on the
ground that _kindness_ is an abstract noun. “He wishes to express
gratitude for many _kindnesses_.” Nothing is commoner than the making
of abstract nouns into concrete in this way; “affinities”; “charities”;
“His tender _mercies_ are over all His works.” Besides, by “many
_kindnesses_” is meant, not “much kindness,” nor “great kindness,” but
“kindness manifested in many forms or shown on many occasions, many
acts of kindness.”

~kind of~ is an American provincialism for _somewhat_ and has no
literary authorization. “I am somewhat tired” should be substituted
for “I am _kind of_ tired.” Again, after _kind of_ do not use the
indefinite article. “What _kind of_ man” is preferable to “what _kind
of_ a man.”

~kind of~, ~sort of~: Indefinite phrases used by some lexicographers to
introduce definitions; as “a _kind of_ bird”; “a _sort of_ box.” If the
subject treated be a bird of some species or a box of a specific make
it is best usage to describe first what it is and then to follow with
the characteristics; as, “a bird of the swallow family,” “a cage-like
box,” etc.

~king-pin~ is not a desirable substitute for “chief man” or “person in
charge.” As a colloquialism it should be avoided.

~kinsman~. Compare RELATION.

~knife, to~: This term should not be used as a substitute for “stab” or
“defeat.” Although widely used by politicians in the United States the
term has no justification outside of ward politics.

~knock, to~: Slang for “to harass or find fault with continually;” a
similar and more recent word used also in this sense is ~hammer~. Both
should be avoided.


~lady~: The use of this word as “a mere distinction of sex is a sheer
vulgarism.” Never say “A man and his _lady_,” but “a man and his
_wife_,” or preferably, by name, “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.” Where
woman, as indicative of sex, is intended, say _woman_--not _lady_ or
_female_. A female is equally female, whether person or beast. In
the United States “woman” is preferable; in England “lady” is used
chiefly when the term is not preceded by a qualifying adjective. The
word _woman_ best expresses the relation of the female sex to the
human race. Some ill-informed persons use _lady_ for _woman_ under the
mistaken idea that _woman_ is a derogatory term; such use is downright
vulgarity. As one never hears _salesgentleman_ but salesman, therefore
_saleslady_ should be avoided; say, rather, _saleswoman_.

~lambaste~ is slang and as such should not be used as a substitute for
“flog,” “whip,” or “beat.”

~lassitudinous~ is not a desirable substitute for “languid” or “weary.”

~last~, ~latter~: The first of these words is not properly used of
only two, since it is a superlative; the second, not properly of more
than two, since it is a comparative. Notwithstanding the fact that the
use of _last_ for _latter_ and of _latter_ for _last_ has had wide
sanction, the present tendency is toward strict construction.

~last two~. Compare FIRST and TWO FIRST.

~lay~, ~lie~: In discriminating the uses of these words the STANDARD
DICTIONARY says: _Lay_, _vt._, “to put down,” “to cause to lie down,”
is a causal derivative of _lie_, _vi._, “to rest.” The principal parts
of the two verbs are:

  _Present._      _Imperfect._      _Past Participle._

  lay, _vt._         laid               laid
  lie, _vi._         lay                lain

The identity of the present tense of _lay_, _vt._, with the imperfect
tense of _lie_, _vi._, has led to the frequent confounding of the two
in their literary usage. _Lay_ (in the present tense) being transitive,
is always followed by an object; _lie_, being intransitive, never
has an object. _Lay_, in “I _lay_ upon thee no other burden,” is the
present tense of _lay_, _vt._, having as its object _burden_; in
“I _lay_ under the sycamore-tree in the cool shade,” _lay_ is the
imperfect tense of _lie_, _vi._, having no object; _laid_, in “I _laid_
the book on the table,” is the imperfect tense of _lay_, _vt._, having
as its object _book_. The presence or absence of an object, and the
character of the verb as transitive or intransitive, may be decided by
asking the question “_Lay_ [or _laid_] _what?_” The past participles
of the two verbs (_laid_ and _lain_) are also frequently confounded.
_Laid_ in tense-combinations is to be followed by a object always;
_lain_, never; as, “He has _laid_ (not _lain_) the book on the table”;
“He has _lain_ (not _laid_) long in the grave.”

The statement in present time, “The soldier _lays_ aside his knapsack
and _lies_ down,” becomes as a statement of a past act; as, “The
soldier _laid_ aside his knapsack and _lay_ down”; “The hen has _laid_
an egg”; “The egg has _lain_ (too long) in the nest.”

In poetic phraseology especially, the transitive _lay_ (in all its
tenses) is used reflexively as an equivalent of _lie_, _lay_, etc., as
in the following examples:

      _Intransitive._              _Transitive._

  _Pres._ I _lie_ down        =   I _lay_ me down.
  _Imp._  I _lay down_        =   I _laid_ me (myself) down.
  _Fut._  I will _lie_ down   =   I will _lay_ me (myself)
  _Plup._ I had _lain_ down   =   I had _laid_ me (myself)

~learn~, ~teach~: Once _learn_ was good English for teach, and
signified both the imparting as well as the acquiring of knowledge. An
example of this use may be found in Shakespeare (_Romeo and Juliet_)
and the Book of Common Prayer, but general modern usage restricts
_learn_ to the acquiring and _teach_ to the imparting of knowledge.

~least~: Grammatical writers have reason on their side in objecting to
the use of a superlative for a comparative. “Of two evils choose the
_less_,” is better than “choose the _least_.” A careful speaker will
observe this form. See MORE and MOST.

~leather~ as a colloquialism for “thrash” should not be used by persons
accustomed to refined diction.

~lease~ and ~hire~ are loosely used interchangeably. An agent says he
has property to _hire_ (= _for_ hire) while the tenant says he _leases_
it. Strictly, the former leases and the latter hires.

~leave~ is used transitively and intransitively, but critics have
objected to the latter use on the ground that the verb _to leave_ is
not expressive of any occupation--does not, in fact, of itself convey
any complete idea. It is true that if you speak you can speak only that
which can be spoken, whereas if you _leave_ you may _leave_ home or any
one of a thousand things; but as home (business or domestic) may be
regarded as the chief of a man’s possessions, it has been fancifully
treated as being the one all-important subject to which unqualified
leaving applies. One certainly may say with propriety “He has just
left”; “We _leave_ to-morrow.” Avoid such locutions as “Leave me
alone”; “leave her see it,” as illiterate. Use _let_ instead of leave.

~left, to get~: A slang phrase for “to be left behind; be beaten or
outdone.” Avoid such a vulgarism as “Did you ever get left?”

~legacy~. Compare BEQUEST.

~lend~. Compare LOAN.

~lengthen~, ~lengthy~: The verb means to “make or to grow longer.” Its
participle _lengthened_ no more means “long” than _heightened_ means
“high” or _strengthened_ means “strong.” It is correct to say “He
_lengthened_ the discourse, but it was still too short”; but not to
say “He quoted a _lengthened_ passage from the sermon.” In the latter
illustration _lengthy_ should be used. A sermon is _lengthy_ when
“unusually or unduly long” (with a suggestion of tediousness), not when
it is simply “long.”

~lengthways~, ~sideways~, ~endways~: Common but none the less
undesirable variants of _lengthwise_, _sidewise_, _endwise_.

~less~. Compare FEW.

~lessen~. Compare REDUCE.

~let her rip~: Farmer, in his “Americanisms Old and New,” says, this
“most vulgar of vulgarisms” is used to convey the idea of intensity of
action. The phrase is coarse and should not be used as a substitute for
“go ahead.”

~level, on the~: A vulgar intensive used to emphasize the fact that the
thing stated is stated truthfully, or that the person spoken of is, to
the speaker’s knowledge, upright and “on the square.” Compare SQUARE.

~levy~, ~levee~: Exercise care in the use of these words. _Levy_ is to
impose and collect by force; _levee_, a morning reception.

~liable~, ~likely~: The first of these words which is properly used as
expressive of “having a tendency” is improperly used in referring to a
contingent event regarded as “very probable.” Thus, though one should
not say “It is _liable_ to storm,” but “_likely_ to do so,” one may
say, “the building is _liable_ to be blown down by the storm.”

~libel~, ~slander~: These are not synonymous terms. _Libel_ differs
from _slander_ in that the latter is spoken whereas the former is
written and published.

~lick~: An inelegant term used colloquially as a synonym for “effort”;
as, “he put in his best _licks_.” Say, rather, “He put forth his best

~lid~: A slang term for cover, hat, etc., used especially in the
phrases ~keeping the lid down~, ~sitting on the lid~, political
colloquialisms for closing up places of business, as pool-rooms,
saloons, etc., or keeping a political situation in control.

~lie~. Compare LAY.

~lightening~, ~lightning~: The spelling of these words is sometimes
confused. _Lightening_ is to relieve “of weight”; as, “to _lighten_ a
burden”; _lightning_ is a sudden flash of light due to pressure caused
by atmospheric electricity. The shorter word designates the flash of

~like~, in the adverbial sense of “in the manner of,” as, “He speaks
_like_ a philosopher,” is correctly used, but the tendency to treat
this word as a conjunction (which it is not) in substitution for _as_
is altogether wrong. Do not say “Do _like_ I do”; say, rather, “Do
_as_ I do.” It is also a colloquialism, not sanctioned by good usage,
to give the word the signification of _as if_, as “I felt _like_
my final hour had come”; and the use of the word as synonymous for
_somewhat_ is a vulgarism. Say “He breathed _somewhat_ heavily”--not
“heavy _like_.” When _like_ is followed by an objective case, as “Be
brave _like_ him,” the preposition _unto_ must be supplied by ellipsis.
For this reason as for the fact that _like_ here has the force of a
conjunction, introducing the implied phrase “he is brave,” it is better
to say “Be brave _as_ he is.”

~like~, ~love~: Discriminate carefully between these words, which are
often erroneously used interchangeably. A woman may _love_ her children
and _like_ fruit, but not _like_ her children and _love_ fruit.

~likewise~. Compare ALSO.

~limb~, ~leg~: There exists an affected or prudish use of the word
_limb_ instead of _leg_, when the leg is meant, which can not be too
severely censured. Such squeamishness is absurd.

~limit, the~: A vulgarism designating the extreme of any condition or
situation: used indiscriminately of persons or conditions.

~limited~: Often erroneously used for _small_, _scant_, _slight_,
and other words of like meaning; as, “He had a _limited_ (_slight_)
acquaintance with Milton”; “Sold at the _limited_ (_low_ or _reduced_)
price of one dollar”; “His pecuniary means were likely to remain quite
_limited_”--admissible if suggesting the reverse of unlimited wealth,
otherwise _small_ or _narrow_.

~lineament~, ~liniment~: The _lineament_ is the outline or contour of a
body or figure, especially the face. _Liniment_ is a medicated liquid,
sometimes oily, which is applied to the skin by rubbing as for the
relief of pain. Exercise care in spelling these words.

~lip~: A very vulgar substitute for “impudence.”

~lit~ in the sense of _lighted_ is not used by careful speakers. Do not
say “Who _lit_ (but ‘who _lighted_’) the gas?”

~lit on~: A common error for “come across,” “met with,” which should
be discountenanced. Do not say “I _lit_ on the quotation by accident”;
say, rather, “I came across the quotation.” Nor “I _lit_ on him at the
fair.” One does not _light_ on people whom one meets.

~little~. Compare FEW.

~loan~, ~lend~: One may raise (put an end to) a _loan_ by paying both
principal and interest, and another may _lend_ money to do so. The
use of _loan_ as a verb, meaning, “to grant the loan of or lend, as
ships, money, linen, provisions, etc.,” dates from the year 1200 and
is accepted as good English. Some purists, however, characterize it

~lobster~: A slang term used originally to designate a British soldier,
probably, in the phrase ~boiled lobster~, from his red coat: now
applied indiscriminately to gullible persons, perhaps on account of
the reputed gullibility of the British soldier.

~lonely~, ~solitary~: These two words must not be confounded, for their
meaning is not exactly the same, although the Latin _solitarius_ is
derived from _solus_, alone. _Solitary_ indicates no more than absence
of life or society; _lonely_ suggests the idea of being forsaken or
isolated. A _solitary_ person is not of necessity _lonely_, even though
he take a _solitary walk_ in a _lonely_ place. A man is not _lonely_ if
he is good company to himself.

~look~: In the intransitive sense of “seem,” this verb should be
followed by an adjective, not an adverb. Thus, “he _looks_ kind (not
kindly).” It is otherwise in the sense of “exercising the sense of
sight.” Here the adverb is used to the exclusion of the adjective. “He
_looks_ kindly (not kind) upon the fallen foe.” Actions are qualified
by adverbs, but adjectives qualify what one is or seems to be.

~lot~ or ~lots~: A slipshod colloquialism for “great many”; as, “We
sold a _lot_ of tickets”; “He has _lots_ of friends”; to be avoided,
as are all other vague, ill-assigned expressions, as tending to
indistinctness of thought and debasement of language. Compare HEAP.

~love~. Compare LIKE.

~lovelily~: To the general exclusion of this word, _lovely_ is now made
to do duty both as adverb and adjective.

~lovely~: A valuable word in proper use, as applied to that which is
adapted and worthy to win affection; but as a colloquialism improperly
applied indiscriminately to every form of agreeable feeling or quality.
A bonnet is _lovely_, so is a house, a statue, a friend, a poem, a
bouquet, a poodle, a visit; and it is even said after an entertainment,
“The refreshments were _lovely_!”--all examples of careless diction.

~low-priced~: Often confounded with _cheap_. A thing is _cheap_ when
its price is low compared with its intrinsic worth, it is _low-priced_
when but little is paid or asked for it. A _low-priced_ article may
be _dear_; a _cheap_ article may not be _low-priced_; as, “One horse
was _low-priced_ (he paid only $50 for it), and it was _dear_ at that
price; the other cost him $500, but was _cheap_ at that price.”

~lurid~ should not be used for ~brilliant~. _Lurid_ means “giving
a ghastly, or dull-red light, as of flames mingled with smoke, or
reflecting or made visible by such light.”

~luxuriant~, ~luxurious~: These words are not identical in sense. The
former signifies growth, as “hair of _luxuriant_ growth”; the latter
implies luxury, as “_luxurious_ ease.”

  “But grace abused brings forth the fondest deeds,
  As richest soil the most _luxuriant_ weeds.”

  “And send the sentinel before your gate
  A slice or two from your _luxurious_ meals.”


~mad~: Used for “angry” by the careless or the indifferent. A
colloquialism not in vogue among persons who use refined diction.
_Mad_ may, however, be used correctly to designate a condition of
overmastering emotion, intense excitement, or infatuation due to
grief, terror, or jealousy; as _mad_ with grief; _mad_ with terror.
Formerly used correctly as a synonym for “angry” it is now used only
colloquially in this sense. _Mad_, in the present day, denotes a
species of insanity.

~main guy~: A vulgar phrase derived from circus cant in which it
designates the chief guy-rope as of a tent. It is commonly used to
designate the manager of an establishment, or the person in charge of
an undertaking.

~make~: Often used incorrectly for “earn.” Do not say “How much does he
_make_ a week?” Say, rather, “How much does he _earn_ a week?”

~man~. Compare GENT.

~manifest~. Compare APPARENT.

~manner born, to the~: A phrase often incorrectly written _to the
manor_ from a faulty knowledge of its meaning--familiar with something
from birth, or born to the use or manner of the thing or subject
referred to.

~marine~, ~maritime~, ~naval~, ~nautical~: There are distinctions among
these words. _Marine_ and _maritime_, from the Latin _mare_, the sea,
signify belonging to the sea; _naval_, from the Latin _navis_, a ship,
signifies belonging to a ship; _nautical_ from the Latin _nauta_, a
sailor, signifies belonging to a sailor or to the sailor’s pursuit,
navigation. A _maritime_ nation must be well supplied with _marine_
stores, must have a large _naval_ force and be skilled in matters

~marry~: Now used correctly of both acceptance in marriage and union in
matrimony: formerly condemned as incorrect.

~masses~: The _masses_, in the sense of the common people, the great
body of the people, exclusive of the wealthy or privileged, has
so entered into popular speech that the expression is now beyond
criticism, although exception has been taken to it, on the ground that
the subject of the mass should be specifically named. The _masses_ of

~matinee~ from the French _matin_, morning, is strictly a morning
reception; and to talk of an “afternoon _matinée_” is therefore, if
not a solecism, a contradiction in terms. Still nowadays the word is
used to mean an _afternoon_ rather than a _morning_ reception, or

~me~: “It is _I_,” never “It is _me_.” And so with all personal
pronouns following the verb _to be_ and in apposition with its subject.
The same form of error is constantly made in such phrases as “She is
better looking than _me_,” where, if the elliptical verb were supplied,
the correct construction would readily be seen to be “She is better
looking than _I_ (am).”

~mean~: A word often erroneously used. Its generic meaning is “common”
and therefrom it has been accepted as meaning “of humble origin, of low
rank or quality, of inferior character or grade” and is used in England
as a synonym for “miserly in expenditure, stingy.” In the United States
it is commonly misused as a substitute for “ill-tempered; disagreeable.”

~mean~. Compare INTEND.

~means~: As _means_ or _some means_ covers “any means,” it is
pleonastic to write “_by some means or another_.” For the same reason
_some means or other_ may be condemned; its only excuse is that “other”
refers not to “means” but qualifies the word “procedure” (understood).
If this form of speech is desired, the correct utterance would be _one
mean or another_.

~memoranda~ should never be used as a singular. It is the plural of
_memorandum_ and the distinction should always be observed in speech or

~me~ or ~my going~: Erroneous combinations sometimes used by persons
careless with their diction. Do not say “Instead of _me_ (or _my_)
_going_ to London I went to Bermuda”; say, rather, “Instead of
going....” Here “me” and “my” are redundant.

~merely~: Sometimes misused for _simply_. _Merely_ implies no addition;
_simply_, no admixture or complication; _e. g._, “The boys were there
_merely_ as spectators; it is _simply_ incredible that they should have
so disgraced themselves”; “It is _simply_ water.”

~midst~: The STANDARD DICTIONARY has the following: “In our, your, or
their _midst_, in the _midst_ of us, you, or them: a form pronounced
analogically irreproachable by Fitzedward Hall, in _Modern English_ p.
50, but objected to by some authorities.” Dr. William Mathews is one of
these. In his work on “Words: their Use and Abuse,” he asks “Would any
one say ‘In our middle?’... The possessive pronoun can properly be used
only to indicate possession or appurtenance.”

~mighty~ used as a synonym for _very_, _exceedingly_, or
_extraordinarily_ is colloquial but borders on the vulgar. “_Mighty_
fine,” “A _mighty_ shame,” “_Mighty_ doubtful” are phrases to be

~misspell~: Do not write this word _mispell_. Its component parts are
_mis_ + _spell_, and it retains the double _s_.

~mistakable~: Although formerly correctly _mistakeable_ this word does
not now retain the “e” after the “k”--an evidence of spelling reform
along lines of least resistance due probably to phonology.

~mistaken~: Originally _mistake_ meant “to take amiss, misconceive, or
misunderstand,” and on this account some persons claim that _you are
mistaken_ means “you are misunderstood”; and that when this observation
is made it expresses precisely the reverse of the meaning that the
speaker desires to convey. According to them to tell a man he is
_mistaken_, that is, misunderstood, is a very different thing from
telling him that he mistakes or personally misunderstands.

The STANDARD DICTIONARY treating this word says: The anomalous use of
_mistaken_ has naturally attracted the attention of speech-reformers;
we ought to mean, “You are misapprehended or misunderstood,” they
tell us, when we say “You are _mistaken_,” and if we mean “You are
in error,” we ought to say so. But suppose the alleged misuse of
_mistaken_ gives rise to no misunderstanding whatever--that everybody,
high or low, throughout the English-speaking world, knows what is meant
when one says “You are _mistaken_”--in that case, to let alone seems to
be wisdom. The corruption, if it be one, has the sanction not only of
universal employment, but of antiquity.

~mitten~: An obsolete substitute for glove now revived as a
colloquialism in the phrase ~to get the mitten~, that is “to get the
glove with the hand withdrawn: said of a rejected suitor for a lady’s
hand.” An allied phrase is ~to give the mitten to~. None of these is
used in polite society.

~moment~, ~minute~: These words are not exactly synonymous. A _moment_
is an infinitesimal part of time; as, “in a _moment_, in the twinkling
of an eye” (I Cor. XV. 52). A _minute_ is the sixtieth part of an hour.
One does not take a _minute_ to wink the eye.

~monetary~. Compare FINANCIAL.

~moneys~, not ~monies~, although often so (improperly) spelt. The rule
is clear. Words ending in _y_ necessarily have as their penultimate
letter either a vowel or a consonant. If a vowel the plural is formed
by adding _s_; if a consonant by changing the _y_ into _ies_. Thus,
_boy_, _boys_; _baby_, _babies_.

~money to burn~: A slang phrase used to denote possession of ample

~more~: Superlatives are often used, though improperly in a comparison
of two. “He is the _more_ promising pupil of the two”--not _most_.
Certain scrupulously careful writers, as Augustine Birrell, will even
write “the _more_ part,” instead of the customary “the _most_ part”;
and this usage, though possibly pedantic, is in other respects to be

~more strictly correct~: A pleonasm. A correct statement may for the
sake of emphasis be qualified as _strictly correct_. If “more strictly
correct” is good grammar then “most strictly correct” would be also.
Both sentences are erroneous.

~more than probable~: That which is _probable_ is likely to happen, but
that which is _more than probable_ is almost sure to happen. To object
to “more than probable,” as some persons do, one would have to show
that “probable” was absolute and incapable of degrees of comparison,
whence of course it is a matter of common observation that some things
are highly probable, while others are barely so. That a lover of truth
will speak the truth is highly probable, whereas that a confirmed liar
will do so is so little probable that the probabilities are on the
other side.

~’most~: Often used colloquially but incorrectly for “almost”; an
inexcusable and unwarranted abbreviation. Do not say “my work is _most_
done”; say rather, “... is _almost_ done.” _Most_ is used occasionally
and correctly for “very”--a use that some writers condemn as incorrect
but which is sanctioned by literary usage. Shakespeare says: “So, Sir,
heartily well met, and _most_ glad of your company.”--_Coriolanus_, iv.

~most~ is well used as a superlative. _Most_ perfect, thorough,
intense, complete, extraordinary, are in common use and have the
support of literary usage.

Frederic Johnston says: “Concerning the phrase ‘most perfect’ some
question might be raised. ‘Perfect’ means, literally, ‘made through, to
the end,’ ‘utterly finished,’ therefore, of supreme excellence. In that
case, ‘more’ and ‘most’ perfect are meaningless. We are to remember,
however, that the literal is not always the true meaning of a word.
Thus ‘melancholy’ does not mean full of ‘black bile,’ but ‘gloomy’
for any reason. Moreover, it has of late been pointed out by the best
authorities that the true sense of a word is not what it _ought_ to
mean, but what it _does_ mean, in the mouths and ears of the upper half
of the people. And there can be little doubt that ‘perfect,’ in this
case, merely expresses great rather than supreme excellence. We may
even say, further, that the word in its original sense could not be
used without a qualifying word (as ‘nearly perfect’ for example) in a
world in which nothing is utterly free from defect. To go about saying
that things are ‘nearly perfect’ would be gross pedantry.”

       *       *       *       *       *

For the sanction of literary usage see the quotations:

  “It would be strange, doubtless, to call this the best of Burns’s
  writings: we mean to say, only, that it seems to us the _most
  perfect_ of its kind as a piece of poetical composition strictly so
  called.”--CARLYLE, _Essay on Burns_, referring to his poem “The Jolly

  “Our battle is more full of names than yours,
  Our men _more perfect_ in the use of arms.”
      --SHAKESPEARE, _2 Hen. IV_. iv. 1.

  “_Most perfect_ goodness.”--_Cymbeline_ i. 7.

~mought~: Although recorded by the dictionaries as the imperfect of
“may” and often used for _might_, the use is one which does sufficient
violence to euphony to be characterized as undesirable.

~muchly~: Although formerly in vogue is now obsolete and stigmatized as
slang, and as such to be avoided.

~mug~; A vulgar characterization for the human face.

~murderous~ should not be used for “dangerous” or “deadly.”

~music~. See CHIN.

~Mussulman~: The plural of this word is formed by adding
_s_--Mussulmans _not_ Mussul_men_. Here the word “man” is no component
part of _Mussulman_.

~mutual~, ~common~: These words are often confounded and have been
so by writers of correct English. _Mutual_ implies interchange;
_common_ belonging to more than two persons. Before the middle of the
eighteenth century, _mutual_ had two meanings: “joint” or “common,” and
“reciprocal.” When Dr. Samuel Johnson published his great dictionary
he gave it but one meaning, that of _reciprocal_, and, his authority
as a scholar having grown so great, this meaning became considered
the only one which might be correctly given to the word. “_Mutual_,”
says Crabb, “supposes a sameness in condition at the same time;
_reciprocal_ supposes an alternation or succession of returns.” Thus
we properly speak of “our _common_ country, _mutual_ affection,
_reciprocal_ obligations.” While _mutual_ applies to the acts and
opinions of persons, and therefore to what is personal, it is not
applicable to persons. Macaulay condemned the phrase “_mutual_ friend”
as a low vulgarism. A “_common_ friend” is certainly more accurate but
unfortunately carries with it the disagreeable idea of inferiority, and
probably for this reason is seldom or never used. There is authority of
such prolific writers as Scott and Dickens for “_mutual_ friend,” but
the rapidity with which they wrote their books may suggest that they
paid little heed to such refinements of language as did Macaulay. Yet
centuries of English literature authorize the employment of _mutual_ in
the sense of _joint_ or _common_. On the other hand, the very strong
disapproval with which this and like uses of _mutual_ are regarded
by many writers of good taste may not unreasonably be considered as
sufficient ground for avoiding _mutual friend_ and kindred expressions.
“_Mutual_ friends,” says Phelps, “would not be accurate” meaning that
two persons are friends each to the other.

~my~. Compare ME.

~myself~: An emphatic pronoun sometimes misused for “I” or “me”;
as, “The property was willed to my wife and _myself_.” For “myself”
substitute “to me” and the sentence is correct. “Myself” is used
correctly with a reflexive verb, that is, one whose object, expressed
or implied, denotes the same person or thing as the subject; _e. g._,
“I will control _myself_.”


~nasty~: This word should not be applied to that which is merely
“disagreeable,” as _nasty_ weather, for strong terms should not be
robbed of their significance by being applied to conditions which could
only be referred to in such terms by exaggeration. A pigsty is properly
termed _nasty_, as there filth finds its habitat, and an obscene book
is _nasty_ as morally foul.

~naught~. Compare OUGHT under AUGHT.

~need~, ~needs~: As an adverb _need_ is now obsolete; _needs_ means
“necessarily.” Do not say “as _need_ he must,” say, rather, “as _needs_
he must.”

~neglect~, ~negligence~: The meanings of these words are sometimes
confused. _Neglect_ is the act of failing to perform something, as
a duty or task, to leave undone; _negligence_ is the _habitual_
omission of that which should be done. _Negligence_ is a trait of
character while _neglect_ may result from preoccupation. Fernald in
“Synonyms, Antonyms, and Prepositions,” says: “_Neglect_ is transitive,
_negligence_ is intransitive; we speak of _neglect_ of his books,
friends, or duties, in which case we could not use _negligence_.”

~negociate~, ~negotiate~: The first, now obsolete, was the spelling
formerly in vogue; the second is the correct spelling of to-day.

~neither~, ~either~: For “none” and “any one,” is not the best usage;
“That he [Shakespeare] wrote the plays which bear his name we know;
but ... we do not know the years ... in which _either_ (correctly,
_any one_) of them was first performed”; “Peasant, yeoman, artisan,
tradesman, and gentleman could then be distinguished from one another
almost as far as they could be seen. Except in cases of unusual
audacity, _neither_ (correctly, _no one_, or _none_) presumed to wear
the dress of his betters.”

~neither~, ~nor~: In considering these words the STANDARD DICTIONARY
says: “As disjunctive correlatives, each accompanied by a singular
nominative, often incorrectly followed by a plural verb form; as,
‘_neither_ he _nor_ I _were_ (correctly _was_) there.’” _Neither_, that
is, _not either_, means not the one nor the other of two. “Through
diligence he attained a position which he _neither_ aspired to _nor_
coveted”--the proper correlative to use here is _nor_.

~nerve~: A slang term sometimes used as a substitute for “impudence,”
“over-assurance” or “independence,” any one of which is preferable.

~never~, ~not~: While literary authority sanctions the use of _never_
for _not_ in cases where a lapse of considerable time is thought of,
as, “I shall be there--_never_ fear” (for _do not_ fear now, or at
any time in the interim, that I shall disappoint you), it does not
justify its use in a sentence where the time referred to is momentary
or short. The emphatic use of this adverb in the sense of not a single
one, not at all, is perfectly good, as instanced by Coleridge--“And
_never_ a saint took pity on my soul in agony.” But the usage will not
sanction an extension to things which, from their very nature, could
take place--as, say, death--but once. Thus, do not say “Robert Fulton
_never_ invented the steamboat”; say, rather, “Robert Fulton _did not_
invent the steamboat.” “Paul Jones _was never_ born in the United
States” is incorrect. Say “... _was not_ born in the United States.” Do
not say “I met him to-day but he _never_ mentioned the subject.” Say,
rather “... but he _did not_ mention the subject.”

~never so~: Often misused for _ever so_ from which it should be
carefully discriminated. _Never so_ means “to an extent or degree
beyond the actual or conceivable; no matter how.” In common use _ever
so_, meaning no more than “very” or “exceedingly,” is often confounded
with and used for _never so_.

~never mean~: A common slip of the tongue in such phrases as “I
_never mean_ to” which is frequently used when “I _mean never_ to” is
intended. Compare DON’T.

~nibs~: A vulgar title given usually satirically, to a person in
authority; as “His _nibs_ sailed to-day”: a term to avoid.

~nice~: This word has undergone a peculiar transformation in sense.
Derived from the Latin _nescius_, ignorant, and originally meaning
“ignorant, silly weak,” it has now come to signify “characterized
by discrimination and judgment, acute, discerning; as, a _nice_
criticism.” The word has, however, also been used colloquially in the
sense of “pleasing, jolly, or socially agreeable; as, a _nice_ girl,”
and the use has been condemned but is too well established to be

~nicely~ as a colloquialism for “very well”--as “He is doing
_nicely_”--should be avoided.

~nifty~: A vulgarism for “stylish.”

~nightly~, ~nocturnal~: These words do not have the same signification.
The one means night by night, the other happening at night. A man has
_nightly_ sleep in which he suffers from _nocturnal_ dreams.

~no~: According to critics _no_ never properly qualifies a verb, that
is, it should never be substituted for “not.” But the practise has
literary sanction.

~no~: Often used for “any” by the illiterate. Do not say “We didn’t see
_no_ flats”; say, rather, “We did not see _any_ flats.”

~nobby~: A vulgar synonym for “having an elegant or flashy appearance;
showy; stylish”: haberdasher’s cant. Compare NIFTY.

~nohow~: A vulgarism for “in no way” or “by no means.” If after a
negative, say “in any way,” “by any means,” “at all.” “I don’t believe
in them _nohow_” should be “I don’t believe in them _in the least_,” or
“_at all_.”

~nominate~: Distinguish from “denominate,” which is now only an
obsolete sense of the word. To _nominate_ is to designate or specify;
as, “Is it so _nominated_ in the bond?” whereas to “denominate” is to
give a name or epithet to. Washington was _nominated_ president, but
was _denominated_ “Father of his country.”

~nominatives~: The coupling of singular and plural. What number,
singular or plural, shall the verb take. It couples two sentences--one
on either side--the one having a singular nominative and the other a
plural. As to which sentence shall be first and which second, there is
commonly but little compulsion: it is a matter of choice. But should
this choice affect the verb?--“The wages of sin _is_ death.” “Death
_is_ the wages of sin.” It is merely a matter of taste in forceful
diction which nominative shall precede. Yet which is to govern the
number of the verb? “What we seek _is_ riches”; “Riches _are_ what
we seek”--Probably these two forms of one idea best illustrate the
better usage, which appears to be that the verb is dependent upon the
nominative which precedes. In explanation of the scriptural phrase, it
may be stated that although the prevailing rule with the translators
of the Bible appears to have been to use plural verbs when either
nominative was plural (that is, in all such cases), still “Death,”
being here that upon which special emphasis is laid and to which
attention is particularly drawn, is permitted to govern the verb.

~no more~: Often incorrectly used for “_any_ more.” Do not say “I don’t
want to see you _no more_”; but “I don’t want to see you _any more_,”
or “_again_.”

~none~: Although etymologically equivalent to _not_ (a single) _one_
this word is commonly used as a singular under a mistaken idea that it
can not be used correctly as a plural, but many writers of standard
English have used it as a plural. The STANDARD DICTIONARY authorizes
the use of the word both as a singular and plural according to the
meaning of the context. Where the singular or the plural equally
expresses the sense, the plural is commonly used and is justified by
the highest authority. “Did you buy melons?” “There _were none_ in
the market.” “Did you bring me a letter?” “There _was none_ in your
box.” “_None_ of the three cases _have_ been received” is correct. In
illustrating this point the STANDARD DICTIONARY gives the following
quotation: “Mind says one, soul says another, brain or matter says a
third, but none of these _are_ right.” And says, “In the preceding
quotation the ‘are,’ altho ungrammatical, connects ‘right’ with any one
of the persons named--not with any one of the things named. If _is_
be substituted for ‘are,’ ‘right’ may be as reasonably connected with
‘mind,’ ‘soul,’ or ‘brain’ as with the persons (or classes of persons)
spoken of.” _None_ used with a plural verb is found repeatedly in such
English classics as the works of Bacon and Shakespeare, as well as in
the Authorized Version of the Bible.

~nor~, ~or~: Discriminate carefully between these words when using them
after _no_ and _not_. In such a sentence as “He has _no_ cash _or_
credit,” the word “credit” is used as an alternative for “cash,” and
merely, though perhaps redundantly, to amplify the thought. But if one
says “He has _no_ cash _nor_ credit” the meaning is very different,
and implies he is without both, “credit” being here considered as an
additional asset. In more involved statements the distinction may be of
great importance. “Will _or_ disposition,” “power _or_ faculty,” may
be but pairs of synonyms. The locution “will _nor_ disposition” “power
_nor_ faculty,” distinguishes the two members of a pair as different.

~not~. Compare NEVER.

~notable~: Discriminate carefully between the different meanings
of this word. A _no'table_ event is an event worthy of note; a
_not'able_ woman is one who exercises care or skill or is prudent as in

~noted~. Compare NOTORIOUS.

~nothing like~: Not to be used adverbially for _not nearly_. Do not say
“He was _nothing like_ as handsome as his brother,” but “He was _not
nearly_ so handsome,” etc.

~nothing to nobody~: An ungrammatical phrase used for “no one’s
business.” Say, rather, “not anything to any one.”

~not on your life~: A vulgar phrase for “not by any means.”

~notorious~ is so commonly applied to that which is unfavorably known
to the general public, as a _notorious_ crime, just as _noted_ is
applied to that which is favorably distinguished, as a _noted_ speech,
that it is well not to confound the expressions, but to reserve
their use for their own several functions. However, the rule is not
invariably followed; for the following expression by Spencer, on
“Education” is good. “It is _notorious_ that the mind like the body,
can not assimilate beyond a certain rate.”

~no use~: Often incorrectly used for “_of_ no use.” Do not say “It’s
_no use_ to discuss it with you,” say, rather, “It is _of no use_ to
discuss it.”

~novice~. Compare AMATEUR.

~number~ should not be used with such words as _innumerable_ and
_numerous_, which themselves contain the idea of _number_ (Latin
_numerus_). Say “A _countless_ number,” not “an _innumerable_ number.”

~numerous~: Often misused for _many_. Do not say “_numerous_ cattle
were in pasture”; say, rather, “_Many_ cattle were in pasture.”

~nutty~: Used in the sense “lacking in intelligence,” this word is a
vulgarism to be avoided.


~obnoxious~: Formerly this word meant “liable, amenable, subject,”
but the meaning is sometimes forgotten in the more recently acquired
sense, “odious, hurtful.” This difference is beautifully illustrated
by a question propounded to Dean Alford--“Which of these two is right,
‘Death is _obnoxious_ to man’ or ‘Men are _obnoxious_ to death?’”
Death, or the idea of death, is certainly distasteful to most men, but,
this notwithstanding, all men are subject to death.

~observance~: Distinguish from ~observation~. Though the act of
observing is signified by both, it is, as regards _observance_, in the
sense of holding sacred, whereas, so far as _observation_ is concerned
it is in the sense of making examination or careful note. Thus there
is an _observance_ of the law, but an _observation_ of the works of

~occupancy~, ~occupation~: The word _occupancy_ differs only slightly
from _occupation_ in meaning. The first refers rather to the state
or fact of possession, while the second carries with it an idea of
the rights or results of such _occupancy_. The right or legal fact of
_occupancy_ entitles a person to _occupation_ at will. One may speak of
the _occupancy_ of a domain and the _occupation_, not occupancy, of a
region by troops.

~occur~, ~take place~: These terms are not always synonymous.
_Occurrences_ are due to chance or accident but things _take place_ by
arrangement. Compare TRANSPIRE.

~of~: That the force of this word is not fully understood is proved
by the fact that many ministers choose to omit it from the title of
Scriptural books. Dean Alford in referring to the habit of announcing
“The Book Genesis” instead of “The Book _of_ Genesis,” says, “This
simply betrays the ignorance of the meaning of the preposition _of_.
It is used to denote authorship, as the Book _of_ Daniel; to denote
subject matter, as the first Book _of_ Kings; and as a note of
apposition signifying _which is called_, as the Book _of_ Genesis....
The pedant, who ignores _of_ in the reading-desk must however, to be
consistent, omit it elsewhere: I left the city London, and passed
through County Kent, leaving realm England at town Dover.” _Of_ is
also frequently misused for _from_. Nothing but custom can justify the
common form of receipt, “Received _of_...”.

~of any~: Sometimes used incorrectly for _of all_; as, “This is the
finest _of any_ I have seen”; say, rather, “finer _than any other_,” or
“finest _of all_.”

~off of~: The preposition _off_, when noting origin and used in the
sense of _from_ is frequently followed most ungrammatically by _of_.
No well educated person would say “I got these eggs _off of_ Farmer
Jones,” nor would they “buy a steak _off of_ the butcher” but “of” or
“from” him. _Off_ should not be used of a person, where _from_ would
suffice. You take a book _from_, not _off_, your friend; who may take
it _off_ a shelf. You do not even, in correct speech, take a contagious
disease _off_ him, as though it were something visible and tangible,
and were bodily removed from his person.

~official~: A term sometimes used incorrectly for ~officer~. An
_official_ is one holding public office or performing duties of a
public nature; usually he is a subordinate officer; an _officer_ is one
who holds an office _by election or appointment_, especially a civil
office, as under a government, municipality, or the like.

~of the name of~. Compare BY THE NAME OF.

~older~, ~oldest~: These terms are, according to best usage, applied
only to persons belonging to different families or to things, as,
Lincoln was _older_ than Hay; this book is the _oldest_ in the library.

~on~ is frequently used where _in_ would be preferable. Fitz-Greene
Halleck once said to a friend, “Why do people persist in saying _on_
Broadway? Might they not as well say Our Father, who art _on_ Heaven?”

~once in a way~ (~or while~): A colloquialism for “now and then,”
better expressed by a single word, as _occasionally_.

~one~: Used sometimes as in writing narrative instead of “I,” “he,” or
“a.” Bain (“Higher Eng. Grammar”) says: “_One_ should be followed by
_one_ and not by _he_ (nor for that matter by _I_ or _a_); as, ‘What
_one_ sees or feels, _one_ can not be sure that _one_ sees or feels.’”
To begin with _one_ and to continue with any one of the substitutes
suggested would not only be incorrect but would confuse the reader.

~one another~. Compare EACH OTHER.

~one-horse~: A slang term for “second rate”; implying “of inferior
capacity, quality or resources.”

~only~: This word, whose correct position depends upon the intention
of the author, is often misplaced. The examples of the uses of _only_
here given will serve to illustrate correct usage. “_Only_ his father
spoke to him”; here _only_ means that of all persons who might have
spoken, but one, his father, spoke to him. “His father _only_ spoke to
him” implies that his father “only _spoke_” and did not scold him,
which, perhaps, he might have felt his duty called upon him to do. “His
father spoke _only_ to him” means that, of all the persons present, his
father chose to speak to him alone, but this sentence may perhaps be
more lucidly expressed “His father spoke to him _only_.”

~on the level~. See under LEVEL.

~on the street~. Compare IN THE STREET; ON.

~onto~: A word meaning “upon the top of,” avoided by purists as
colloquial or vulgar. Condemned by Phelps as a vulgarism but now
gradually growing in popularity. Inasmuch as its form is analogous to
_into_, _unto_, _upon_, all of which are sanctioned by best usage,
Phelps’s condemnation is perhaps a little premature. The word has been
objected to by some critics as redundant or needless. “Considered as
a new word (it is in reality a revival of an old form), it conforms
to the two main neoteristic canons by which the admissibility of new
words is to be decided. (See HALL, _Modern English_, pp. 171, 173.) It
obeys the analogy of _in to_ = _into_. It may also be held to supply
an antecedent blank, as may be shown by examples. It never should be
employed where _on_ is sufficient; but simple _on_ after verbs of
motion may be wholly ambiguous, so that _on to_, meaning ‘to or toward
and _on_,’ may become necessary to clear up the ambiguity. ‘The boy
fell _on_ the roof’ may mean that he fell while _on_ the roof, or that
he fell, as from the chimney-top or some overlooking window, _to_
the roof so as to be _on_ it; but if we say ‘The boy fell _on to_ the
roof,’ there is no doubt that the latter is the meaning. The canons
for deciding the eligibility of new words appear therefore to claim
for _on to_ the right to struggle for continued existence and general
acceptance.” So says Dr. I. K. Funk in the STANDARD DICTIONARY.

~O~, _Oh_: Although often used indiscriminately it is generally
conceded that “O” is used to express exclamation or direct address
while “oh” is used to express the emotion of joy, pain, sorrow, or
surprise. See the examples.

  “O Mary, go and call the cattle home.”
  “O God, whose thunder shakes the skies.”

  “Oh! say, can you see by the dawn’s early light”--
  “Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?”

~open up~ is properly used to signify “explore; discover; as, to _open
up_ a new country,” but not so in the sense of “introduce; as, to _open
up_ a subject.” Here the word _up_ is superfluous; but in this, as in
the majority of cases where _open up_ is used, it would be better to
substitute a more specific term. See UP.

~opinion~ is sometimes more than an _impression_, being a conclusion
or judgment held with confidence, though falling short of positive
knowledge. The word should therefore not be used interchangeably with
_idea_, which may be a mere conception, with or without foundation for
its belief. One may have an _idea_ of enjoyment, but hold an _opinion_
on the result of a campaign.

~or~. Compare IF; NOR.

~oral~ should be differentiated from ~verbal~. The former applies to
what is spoken by mouth, whereas the latter indicates that which has
been reduced to words.

~orate~: A term to avoid when “speak, declaim, harangue,” or a like
word will express what is intended. It may, however, be fittingly used
meaning “to play the orator, talk windily in round periods”: it meets
the canon of “supplying an antecedent blank,” and is a legitimate word,
especially in humorous or contemptuous use.

~ordinance~, ~ordnance~: These words have no relation in common. An
_ordinance_ is a regulation ordained by some one in authority as a
“municipal _ordinance_.” _Ordnance_ is artillery, especially heavy
guns, cannon of all kinds, mortars, howitzers, etc.

~ornery~: A barbarous dialectism for “ordinary” which can not be too
severely condemned.

~other~: This word is often improperly omitted from general
comparisons; for instance, “All men are better than he” obviously
should be “All _other_ men,” etc., as the person excepted of necessity
belongs to the class embraced by “all men.”

~other~, ~otherwise~: When these words introduce a clause of comparison
they should be followed by the conjunction _than_, instead of which
the words _but_ and _except_ are often erroneously introduced. _Than_
is indeed the conjunction of simple comparison, and should be used
after adjectives in the comparative degree. In better usage _else_ is
also followed by _than_, unless the word is introduced, as frequently,
without appreciably adding effect to the sentence; as, “She did
nothing (_else_) _but_ weep,” though even here the introduction of the
unnecessary word would make _than_ the preferable sequence. “He knew no
_other_ course _than_ this”--not _but_ or _except_. “It can not operate
_otherwise than_ for good”--not _but_. “No _quicker_ did he climb the
rope _than_ (not _but_) back he fell.”

~ought~. Compare AUGHT.

~ought~, ~hadn’t~. See HAD OUGHT.

~out of sight~: An intense vulgarism for “superb.”

~over and above~, if redundant, is an undesirable expression. Avoid the
addition of words to a sentence that fail to add to the sense. “_Over
and above_ his debts illness had now to be provided for.” It were
better to say “In _addition_ to his debts,” etc.

~over~, ~across~: _Over_ is sometimes misused for “across.” Do not say
“go _over_ the bridge” when you mean _across_ it.

~overflowed~: The banks of a river may be _overflowed_; they should
never be spoken of as _overflown_. There is no verb to _overfly_, but
there is one to _overflow_ the participles of which are _overflowed_,
_overflowing_. The termination--_flown_ used commonly by the
illiterate is the past participle of _fly_. Although _flown_ originally
meant “flooded” the word in the sense is now obsolete.

~over~, ~not over~: Opposed by some writers when used as equivalent
to _more than_, _not more than_, but defensible as having a tinge of
metaphor suggestive of overflowing quantity or overtopping height and
having the support of literary usage.

~overshoes~. Compare RUBBERS.

~over with~: Avoid as incorrect all such sentences as, “When the game
was _over with_, we enjoyed a cold collation.” Here the word “with” is

~owing~. Compare DUE.

~own~: Some critics object to the use of this word in the sense of
_confess_, but it is sanctioned by literary usage and dates from the
seventeenth century. ~To own up~, or ~to~, in the sense of “to make
a full confession” or “to admit unreservedly when challenged” is a


~pack~: A word sometimes misapplied especially in speaking of a number
of persons; as, “the whole _pack_.” It is correctly used when applied
to dogs or wolves, hence, from the latter application, also to any band
of men leagued together for evil purposes; as, “a _pack_ of thieves”:
sometimes, also, correctly styled a _gang_.

~pain~. Compare PANE.

~pair~: Great care should be exercised in applying modifying adjectives
to this word. Thus one may say “a new _pair_ of trousers;” “a new
_pair_ of scissors;” but not “a new _pair_ of shoes.” There is a
distinction in the use--“a new pair” as applied to gloves or shoes
implies exchange of one pair for another; here, “a _different_ pair”
would be preferred. In general, say, rather, “a _pair_ of new shoes”;
“a _pair_ of new gloves.” This word remains _pair_ in the plural when
it is preceded by a number: otherwise it takes the _s_. “Two _pair_ of
gloves,” but “many _pairs_ of trousers.”

~pane~: Sometimes confused with ~pain~. The first designates “a piece,
division or compartment, most commonly a plate of window glass”; the
second denotes “a distressing or disagreeable emotion.” The spellings
of the two words should never be confused, but occasionally are.

~pants~: A vulgarism or tailor’s cant for _pantaloons_ meaning
_trousers_ which should be the word used by preference.

~paradox~: Commonly used incorrectly in the phrase “a seeming
paradox,”--a thing that does not exist, a paradox being a statement
that seems to be at variance with common sense. A statement may,
however, be characterized as _paradoxical_.

~paraphernalia~, from the Greek _para_, beyond, + _phero_, bring, is
properly applied to the personal articles, as jewelry, reserved to a
wife over and above her dower or marriage portion, and should not be
used in the sense of finery or regalia. Yet the application is common
but savors of grandiloquence. The finery and regalia are not, or should
not be, “over and above,” but should be as of right or of good taste.

~pare~, ~pair~: Words the spellings of which are sometimes confused.
_Pare_, to remove the outer covering from is from the Latin _paro_ and
means “prepare”; _pair_, designating two persons or things, is from the
Latin _par_, which means “equal.” See PAIR.

~parenthesis~: The phrase _in parenthesis_ includes both signs, and
an expression placed between these signs is therefore said to be
“in parenthesis.” _Parentheses_ refers only to two or more sets of
parenthetical expressions. Due care should be exercised in using this

~parson~: Although a good word used to designate “the clergyman of
a parish,” _parson_ is often used contemptuously, and from this use
has acquired a sense that detracts from the dignity of the office;
therefore, is one to be avoided. Do not say “Our _parson_ is a popular
man”; say, rather, “Our _minister_....”

~partake~ should never be used as a synonym for “eat” or “drink.” One
may _partake of_ a meal with other persons, that is, share it with
them, but one does not partake a meal by one’s self.

~partially~ should not be used for “partly,” as, having the meaning
“with unjust favoritism” it may be misunderstood.

~party~, ~person~: Except in legal terminology, _person_ is preferable;
_party_ means, in general, an entertainment. In the legal sense,
_party_ is a person (or body of persons collectively) who (or which)
takes a certain specified part in a legal transaction, as “A. B., the
party of the first part.” From this application of the term, the word
has been loosely extended to mean _person_. Do not say “A certain
_party_,” etc., but “A certain _person_”; party in such a connection is
a vulgarism.

~pathos~. Compare BATHOS.

~patrons~ should not be used for “customers.” A _patron_ is one who
fosters a person or thing; a _customer_ is one who deals regularly at
one establishment.

~peach~: Used in the sense of “beauty,” possibly from the delicate and
downy skin of the fruit, is a playful though undesirable expression
used commonly by young men and boys, especially in referring to women;
as, “Isn’t she a peach!” Lexicographers do not recognize this usage of
the word.

~peculiarly impressive~: A phrase heard sometimes for “singularly” or
“strikingly impressive”; but the word is from the Latin _peculiaris_,
“one’s own,” and it is in this respect that the individuality enters
the case. What belongs exclusively to a person is _peculiarly_ his;
and the sense of remarkable, as from singularity, intensity, or
exceptionality, is better expressed by the word of this class best
adapted to the case.

~pecuniary~. Compare FINANCIAL.

~peel~ should not be confused with ~peal~. The first designates “rind”;
the second, “ring.”

~pell-mell~: This word etymologically implies a crowd and confusion
and is not applied to an individual. Thus, “He rushed out _pell-mell_”
should be “He rushed out hastily and excitedly.”

~penny~: In the plural this word is either _pennies_ or _pence_. In the
one case it means a number of individual coins; in the second case it
signifies a specific sum of money.

~people~: Where individual persons, or a number of such, are intended,
this word should be discarded in favor of _persons_; as, “most
_persons_ are of this opinion.” People means _persons_ collectively; as
“_People_ say.”

~per~: This is a Latin preposition, correctly joined only with Latin
words; as, _per centum_, abbreviated _per cent._; _per diem_; _per
annum_. _Per head_ and _per person_, _per year_, _per day_ are common
commercial locutions; use preferably the English forms _a_ head, _a_
person, _a_ year, _a_ day. If you must use a Latin phrase be sure you
use all Latin.

~perfectly killing~: An inane expression used commonly by women for
“in stylish attire,” and also, “intensely comic” or “absurd.” Compare

~perform~ does not mean ~play~. One _performs_ music _on_ a piano or
_plays the_ piano, but does not _perform_ the piano. To perform _on_
the piano would rather indicate “to strum” upon it or (if you like)
_play upon_ or _play with_ it than to _play it_.

~perform~. Compare ASSUME.

~permit~. Compare ALLOW.

~perpetually~; Distinguish from _continually_. There is a difference
between that which is done unceasingly and that which merely takes
place constantly.

~person~. Compare PARTY.

~personalty~ is sometimes considered to mean articles of personal
adornment. It does not. It is a legal term, now in contradistinction
to _realty_, and includes therefore all movables, as money; personal
property of any kind whatever, as household goods; chattels real and
personal; things movable as distinguished from _realty_ or landed
property in any form.

~persons~. Compare PEOPLE.

~perspicacity~, ~perspicuity~; Terms often confused. _Perspicacity_
is “acuteness, clear-sightedness or penetration”; _perspicuity_ is
“clearness of expression or style, lucidity”; and is applied to speech
and writing.

~persuade~, ~convince~: That which _persuades_, leads or attracts
(Latin _suadeo_, advise), that which _convinces_, binds (Latin _vinco_,
conquer). A person when _convinced_ that he is wrong is _persuaded_,
by justice or interest, to amend his ways.

~peruse~ should not be used when the simple _read_ is meant. The former
implies to read with care and attention and is almost synonymous with
_scan_, which is to examine with critical care and in detail. A person
is more likely to _read_ than to _scan_ or _peruse_ the Bible.

~petition~, ~partition~: Sometimes pronounced as if they were
homophones, but they are not. Exercise care in their use. A _petition_
is a request, a _partition_ is that which separates anything into
distinct parts.

~phenomenon~ is the singular of _phenomena_, and the distinction
should be observed in speech. Avoid as incorrect such locution as “A
remarkable phenomena.”

~piece, a~: A provincial vulgarism used in such phrases as “We went
along the road _a piece_”; “he followed me _a piece_,” etc.

~pike~: A vulgarism used as a verb for “to move away rapidly,” and as
a noun, contemptuously, for “a shiftless class of persons.”

~pillar~, ~pillow~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
A _pillar_ is a firm, upright, separate support; a _pillow_ is a
head-rest. Note the difference in the spellings.

~pile-in~: Slang for “get to work.”

~pipe-off~: A vulgarism for to “take in at a glance.”

~pity~, ~sympathy~: Not synonymous terms. _Pity_ awakens a feeling
of grief or sorrow in one for the distress of another; _sympathy_ is
a feeling kindred with that of another for his state or condition.
_Sympathy_ implies a degree of equality which _pity_ does not. We may
_pity_ one whom we disdain but we can not _sympathize_ with him.

~place~: Used objectively without a preposition, or even adverbially,
a provincialism common in parts of the United States; as, “She is
always wanting _to go places_”; “Can’t I _go any place_ (correctly
_anywhere_)?” “I must _go some place_ (_somewhere_)”; “I can’t find it
_any place_.” Such forms are solecisms.

~place~, ~plaice~: Homophones, so care should be exercised in their use
and spelling. A _place_ is a particular point or portion of space; a
_plaice_ is a fish.

~plank~: Used usually with “down” this term is commonly employed by
persons careless of their diction for “pay out” or “lay down”: said
especially of money, and a term to be avoided.

~plead~, ~pleaded~ or ~pled~, ~pleading~: The spelling of _pled_ for
the past is not warranted, and is a colloquialism. Careful speakers use

~pleasure~ is distinguished from _happiness_, although in common
conversation the terms are frequently used as if they were synonymous.
“By _happiness_,” says Hamilton, “is meant the complement of all the
_pleasures_ of which we are susceptible.” Crabb says, “_Happiness_
comprehends that aggregate of _pleasurable_ sensations which we
derive from external objects”: it is “a condition in which _pleasure_
predominates over pain or evil; a continued experience of _pleasures_
and joys.” “_Pleasure_ is the accompaniment of the moderate and
suitable activity of some organ or faculty of the mind.”

~plentiful~. Compare BOUNTIFUL.

~plenty~: The colloquialism by which _plenty_, which is a noun, is
treated as an adjective or adverb is altogether inadmissible. In such
cases _plentiful_ and _plentifully_ should be used. “We have _plenty
of_ money.” “Cash is _plentiful_.” “We are _plentifully_ supplied”--not
“We have _plenty_ enough cash.”

~plunk~: A vulgarism for a silver dollar.

~polite~, ~civil~, ~polished~: _Civil_, from the Latin _civilis_,
from _civis_, a citizen, denotes that which is becoming to a citizen.
_Polite_ is the Latin _politus_, participle of _polio_, polish.
Civility is therefore negative, the mere absence of rudeness, whereas
politeness is the positive evidence of good breeding. A _polite_ man
is naturally so, but a _polished_ man is one who has, by art, acquired
the smoothness which comes of having had the rough edges rubbed off.
_Polite_ denotes a quality; _polished_ denotes a state.

~politics~ is a singular word of plural form. “His hobby _is
politics_”--not “_Politics are_ his hobby.”

~polity~ and ~policy~ both come from the Latin _politica_, (Gr.
_politeia_, polity, _polis_, city); but they must not be confounded.
“_Polity_ is the permanent system of government of a state, a church,
or a society; _policy_ is the method of management with reference to
the attainment of certain ends. The national _polity_ of the United
States is republican; each administration has a _policy_ of its own.”

~pore~: Compare POUR.

~possessive case, the~: A very unnecessary difficulty appears to
be felt, even by educated men, in the use of the apostrophe in the
possessive case. It is placed immediately after the noun under
consideration. If, for instance, you are talking of a lady and refer
to her glove, you say “the _lady’s_ glove”--then the apostrophe
should immediately follow the noun in question; viz., _lady_, in the
singular. If, however, there are two ladies or more, you say “the
_ladies’_ gloves,” and the apostrophe should follow _ladies_; that is,
_lady_, in the plural. In like manner, you write “the _boy’s_ father,”
or “the _boys’_ father,” when referring to one or to two or more
boys, respectively. “The _man’s_ hat,” “the _men’s_ hats,” with the
apostrophe following the noun _man_ or _men_, will note the possessive
in the singular and plural for the noun _man_.

The nearest approach to a difficulty is where a plural ends with an “s”
or a sibilant sound; but here the rule is still the same--place the
apostrophe after the noun referred to, that is, the plural, though
for the sake of smoothness and euphony, omit the succeeding (or rather
non-succeeding) “s.” Thus, “the _boss’s_ desk” in the singular, “the
_bosses’_ desks,” in the plural. When the singular ends in “s,” the
possessive “s” is usually retained, excepting where the noun has three
or more syllables and the word following commences with this letter.
Thus, Charles’s uncle; Burns’s poems; Burns’s stanza; Damocles’ sword.
The possessive “s” is also generally omitted before “sake”--as, “For
conscience’ _sake_” (conscience having the “s” sound); “for Jesus’

In speaking of a firm, where the partners constitute but one object
of contemplation, the apostrophe is used but once--after the complete
object of contemplation, that is, after the title or firm name; as,
“Jones and Robinson’s store.” If Jones and Robinson, instead of being
in partnership had independent businesses you would speak of “Jones’s
and Robinson’s stores”--this being no exception to, but merely an
exemplification of, the rule that the apostrophe immediately follows
the noun or name (or firm name) under consideration.

Occasionally, the possessive appears in double form, the substantive
being preceded by _of_ and followed by the apostrophe with _s_. This
occurs, however, only in idiomatic phrases, as, “He was a friend of my
father’s,” which is equivalent to “He was one of my father’s friends”
or “He was a friend of (the number of) my father’s (friends),” when
it may be supposed that the person spoken of possesses more than one
object of the kind referred to, this double form of possessive is
properly used. “It was a fault of my friend to be loquacious” would
signify the one particular weakness of my friend: “It was a fault of
my friend’s to be loquacious,” that is, “of my friend’s faults,” would
signify that this was one of various faults.

The apostrophe is not used with the possessive personal pronouns. Write
“yours (_not_ your’s) truly.” Compare ’S.

~post~: A colloquialism, generally undesirable, for _inform_. It is
derived from the bookkeeping signification of the term, where it
means that the ledger is supplied, by transfer, with the information
contained in the books of original entry.

~pour~, ~pore~: Exercise care in using these homophones. The first
is of Celtic origin and means “to cause to flow, as a liquid, in a
continuous stream”; whereas _pore_ is from the Middle English _poren_,
and means “to gaze or ponder with close and continued application, as
in reading or studying.”

~power~: In the sense of “a great number or quantity,” this word is an
undesirable colloquialism that has gained ground especially in rural
districts. One may say of a man “He was a _power_ among the people,”
but not “A _power_ of people heard him.”

~practical~: Do not confound with ~practicable~. The former means
“that can be put into practise or rendered applicable for use; as,
_practical_ knowledge”; whereas the latter is perhaps best expressed by
the synonym “feasible.” _Practical_ has a general application, being
governed by actual use and experience; as, _practical_ statesmanship or
wisdom: _practicable_, on the contrary, is particular, and signifies
the suitability of the particular thing named to the desired end. Thus
one may know a _practical_ man but not a _practicable_ one.

~pray~, ~prey~: Exercise care in using these homophones. Etymologically
they are distinct. _Pray_ is from Old French _praier_, to ask; while
_prey_ is from Old French _preier_, booty, probably from the Latin
_prœhendo_, to seize. Note the difference in spelling.

~precedent~, ~president~: Although almost homophones these terms
have widely different meanings. A _precedent_ is something that has
occurred before in time and is considered as an established rule or an
authorized example; a _president_ is the head of a nation, society, or
the like.

~predicate~, ~predict~: Though these words are both derived from the
same Latin source, the one must not be used for the other. To _predict_
is to foretell, whereas to _predicate_ is to proclaim as inherent. In
United States usage _predicate_, with _on_ or _upon_, is sometimes
treated as synonymous with _establish_; as, “On what do you _predicate_
the assertion?”

~prefer~: The act or thing preferred should never be followed by
_than_. _Prefer_ is properly followed by the preposition _to_, or
occasionally by _above_ or _before_. Thus do not say “I _prefer_ to
talk than to dance,” but “I _prefer_ talking _to_ dancing.”

~preferable~: If the preference is stated in terms, as “This is
_preferable_ to that,” the word is followed by the preposition
_to_--never by _than_. The preference may, however, be implied; as,
“This is _preferable_.”

~prejudice~: Sometimes erroneously used for “prepossess” or
“predispose.” A _prepossession_ is always favorable, a _prejudice_
always unfavorable, unless the contrary is expressly stated.
_Predispose_ means “to dispose or incline beforehand.” Therefore, we
should not say that a person is _prejudiced_ in any one’s favor but
that he is _prepossessed_ or _predisposed_.

~preposition~: “The part of speech or particle that denotes the
relation of an object to an action or thing; so called because it is
usually placed before its object.” The correct use of these little
words is often puzzling to persons of education. For the purpose of
their guidance the following partial list is given. A comprehensive
work on the subject of their correct use is “English Synonyms, Antonyms
and Prepositions,” by Dr. James C. Fernald.

  accord _with_ (neuter)

  accord _to_ (active)

  accused _of_ crime

  acquit persons _of_

  adapted _to_ or _between_

  adapted _to_ a thing _for_ a purpose

  affinity _to_ or _between_

  agreeable _to_

  agree _with_ persons, _to_ things, _among_ ourselves

  amuse _with_, _at_, _in_

  angry _with_ (a person) _at_ (a thing)

  anxious _for_, _about_, sometimes _on_

  attend _to_ (listen)

  attend _upon_ (wait)

  averse _from_, when describing an act or state.

  averse _to_, when describing feeling

  bestow _upon_

  boast _of_

  call _on_

  change _for_

  compliance _with_

  confer _on_ (give), _with_ (converse)

  confide _in_, when intransitive

  confide it _to_, when transitive

  conform _to_

  conformable _to_

  consonant _to_, sometimes _with_

  convenient _to_ or _for_

  conversant _with_ persons; _in_ or _of_ affairs; _about_ subjects

  correspond _with_ (by letter), _to_ (similar things)

  dependent _on_, _upon_

  derogate _from_

  derogatory _to_ a person or thing

  die _of_ or _by_

  differ _from_ or _with_

  difference _with_ a person

  difference _between_ things

  difficulty _in_

  diminution _of_

  disappointed _of_ a purpose; and _in_ a matter if it fails to meet
  our expectations.

  disapprove _of_

  discouragement _to_

  dissent _from_

  distinguished _for_, _from_, sometimes _by_

  eager _in_

  entertain _by_ (a person), _with_ (a thing)

  exception is taken _to_ statements; sometimes _against_

  expert _at_ or _in_

  fall _under_

  free _from_

  frightened _at_

  glad _of_ something gained, and _of_ or _at_ what befalls another

  grieve _at_, _for_

  independent _of_

  insist _upon_

  made _of_, _for_, _from_, _with_

  marry _to_

  martyr _for_ a cause, _to_ a disease.

  need _of_

  notice _of_

  observance _of_

  prejudiced _against_

  prejudicial _to_

  profit _by_

  provide _for_

  reconcile _to_

  recreant _to_, _from_

  reduce _to_ a state; _under_ subjection

  regard _to_ or _for_

  replete _with_

  resemblance _to_

  resolve _on_

  respect _for_

  smile _at_, _upon_

  swerve _from_

  taste _of_ what is actually enjoyed; _for_ what we have the capacity
  of enjoying.

  think _of_ or _on_

  thirst _for_, _after_

  true _of_ (predicable)

  true _to_ (faithful)

  wait _on_ (serve), _at_ (a place), _for_ (await)

  worthy _of_

~present~ is to be distinguished from ~introduce~. Introduction takes
place among equals, but a presentation takes place by act of grace.
Then the favored person is brought into the presence of some superior
or other persons, be it lady or celebrity, who is graciously pleased
to grant the privilege, which however does not permit the subsequent
familiarity of an introduction. A man may be _presented_ at court or
to a reigning beauty, but he is merely _introduced_ to the man who may
afterwards become a college chum.

~pretend~ is so commonly used in a bad sense that it becomes improper
to use it (even in the sense of claim) for _profess_; for a profession
is made only of what one is happy or proud to profess. Therefore say,
“I _profess_ (not I _pretend_ to) skill in surgery.”

~pretty~ as an adverb may properly be used to signify moderately,
tolerably, fairly, somewhat (extensively), but the expression lacks
elegance and definitiveness, as is shown by the following sentence: “He
is a _pretty_ sick man, but is _pretty_ sure to recover, being at all
times _pretty_ fortunate.”

~prevail~: In the sense of “triumph,” this word is usually followed by
the prepositions _over_ or _against_; as, “We have _prevailed over_ our
enemies”; “None can _prevail against_ us.” In the sense of “to have
effectual influence,” follow it with _on_, _upon_ or _with_; as, “He
_prevailed on_ me to go.” In the sense “to have general vogue, currency
or acceptance,” it should be followed by _through_ or _throughout_; as,
“Mohammedanism _prevails throughout_ Northern Africa.”

~preventive~ is preferable to _preventative_, which is a corruption of
the former, has been described as a “barbarism,” and is said to stamp
any one using it as lacking in common education.

~previous~: In higher literature, the adverbial use of _previous_
with _to_, in the sense of “prior to” is not favored. The adverb
_previously_ or the expression _prior to_ is preferred.

~prey~. Compare PRAY.

~principle~, ~principal~: Exercise care in the use of these homophones.
_Principle_ is a source or cause from which a thing proceeds:
_principal_, first or highest in rank. Note the difference in spelling.

~profess~. Compare PRETEND.

~promise~ should never be used for “assure.” A _promise_ always implies
futurity. Do not say “He was alarmed, I _promise_ you;” say, rather,
“I _assure_ you.”

~pronouns in the objective~: Often the coupling of one pronoun with
another leads a careless speaker into error, where had one pronoun only
been used, no doubt or difficulty would have been experienced. “If he
calls for (you and) _I_, we will go.” If the words in parenthesis be
omitted no one would think of saying “for _I_,” but would naturally
use the correct pronoun _me_. This method of elision will generally
elucidate the correct usage. “To talk like that before (you and) _I_
was atrocious.” Say _me_, as you certainly would if you omitted the
words in parenthesis.

~prophecy~, ~prophesy~: Discriminate carefully between these words. A
_prophecy_ is a prediction, the foretelling of an event; to _prophesy_
is to predict, or foretell an event. Note the difference in spelling.

~proposal~, as distinguished from ~proposition~, refers to the
difference in treatment of the matter at issue. The one invites a plain
“yes” or “no,” whereas the other suggests consideration or debate. A
_proposal_ of marriage usually anticipates an immediate reply, whereas
a _proposition_ for partnership involves reflection and discussion of

~propose~, ~purpose~: Words often used incorrectly. To _propose_ is to
offer; to _purpose_ is to intend. One _proposes_ to a young lady if
one’s _purpose_ is to marry her. Compare CONTEMPLATE.

~proven~: An irregular form of the past participle of _prove_ used
correctly only in courts of law. The word should be restricted to the
Scotch verdict of “not _proven_,” which signifies of a charge that it
has neither been proved nor disproved. The modern pernicious tendency
among reporters is to use _proven_ instead of _proved_.

~providing~, ~provided~: The first of these words, which is not a
conjunction, is sometimes improperly used for _provided_, which is.
Say, “You may go, _provided_ (_not_ providing) the weather be fine.”

~provoke~. Compare AGGRAVATE.

~pull~ used to designate “influence” is a vulgarism of the street and
the political arena that should be discountenanced. “Influence” is a
better word.

~pupil~. Compare SCHOLAR.

~push, the whole~: A vulgar phrase used to designate all the persons
that form a party: an Anglicism. In English slang “push” is used for
“crowd” probably from the proverbial restlessness and crushing in which
English crowds usually indulge.

~put~: For _run_ or _ran_; as, “You ought to have seen him _put_”;
“Then he _put_ (sometimes, _put out_) for home”: an archaic usage
now appearing as a colloquial Americanism. _Stay put_ in the sense
of “remain where (or as) placed” is also an Americanism, never used
(unless playfully) by correct speakers.


~quantity~ is properly applied to that which is measurable, as is
“number” to that which may be counted. “A _quantity_ of people”; “a
_quantity_ of birds,” are both incorrect; substitute the word _number_
in both cases.

~quarter of~: As applied to time this is incorrect. Such an ambiguity
can be avoided by substituting _to_ for _of_. For example, a quarter of
seven is one and three-fourths not a quarter _to_ the hour of seven;
yet the phrase “quarter of” is often misapplied to time by persons of
average education.

~quit~ is sometimes used incorrectly for ~cease~. You may _quit_
business, but do not ask your companion to “_quit_ fooling.”

~quite~: In general _quite_ means “to the fullest extent, totally,
perfectly”; colloquially, it means “very, considerably.” It is from
the French _quitte_, meaning “discharged,” being the equivalent of the
English “quits,” a word used in games to designate when the players are
even with one another. Therefore such a phrase as “quite a number” is
unjustifiable. “Number” is indefinite in its significance just as are
also “few,” “little,” and “some.” As Richard Grant White says, “A cup
or a theater may be _quite_ full; and there may be _quite_ a pint in a
cup or _quite_ a thousand people in the theater; and neither may be
_quite_ full.” Yet Thomas Hughes, author of “Tom Brown’s Schooldays,”
wrote in a letter concerning an intercollegiate boat-race “_quite_ a
number of young Americans.” The local colloquialism “quite some” is
wholly indefensible.

~quite so~: An undesirable locution, common in England and to some
extent in America, and used to signify assent, which should be avoided.
“He jabbers like an idiot.” “_Quite so, quite so._”

~quite the lady~: A vulgarism for “very ladylike.”


~rabbit~, ~rarebit~: The correct form of this term is _rabbit_. A
_Welsh rabbit_ is toasted or melted cheese well-seasoned and served
on toast. This term, probably of slang origin, is analogous to
_Munster plums_ designating Irish potatoes, and _Glasgow magistrate_,
designating a salt herring.

~rag~. Compare CHEW THE RAG.

~raise~: As a verb this is often misapplied to the bringing up of
human beings. One _rears_ cattle, _raises_ chickens, but _brings up_
children. _Rear_, meaning “to nurture and train,” may also be used of

You may _raise_ a fund for rent because the rent has been _raised_;
but in speaking of this it were better to say “has been _increased_.”
The colloquial use of _raise_ for an increase in salary should also be

~raise~, ~raze~: Discriminate carefully between these homophones. To
_raise_ is to cause to rise, elevate; but to _raze_ is to level with
the ground, as a building.

~rare~: In the United States _rare_ applied to meat is used to
designate meat that is not well done; in England, the term is used to
designate meat that is not fresh.

~rarely or ever~: Often incorrectly used for “rarely _if_ ever”: the
word _seldom_ is preferable.

~rather~: Superfluous with adjectives ending in _-ish_, when this
implies _rather_; as, “_rather_ warmish,” “_rather_ coldish.” Charles
Lamb jestingly made the error apparent in closing a letter with
“yours ratherish unwell.” But with adjectives where _-ish_ expresses
quality only, not degree, _rather_ is admissible, and may make a neat
distinction; as, “_rather_ foolish.”

~rattle~: In the sense of “to throw suddenly into confusion” this
word is a colloquialism which has much currency. _Disconcert_ is a
preferable term though not nearly so expressive.

~read~. Compare PERUSE.

~real~ used for ~very~ is an undesirable colloquialism. Avoid such
locutions as “_real_ glad”; “_real_ smart”; “_real_ pleased.” _Very_ is
the correct word to use.

~realized~ should not be used for “obtained.”

~receipt~. Compare RECIPE.

~recipe~ refers to the thing--the _combined ingredients_--directed
to be taken, and _receipt_ refers to what is taken, _i. e._, the
identical thing prescribed. The two words have thus come to acquire the
same meaning, though, strictly, the doctor gives the _recipe_ (thing to
be taken) or formula, and the patient acknowledges the _receipt_ (of
the thing given).

~reciprocal~. Compare MUTUAL.

~recollect~ is not the same as remember. You only _recollect_ after
making the effort to do so; you _remember_ because you have never
forgotten, therefore without effort. You _remember_ the rent is due,
but _recollect_ the date of your friend’s birth.

~recommend~: As a noun used instead of _recommendation_, this word is
a colloquialism the use of which should be discouraged.

~recourse~, ~resource~: Two words often confounded. _Recourse_ means
a resort to, as for help or protection; the adoption of a means to an
end. A _resource_ is that which one resorts to, as in case of need;
the source of aid or support; an expedient. In the plural, _resources_
are one’s means, funds, or property of any kind, as distinguished from
one’s _liabilities_.

~reduce~, ~lessen~: To _reduce_ is to bring to a specified form or
inferior condition; to _lessen_ is to diminish. Do not say “to _reduce_
cases in which the death penalty may be inflicted”; say, rather, “to
_lessen_ the number of cases, etc.”

~regardless~ is an adjective meaning “exercising no regard; heedless,”
and should never be used as in the common vulgarism “got up
_regardless_” which is incomplete, and which to be correct should be
rendered “got up _regardless of expense_.”

~relation~, ~relative~, ~kinsman~: The distinction between these words
is not commonly known. A _relation_ or _relative_ is one to whom
another may be related by ties of blood or by law. Thus, a brother is
a _relation_ or _relative_ by ties of blood; and a brother-in-law is
a _relation_ or _relative_ by law. A _kinsman_, as the formation of
the word shows, is a “man’s kin”; that is, one of his own blood, as a
brother or cousin.

~relic~, ~relict~; These words, though once interchangeable are no
longer so; _relict_ in the sense of _relic_ now being obsolete. A
_relic_ is a fragment that remains after the loss or decay of the rest.
A _relict_ is either a widow or a widower. In this sense the term,
common in law, is archaic or humorous in general use.

~relieve~. Compare ALLEVIATE.

~remainder~. Compare BALANCE.

~remains~ should not be used for “corpse” or “body.”

~remit~: In commercial usage this word implies the discharge of an
account by payment sent; and it should not generally be used as a
synonym for _send_. To _remit_ is “to send or place back.” Thus, to
forgive, release, withdraw a demand for--any of which actions may
replace the recipient of the favor in his former position--is properly
spoken of as _remit_. It is in this sense only that _remit_ is
permissible for discharge of an obligation, though by payment, as this
procedure places the parties in the same state as that in which they
were before the obligation was incurred.

~rendering~. Compare RENDITION.

~rendition~: Although this word has the meaning of “artistic
interpretation or reproduction, as of the spirit of a composer,” the
word _rendering_ is preferably employed in referring to a delineation
or interpretation in art and the drama. Describe an artistic version
or a literary translation as a _rendering_, and an amount rendered or
produced, as a yield of cocoons, as a _rendition_. The former specially
signifies the act, the latter the thing produced by the act, though
there is of course a blending point of the two which is none other than
the whole.

~replace~: The use of this word with the sense of “succeed” has been
subjected to criticism, usage decrees that to _replace_ is to “take or
fill the place of; supersede in any manner.” To _succeed_ is to “come
next in order especially in a manner prescribed by law.”

~reply~. Compare ANSWER.

~reputation~. Compare CHARACTER.

~requirement~, ~requisite~, ~requisition~: Whereas a _requisite_ is
that which can not be dispensed with, a _requirement_ is rather that
which is insisted on, if desired conditions are to be fulfilled.
Fresh air is a _requisite_ of life; the apology you ask is a hard
_requirement_. My _requirements_ are few; my _requisites_ but
clothing, food and air. When a _requirement_ partakes of the nature
of a legal or authoritative or even popular demand, it then becomes a
_requisition_; as, a _requisition_ for accounts; to be in _requisition_.

~resemble~. Compare FAVOR.

~reside~, ~residence~: Somewhat stately words, not to be
indiscriminately used for _live_, _house_ or _home_. In the legal
sense, as affecting, for instance, the right to vote, a man’s
_residence_ may be in a cheap lodging-house; but commonly the word
would be understood to designate a building of some pretensions. “Where
does he _live_?” is ordinarily better than “Where does he _reside_?”
and to call a plain little cottage “my _residence_” is a bit of petty

~resource~. Compare RECOURSE.

~respectfully~ is often confounded by the thoughtless with
~respectively~. While the former means “in a respectful manner”
the latter signifies “singly, in the order designated, or as
singly considered.” _Respectively_ must also be distinguished from
_severally_, the meaning of which is “separately, or each for himself
or itself.” For example, “The three men _severally_ undertook to do
the share of work allotted to them _respectively_, that is, A, B, C,
each promised for himself to do work in the following proportions--A,
one-sixth, B, one-third, and C, one-half of the whole.”

~restive~: Objection has been made to the use of this word in the sense
of ~restless~, as commonly applied to a horse, on the ground that
it formerly meant “stubborn, balky, refusing to go.” On this subject
Fitzedward Hall (“False Philology,” p. 97) says: “The ordinary sense
of the word has always been ‘unruly,’ ‘intractable,’ ‘refractory.’
Proofs are subjoined from Lord Brooks, Dr. Featly, Fuller, Milton,
Jeremy Collins, Samuel Richardson, Burke, Coleridge, Mr. De Quincey and
Landor. As concerns a horse, however, if he resists an attempt to keep
him quiet, he shows himself _restive_.”

~reticule~, ~ridicule~: Two words widely different in meaning but
liable to confusion when spoken hurriedly. A _reticule_ is a bag-like
receptacle used by ladies for carrying such articles as embroidery,
needlework, etc.; _ridicule_ is speech or behavior intended to convey
contempt and excite laughter; wit, as of the pen or pencil, that
provokes contemptuous laughter.

~reverend~, ~reverent~: These words are sometimes confounded. The
one is objective and descriptive of the feeling with which a person
is regarded; the other is subjective and descriptive of the feeling
within a person. In explanation of the difference. Dean Alford offers
the following instance: “Dean Swift might be Very _Reverend_ by common
courtesy, but he was certainly not very _reverent_ in his conduct or in
his writings.”

~Reverend~, abbreviated ~Rev.~ as a title, should, like _Honorable_ be
preceded by the definite article, the phrase being adjectival; as,
“The _Reverend_ Thomas Jones”; or, if the first name is not used, “The
_Reverend_ Mr. Jones”; but “_Rev._ Jones,” used widely in the United
States, is harsh if not rude. The title or distinction of a husband is
not correctly applied to the wife. Never say The Rev. Mrs Smith or Mrs.
General Brown, etc.

~reverse~ should not be confounded with _converse_. _Reverse_ is the
opposite or antithesis of something; minus is the _reverse_ of plus.
The “_converse_” is “the opposite reciprocal proposition,” reached by
transposition of the terms of the proposition, the subject becoming
predicate and the predicate subject. The _converse_ of the proposition,
“If two sides of a triangle be equal, the angles opposite to those
sides are equal,” is, “If two angles of a triangle be equal, the sides
opposite to those angles are equal.”

~revolts~: The use of this word as a transitive verb, although
supported by high authority, is not favored. “This _revolts_ me” is far
better expressed by “This is _revolting to_ me.”

~ride~, ~drive~: One _rides_ in a saddle or _drives_ in a carriage; a
distinction drawn by English people but condemned as “mere pedantry
without a pretense of philological authority” by Gould (“Good English,”
p. 84). Compare DRIVE.

~rigged out~. Compare TOGGED OUT.

~right~: In the adverbial sense of _in a great degree_, is archaic or
colloquial, except in some titles, as _Right_ Reverend. Say of a thing
that it is _utterly_ (not _right_) nonsensical. Again, the use of this
adverb in the sense of _precisely_ and _without delay_ is not approved
by many purists, who suggest that some more suitable term be chosen.
“Stand _right_ there,” for “Stand precisely where you are” or “stand
just at that spot” is not approved; so is it also with “Do this _right_
away” for “do this instantly.”

~right~ as a noun should not be used for “just cause to expect” or the
verb “deserve.” Thus, instead of “You have a _right_ to suffer” say
“You deserve (or have just cause to expect) to suffer.”

~right away~, ~right off~: Common and undesirable colloquialisms for
“at once,” “instantly.”

~right back, to be~: An unwarranted colloquialism for “to be here (or
there) again in a moment.”

~right man in the right place, the~: It is claimed by some persons
that it is impossible for the right man to be in the wrong place, or
the wrong man in the right place--the result being in either case that
right, or the thing desired, would not prevail. But the reverse, the
exact thing not desired or the wrong, may be that which ensues--Why?
Possibly because the man who was the very man to bring the transaction
to a successful issue was wrongly placed, or because the thing desired,
which could easily have been achieved with a certain man or type of man
to do it was attempted by a less efficient man--good perhaps for some
things but not for that particular work. The poor fellows who rode so
gallantly to death at Balaklava were the right fellows for the work
in hand, but at that fatal moment were forced into a wrong place. The
phrase expresses a felt meaning and is good, as is acknowledged when,
in terms of pride and satisfaction, we refer to “the man behind the

~rights and privileges~: To be used with discrimination. A _privilege_
is “something peculiar to one or some as distinguished from others;
a prerogative”; so that the term is to be employed relatively. “The
_rights and privileges_ of the people,” as often used absolutely in
political platforms, demagogical speeches, and radical newspapers, is
incorrect, since the people in this sense can have no _privileges_,
_i. e._, “things peculiar to individuals.” Milton’s use is correct
when he says “We do not mean to destroy all the people’s _rights
and privileges_,” since he is speaking of the people relatively, as
distinguished from the magistrates and the king.--STANDARD DICTIONARY.

~rise~: Some lexicographers claim a distinction in the pronunciation of
the word _rise_ as a noun and _rise_ as a verb, making the noun rhyme
with “rice” and the verb rhyme with “prize,” but common usage sanctions
only one pronunciation, that rhyming with “prize.”

~roast~: A slang term used occasionally by journalists and members of
the theatrical profession as an equivalent for “banter” or “ridicule,”
as in a press notice.

~rooster~: A word often incorrectly restricted in its meaning. This is
due in a measure to usage as recorded by lexicographers. If a _roost_
is a perch upon which fowls rest at night, then a _rooster_ is _any_
fowl which perches on a roost, be it cock or hen. But the domestic fowl
is not the only bird that roosts, therefore any bird that does so, be
it what it may, is as much a _rooster_ as the male or female domestic

~rope in, to~: A colloquialism for “to cause to participate in” or in a
bad sense “to swindle.” In the latter sense it is used especially when
the intention is to induce a person to invest in a scheme that is known
beforehand to be of questionable worth.

~rubber~ should not be used as a synonym for “crane”; nor
_rubber-necking_ for “craning the neck.” These terms are slang which
have been derived from _rubber-neck_, a playful expression said to be
current among the children of Nova Scotia and used by them on April 1st
instead of the more common “April fool.”

~rubber-neck~: Slang for one who cranes his neck so as to see things
that are none of his concern.

~rubbers~: As a rule an article of clothing should not be referred
to in terms of the material of which it consists. Overshoes, for
instance, should be so styled, and not called either _rubbers_ or

~rugged~, ~hardy~: Rugged in the sense of robust, as in health, is an
undesirable Americanism for it means primarily “superficially rough,
broken irregularly; as _rugged_ cliffs.” _Hardy_ means inured as to
toil, exposure, or want.


~’s~: “The sign or suffix of the possessive or genitive case singular
and of the same case plural when the noun ends in _n_; as, men’s
lives; children’s books; shortened since the 17th century from Middle
English _-es_. The apostrophe now replaces the _e_. Some words ending
in a sibilant omit the _s_ of the possessive to avoid the disagreeable
repetition of a hissing sound. The rules formulated for this work
are as follow: (1) Singular monosyllabic nouns ending in a sibilant
sound (_s_, _x_, _ce_, _se_, or dental _ge_) add the apostrophe and
_s_, except when the following word begins with a sibilant sound; as,
_James’s_ reign; _Jones’s_ hat; a _fox’_ skin. (2) Singular dissyllabic
nouns ending in a sibilant sound add the apostrophe and _s_, unless
the sibilant is followed by another sibilant or the last syllable is
unaccented; as, _Porus’_ defeat; _Moses’_ face; _Jesus’_ disciples;
_Laplace’s_ theory; _Hortense’s_ fate. (3) Singular polysyllabic
nouns ending in a sibilant sound add the apostrophe and _s_ only
when a principal or secondary accent falls on the last syllable;
as, _Boniface’s_ mistake; _Quackenbos’s_ Rhetoric; _Orosius’s_

~same~: This word should not be used, as it is in commercial
correspondence--in substitution for _it_. If “the same” is correctly
used, a noun is implied; as “it is _the same_ (referring to an illness)
as he suffered from.” However, do not say, “Tell me what you wish, and
the _same_ (meaning _it_) will be attended to.” _Same_ is also often
used where _similar_ is the proper word. A gale blowing to-day with a
velocity of 60 miles an hour is _similar_ to, but is not the _same_ as,
one that blew with a velocity of 60 miles one year ago, although it has
the _same_ amount of velocity.

~sameness~, ~similarity~: Discriminate carefully between these words.
_Sameness_ is the state of being identically the same; absolute
resemblance; _similarity_ is likeness or partial resemblance. See SAME.

~sappy~: An undesirable colloquialism for “weakly sentimental; silly.”

~sass~: Vulgar term for “impertinence”; “sauciness.”

~satire~, ~satyr~: Note the difference in the spelling of these words.
A _satire_ is a dramatic farce or medley; a _satyr_ is a woodland deity.

~saw~, ~seen~: In popular use, in some regions, often carelessly and
inexcusably interchanged. _Saw_ is the imperfect tense of _see_ and to
be used as such only; _seen_ is its past participle, and the form to be
used, with the proper auxiliaries, in the tenses formed with the aid of
the past participle. Not “I _seen_ him,” but “I _saw_ him”; not “I have
(or had) never _saw_ it,” but “I have (or had) never _seen_ it.”

~say~. Compare UTTER.

~says I~: A vulgarism sometimes heard from even the educated: entirely

~scan~. Compare PERUSE.

~scarcely~, ~hardly~: These words are not strictly synonymous.
_Scarcely_ is applied to quantity, _hardly_ to degree; as, “_Scarcely_
an hour has passed since we parted”; “He is _hardly_ well enough to

~scared of~ should not be used for “fearful of.” It should be used only
when positive alarm, absolute fright is felt.

~scholar~: Alliteration is probably responsible for “Sunday-school
_scholar_” for although the word originally signified one who
attends school for instruction, it has now come to imply one who is
distinguished for the pursuit and possession of knowledge; and, as
such, it is a high-sounding title for a _pupil_, who may be a mere
beginner, and is supposedly under the close personal supervision of a

~school~: A term which, apart from its use designating an educational
institution, formerly also described “a large multitude or company” but
is now restricted in its application to marine animals only; as, “a
_school_ of whales.”

~scrap~: A vulgarism for “fight” or “quarrel.”

~screw loose, to have a~: A slang phrase used sometimes as a substitute
for “to be irrational or mentally weak.”

~sealing~. Compare CEILING.

~search me~: A colloquialism used usually as a noncommital reply to an
interrogatory and best rendered by a decisive answer as, “I don’t know.”

~seasonable~, ~timely~: These terms are not synonymous. That which is
_seasonable_ is in harmony or keeping with the season or occasion; that
which is _timely_ is in good time. A thing may be timely in appearance
that is not seasonable.

~see~, ~witness~: These words are not synonymous. _See_ is used of
things, _witness_ of events. Thus, we may _see_ soldiers, but _witness_
a review; _see_ a man, but _witness_ an assault.

~seem~. Compare APPEAR.

~seldom or ever~: A very common error for “seldom _if_ ever.” One may
say “I _seldom if ever_ speak so,” meaning to imply doubt; thus, “I
_seldom_ speak so _if_ indeed I _ever_ do.” An alternative form is
“I _seldom or never_ speak so,” which is more emphatic and implies
personal opinion, as “I speak so very _seldom or_ (according to my
belief) probably _never_.”

~semi-occasionally~: A meaningless expression for “once in a while”
which is decidedly preferable.

~sensation~ should not be used for “noteworthy event.”

~sensual~, ~sensuous~: These are not synonymous terms. A _sensual_
man is one who is given to the inordinate indulgence of his animal
appetites; a _sensuous_ one is one who has a warm appreciation for the
beautiful and is keenly alive to sense-affecting influences.

~separate~: One of a class of words which are persistently misspelled.
Note that it contains only two “e’s”, one in its first syllable and one
in its last; and that “a” forms its second syllable.

~serial~. Compare CEREAL.

~session~. Compare CESSION.

~set~, ~sit~: According to strict grammatical rule, _sit_ when
referring to posture is always an active intransitive, and _set_
an active transitive. “To _sit_ on eggs” has been characterized as
colloquial English, but is sanctioned by the translators of the King
James version of the Bible. “As the partridge _sitteth_ on eggs and
hatcheth them not” (Jer. xvii. 11). Shakespeare wrote “Birds _sit_
brooding in the snow” (_L. L. L._ act v. sc. 2). On a poultry-farm the
farmhand _sets_ the hen but the hen _sits_.

~settle~: Do not speak of _settling_ a bill unless there is some matter
in dispute concerning it that requires settlement. Under ordinary
circumstances you _pay_ an undisputed account.

~severally~. See _respectively_ under RESPECTFULLY.

~sewage~, ~sewerage~: These words are often confounded. _Sewage_ is the
waste matter which is carried off through drains and sewers; _sewerage_
is the system of piping and draining by means of which the sewage is
carried off.

~shakes, no great~: An undesirable colloquialism for “not much good,”
“of no great importance.”

~shall~, ~will~: “Often erroneously interchanged. In general simple
futurity is expressed by _shall_ in the first person and _will_ in
the second and third, while determination is expressed by _will_ in
the first and _shall_ in the second and third. In interrogations in
the second and third persons the usage is not so simple, the speaker
often putting himself in the place of the one spoken to or spoken of,
and using _shall_ or _will_, as if for the first person.”--STANDARD

~Sheeny~: An offensive appellative for a Jew used only by the
illiterate and vulgar.

~shire~: As this word means _county_, do not say “county” when speaking
of any “shire.” “Oxfordshire” and “the county of Oxford,” are correct,
but not “the county of Oxfordshire.”

~shoal~: In general this word is applied to an assemblage, a multitude
or a throng, but, specifically it designates a number of fish that
move together; as, “a _shoal_ of porpoises.” Compare SCHOOL.

~should seem~, ~would seem~: Terms used chiefly to soften requests,
orders or directions. The use of _should_ in such a remark as “It
_should seem_ so”--implying that something suggested was correct--dates
from pre-Elizabethan time. Here _would_ should be substituted for

~should~, ~would~: These words follow in the main the usage of _shall_
and _will_, but with certain modifications required by their common use
in dependent sentences. In general, in indirect quotation, _should_ is
to be used after a historical tense where the speaker quoted employed
_shall_, and _would_ where the speaker quoted _will_. Thus:

  { ~Direct quotation~: “He said to me,’You _shall_ go.’”
  { ~Indirect   „~      “He said that I _should_ go.”

  { ~Direct     „~      “He said to me, ‘_Will_ you go?’”
  { ~Indirect   „~      “He asked me if I _would_ go.”

The mixture of direct and indirect is always wrong; avoid, “He asked me
_would_ I go.”

~shut up~: A coarse expression often too commonly used instead of “keep
quiet.” Compare FORGET IT.

~sideways~ should not be used for ~sidewise~.

~siege~, ~seige~: Discriminate carefully between these words. A _siege_
is an investment as of a city by military forces; as, “the _siege_ of
Paris”; a _seige_ is a flock of birds; as, “a _seige_ of cranes.” Note
especially the orthography of these words.

~sieve~, ~seive~: Homophones of widely different meaning. A _sieve_ is
a utensil for sifting; a _seive_ is a rush or rush-wick.

~sight~: As a colloquialism meaning a very great quantity, number, or
amount; as, “a _sight_ of people,” the noun is to be avoided, as in the
still more objectionable expression, “powerful _sight_,” in which the
adjective is altogether misapplied.

~similar~. Compare SAME.

~sin~. Compare CRIME.

~since~, ~ago~: _Since_ is used generally to imply time only recently
lapsed; _ago_, to imply time long past. “How long _since_ did he call?”
“Nelson fought Trafalgar a century _ago_.”

~siree~; ~sirree Bob~: Vulgar and silly intensives of affirmation.

~site~. Compare CITE.

~skidoo~: Recent slang for “get out” which is to be preferred.

~skin, to~: A vulgarism for “to deprive by extortion or trickery; get
the better of,” either of which is preferable.

~skunk~: As applied to a person of mean disposition or of objectionable
character the term is to be condemned as unsuited to polite society no
matter how fittingly it may apply to the individual designated by it.

~slob~: A vulgar equivalent for “a careless, negligent and incompetent
person,” and as such one to be avoided.

~so~. Compare SUCH.

~soap~: A vulgar euphemism for “wealth”; used usually interrogatively
as, “How’s he off for soap?” A vulgarism for “How rich is he?” which is
to be preferred.

~so far as~. Compare AS FAR AS.

~sojourn~: This term formerly obsolete has recently been revived as
meaning to “have a residence, definite though temporary, in some place
that is not one’s home.” _Sojourn_ is better than _stop_, which may
imply merely cessation of motion and does not express even temporary
residence; more specific than _stay_, which may apply to a delay of an
hour between trains or the passing of a night.

~some~: This word should never be used for “somewhat.” In such sense,
_some_ is dialectal and provincial. Do not say “He has grown _some_”
but “grown _somewhat_,” that is “in _some_ degree” or “to _some_
extent.” “Is he better?” “Yes, _some_:” avoid such a locution.

~someone else~, ~somebody else~. See under ELSE.

~some place~. Compare ANY PLACE.

~somewhat~. Compare KIND OF and LIKE.

~soppy~: A vulgarism for “emotional”: expressive but inelegant.

~sorry~, ~grieved~: Distinguish between these words in their use. If we
are _sorry_, it is for a matter concerning ourselves; but when we are
_grieved_, another is in some way connected with the case.

~sort of~. Compare KIND OF.

~sparrow grass~ sometimes abbreviated ~grass~ are common corruptions in
domestic use for _asparagus_. There is no excuse but lack of education
or lack of intelligence and courage to use the right word when the
majority prefer the wrong for this vulgar provincialism.

~speciality~, ~specialty~: These words should not be confounded. The
distinction between them is clearly illustrated by the editor of
the STANDARD DICTIONARY as follows: “_Speciality_ is the state or
quality of being special; _specialty_ is an employment to which one
is specially devoted, an article in which one specially deals, or the

~spectator~. Compare AUDIENCE.

~spell~ should not be used for “period of time.” Do not say “I shall
stay a spell” if you mean you will “remain _a little while_,” the
latter is to be preferred.

~splendid~: Often used indiscriminately and inanely especially by
women; as in the expression “perfectly _splendid_,” to express very
great excellence. _Splendid_ means imposing; as, “a _splendid_ woman”;
shedding brilliant light or shining brightly; as, “a _splendid_ sun”;
“a _splendid_ diamond.” A heroic deed may be called _splendid_ but a
good story hardly so.

~split~ or ~cleft infinitive~: A form of expression in which the sign
of the infinitive “to” and its verb are separated by some intervening
word, usually an adverb, as in the phrase, “to quickly return”:
severely condemned by purists.

~spondulix~: Vulgarism for “money,” now passing out of use.

~spoonfuls~, ~spoons full~: These words have distinctive meanings.
_Spoonfuls_ means _one spoon_ filled repeatedly; _spoons full_ means
_several spoons_ filled once. Compare -FUL.

~spout, up the~: A vulgarism for “with the pawnbroker,” or “out of

~spree, to go on a~: Formerly this phrase designated indulgence in
boisterous frolic and excess of drink: latterly the term has been used
to denote “going on an outing for the day.”

~square, on the~: A colloquialism for “with fair intention or with
reputation for fair dealing; honest.”

~stake~, ~steak~: Exercise care in the use of these homophones. A
_stake_ is a _stick_ or post, as of wood; a _steak_ is a slice of meat.
Note the difference in spelling.

~standpoint~ should not be used for “point of view.”

~stationary~, ~stationery~: Exercise care in the use of these words.
_Stationary_ is remaining in one place or position; _stationery_,
writing-materials in general. These words are pronounced alike.

~statue~, ~statute~: These words are sometimes confounded; a _statue_
is a plastic representation of a human or animal figure as in marble or
bronze. A _statute_ is a properly authenticated legislative enactment,
especially one passed by a body of representatives.

~stay~ and ~stop~: _Stay_ is sometimes used incorrectly for _stop_; do
not say “I shall _stay_ in Paris on my way to Berlin,” but “I shall
_stop_ in Paris” etc. Do not say “How long will you _stop_ there?” but
“How long will you _stay_?” etc. Compare SOJOURN and STOP.

~step~. See STOP.

~stiff~ is used for a “corpse” only by the very lowest type of humanity.

~stile~, ~style~: Exercise care in spelling these words. A _stile_ is
a step or series of steps on each side of a fence or wall, to aid in
surmounting it; _style_ is fashion.

~stimulant~, ~stimulus~: The first of these words denotes that which
stimulates the system, as coffee does the action of the heart. A
_stimulus_ is that which impels or urges on; as, “a _stimulus_ to hard
work is offered by the pecuniary reward it yields.”

~stinker~: A coarse term applied to an undesirable acquaintance only
by the vulgar. It is a term that unfortunately has some vogue in
commercial life.

~stop~: The word is frequently misused, both for _step_ and _stay_.
“_Stop_ in next time you pass” or “_stop off_ on your way down by
car” are colloquial but objectionable expressions. The latter clearly
means “_step off_ and call in” and would be met by a simple “call in.”
_Stop_ implies finality, and should therefore never be used in the
sense of a temporary _stay_. The true meaning of the word _stop_ was
well understood by the man who did not invite his professed friend to
visit him: “If you come at any time within ten miles of my house, just
_stop_.”--MATHEWS, _Words, Their Use and Abuse_, ch. xiv. p. 359.

~straight~, ~strait~: Exercise care in spelling these words. That which
is _straight_ lies evenly between any two of its points or passes from
one point to another by direct course; not curved. A _strait_ is a
narrow channel connecting two seas. In the plural, _strait_ denotes a
difficult or restricted condition; distress or perplexity.

~street~: According to law, land includes all above and all below. Thus
a house on the land or a gold mine beneath is covered by the word land,
and its possessor is entitled to both one and the other. In the same
way a _street_ includes the houses there built; and it is therefore not
strictly correct to speak of a certain house as being _on_ a certain
street: it is _in_ the street and is part of it. Compare ON.

~stricken~: As a past participle of _strike_, archaic in England,
except when there is an implication in it of misfortune; as, “He
was _stricken_ with paralysis.” In the United States _stricken_,
in general application, is not so distinctly archaic, and its use
in reference to the erasure of words is very frequent; as, “It is
ordered that the words objected to be _stricken_ out.” In the best
literary usage of both countries _struck_ is preferred to _stricken_
when no implication of misfortune is conveyed in it. _Stricken_ is
the appropriate participial adjective; as, “a _stricken_ man”; “a
_stricken_ deer.”--STANDARD DICTIONARY.

~string, to get on a~: A harmless but inelegant equivalent for “to
hoax,” which is to be preferred.

~subtile~, ~subtle~: “_Subtile_ and _subtle_ have been constantly used
as interchangeable by good writers but there seems to be a present
tendency to distinguish them by making _subtile_ an attribute of
things and _subtle_ a characteristic of mind.” A penetrating perfume
is described as _subtile_, whereas a wily sage’s predominating
characteristic is _subtlety_.

~succeed~ should _not_ be used now in the archaic sense of “to make
successful, promote”; as, “to _succeed_ an enterprise.”

~succeed himself~: An absurd phrase. A person who takes the place of a
predecessor _succeeds_ him; one who has occupied a public office for a
term prescribed by law and is reelected to that office _succeeds_ his
own previous term of office but _not_ himself.

~such~: This word is often erroneously used for “so.” Do not say “I
never saw _such_ a high building”; say, rather, “... _so_ high, a

~such another~. Compare ANOTHER SUCH.

~sucker~ for “sponger” or “parasite” is slang of the lowest type and
should be avoided by all persons of refinement.

~summons~: You _summon_ a person to court upon a _summons_. There is
properly no such verb as _summons_, the colloquial use of the term
being altogether unjustifiable.

~superior~. Compare INFERIOR.

~sure~: Often misused for “surely” in the sense of “certainly.” Do not
say “_Sure_ I’m going”; say, rather, “I’m _surely_ going.”

~surprise~. Compare ASTONISH.

~sympathize with~, ~sympathy for~: The verb _sympathize_ takes only
_with_; the noun _sympathy_ in its secondary sense of “commiseration,”
is often properly followed by _for_. We have sympathy _with_ one’s
aspirations, _for_ his distress; the sound man has sympathy _for_ the
wounded; the wounded man has sympathy _with_ his fellow sufferers.

~sympathy~. Compare PITY.


~take~: Often incorrectly used for _have_, especially in extending
hospitality, in such a sentence as “What will you _take_?”

~take on~ for _grieve_, _scold_, etc., like ~carry on~ for behave
sportively may both be tolerated as colloquialisms that are
popular because of their irrationality, or because they require no
discrimination in statement.

~takes the cake~. See CAKE.

~take up school~: An objectionable local Americanism for _begin
school_: used also intransitively; as, “School _took up_ at 9 o’clock”:
avoid this.

~talent~ should not be used for “talents” or “ability.”

~talented~: Inasmuch as adjectives of the participial form are
justified by strict grammarians only if derived from an existing
verb, this word has been caviled at by Coleridge (who denounced it as
“that vile and barbarous vocable”) and many literary pedants. Burke,
Hazlitt, Lamb, De Quincey, Macaulay and Newman have however, spoken
of “a _talented_ man”; and in the face of this array of learning
and authority we can raise but a modest protest in favor of the
contention of the grammarians. Such formations are, however, not to be
indiscriminately recommended.

~talk, back~. Compare BACK TALK.

~tasty~ in the sense of ~tasteful~ is without authority and is
considered an illiterate use. A person or his work may be _tasteful_,
but his food, however savory, can be no more than _tasty_.

~team~: Strictly a _team_ consists of two or more beasts of burden
harnessed together, but in the United States the word is extended
to cover “team and accessories,” the latter being the harness or
equipment, together with the vehicle to which the animals are attached.

~tell on~: A common expression with children used in the sense of “to
inform against a person,” is derived from Biblical use (I _Sam._ xxvii.
11). The phrase lost to literary English has now no equivalent.

~temper~, ~anger~, ~wrath~: Words in the use of which discrimination
should be used. _Temper_ is disposition or constitution of the mind,
especially in relation to the affections or the passions; _anger_ is
violence or vindicated passion aroused by real or imaginary insult or
injury. One may have an irritable _temper_ without being necessarily
angry. _Wrath_ is deep, determined, and lasting anger, usually
accompanied by outward expression of displeasure. _Anger_ may be only
inward feeling without the outward expression of passion.

~tender~ should not be used for “give.” You _tender_ a payment; _give_
a reception.

~testimony~. Compare EVIDENCE.

~than~ as a conjunction should be used only in the case of direct
comparison; as, “I esteem this more _than_ that.” When the comparison
is merely implied, or covered by the verb, as by the verb _prefer_,
_than_ should not be used. See PREFER.

~thanks~ has been condemned as an undignified colloquialism bordering
on incivility; but what serious objection is there to this pithy
acknowledgment of obligation or gratitude? It has been said that
Shakespeare made use of the expression no fewer than fifty-five times,
and that the Bible four times contains the utterance “thanks be to
God,” Shakespeare’s use of the word with “much” as an adjective is
indeed most forcible--“for this relief _much thanks_.”

~than me~ should never be used for _than I_. Say, “He is taller than
I”; not “He is taller _than me_.”

~than whom~: A phrase objected to by some grammatical critics, in
such locutions as “Cromwell, _than whom_ no man was better skilled
in artifice”; but shown to be “a quite classic expression.” Formerly
_than_ was often but not always used as a preposition, and _than whom_
is probably a survival of such usage. “_Than whom_” is generally
accepted as permissible--probably because the sentence where it occurs
can not be mended without reconstruction, and it has abundant literary

~that~: In construing this word, it must be recollected that it is not
only a conjunction but also a pronoun, both demonstrative and relative.
The peculiarity of the word is such that it can be used more times
in succession than any other word in the English language. Exception
having been taken to a certain “that” found in a school-boy’s exercise,
it was shown that that _that_ that that boy used was right. Dean Alford
constructed a sentence on these lines which contained no fewer than
nine _thats_ in succession.

_That_ used adverbially is wholly inexcusable. “He was _that_ sick”
could only be tolerated if an ellipsis such as “he was (to) _that_
(degree) sick,” could be supposed, but this is more than can be done;
and the expression is therefore regarded as an unpardonable vulgarism.
Compare AS, THAT (p. 22).

~that there~: An illiterate expression commonly used with the mistaken
idea that the use of “there” adds emphasis to what follows, as, “_That
there_ man.” Say, rather, “That man there” or simply, and preferably
“That man.”

~that~, ~who~: Discriminate carefully between these words. _That_
implies restriction; _who_ generally denotes coordination. As an
illustration of this distinction, Alfred Ayres says (“The Verbalist,”
p. 202), “‘I met the boatman _who_ took me across the ferry.’ If _who_
is the proper word here, the meaning is ‘I met the boatman, and he
took me across the ferry,’ it being supposed that the boatman is known
and definite. But if there be several boatmen, and I wish to indicate
one in particular, by the circumstance that he had taken me across the
ferry, I should use _that_.” _That_ ought, therefore, to be preferred
to _who_ or _which_ whenever an antecedent not otherwise limited is to
be restricted by the relative clause.

~that’s him~; No, “that’s _he_”--this is correct.

~the~: Before titles of honor, such as Reverend, Honorable, the
definite article (though now frequently omitted) should be used. As
the title is specific and personal, this is the more necessary.

~the infinitive~: The particle _to_ is an inherent and component part
of the infinitive, and is strictly inseparable therefrom, in precisely
the same way that the prefixed syllable which assists to form a
compound word (as _in_constant) is a necessary part of the compound.
But this _to_ belongs to the present infinitive only, and properly
finds no place in such expressions as “He was fool enough _to have
risked_ his good name.” Despite the hundreds of uses of this method
of expression, it is a blunder: the sentence should read “fool enough
_to risk_.” It is, too, on the ground of inseparability that the SPLIT
INFINITIVE (which see) is so reprehensible. “To dance gracefully”
should not be transposed into “to gracefully dance.”

~them~: The use of this word as a demonstrative adjective for a pronoun
is wholly unpermissible. A common error due to a desire to designate
particularly the article required. Do not say “Give me _them_ things”;
say, rather, “... _those_ things.” However, of things previously
mentioned one may say “Give _them_ to me.”

~then~: The use of this word as an adjective, as in the phrase
“the _then_ Bishop of York,” has been questioned; but the usage is
expressive and convenient, and is supported by good literary authority.

~thence~, ~whence~: As these words mean “from there,” “from where,”
they should not be preceded by the word _from_ as is often erroneously

~these is~, ~them are~: Ungrammatical phrases used by the illiterate
for “this is”; “those are.” The pronouns should both agree in number
with the verb they govern.

~these kind~, ~those sort~, ~etc.~: Such expressions, though common,
are now usually considered altogether wrong. Nouns in the singular
require demonstrative adjectives also in the singular. But _this_ may
be used instead of _these_ in collective expressions, such as “this
ten years.” Yet Shakespeare has many instances of this use. Thus, in
“Twelfth Night” (act i, sc. 5) he writes “_these_ kind of fools,” and
in “King Lear” (act ii, sc. 2) a precisely similar expression, “_these_
kind of knaves.” In “Othello” (act iii, sc. 3) he has, “_these_ are a
kind of men.”

~think, don’t~. See DON’T BELIEVE.

~this or that much~: Not elegant perhaps, but still correct or at least
passable. A careful speaker would prefer to say “this much,” because
_much_ being an adjective of quality requires, for its elucidation, not
a pronoun but an adverb. It is true that in the expression “this” or
“that much,” the word “much” could generally, if not always, be omitted
without affecting the correctness of the sentence wherein it is used;
still the sense would not be precisely the same. “This _much_ I know”
denotes a limitation in the extent of knowledge which is not restricted
by “this I know.”

~threatening~. Compare EMINENT.

~three first, the~: Incorrect for the _first three_: one may, however,
correctly use three first if referring to a race, or the like, in which
three of the competitors run a dead heat. Compare TWO FIRST.

~through~: An undesirable colloquialism for “at an end”; “finished”;
generally applied to speakers who have completed an address, or to
diners who have finished a meal. Both applications are marks of
ill-breeding and border on vulgarity.

~tickled to death~: An absurd phrase used to express “greatly pleased.”

~till~: In some parts of the United States oddly misused for _by_; as,
“I’ll be there till [_by_] ten o’clock.”

~time~: Avoid such an incongruity as “Heaps of _time_.” “Plenty of
_time_,” or “_time_ enough” are to be preferred.

~timely~. Compare SEASONABLE.

~tinker’s dam~: A colloquialism for something worthless, used usually
in the phrase “Not worth a tinker’s dam.” Avoided in polite society.

~tiny little~: The use of words as mere intensives should be avoided,
for by judicious selection a single word can probably be found which
is capable of conveying the precise sense desired. To speak of a
“_tiny little_ watch” or “a _great big_ house,” indicates a deplorable
poverty of vocabulary. It is true that Shakespeare spoke of “the _most
unkindest_ cut of all”; but he made use of intensives only when the
unusual circumstances of the case required them.

~tired, to make one~: A colloquialism for “to weary,” or “reduce the
patience of” as by absurd stories or silly conversation: a commonplace
expression good to avoid.

~to~: Beware of using the preposition _to_ when _at_ is intended. A
common error of this sort is instanced by “He was _to_ school this
morning.” Possibly the error is made rather in the verb than the
preposition, though the influencing cause of error in the uneducated
does not always admit of certainty. We suggest, therefore, that the
verb “to be” is used unintentionally for “to go,” and that the sentence
is perhaps intended to read “he _went to_ school this morning.” Compare

~togged out or up~: An undesirable and vulgar expression for
“well-dressed” or “attired in clothes that may attract attention.”

~to-morrow~: This word is often used with different tenses, the
question being raised as to whether it should be “to-morrow _is_
Christmas day” or “to-morrow _will be_ Christmas day.” Both forms
are correct. But, generally, in using this word, the supposition
is that to-morrow has not arrived at the time of speaking, and,
therefore, “to-morrow _will be_ Christmas day” is preferred. Longfellow
(_Keramos_, line 331) says: “To-morrow _will be_ another day.” But the
other form also has the sanction of usage, as the following quotations
will show:

  “To-morrow, what delight _is_ in to-morrow!”--T. B. READ, _The New
  Pastoral_, bk. vi. l. 163.

  “To-morrow _is_ a satire on to-day.”--YOUNG, _The Old Man’s Relapse_,
  l. 6.

The Bible affords numerous instances of this use of “is.” Ex. xvi. 23:
“The Lord hath said, to-morrow _is_ the rest of the holy Sabbath unto
the Lord”; xxxii. 5: “And Aaron made proclamation and said, to-morrow
_is_ a feast to the Lord”; I Sam. xx. 5: “Behold to-morrow _is_ the new
moon”; Matt. vi. 30: “If God so clothe the grass of the field, which
to-day _is_, and to-morrow _is_ cast into the oven.”

Most people would say “Yesterday _was_ Friday.” If the thought is fixed
upon the name of the day, it is better to use _is_, if upon the time
future it is better to use _will be_.

~toney~: A vulgarism for “fancy” or “stylish,” either of which is a
preferable term.

~touch, to~: A slang term for “to borrow” not used by persons careful
of their diction. Do not say “I touched him for a ten-spot”; say
rather, “I borrowed ten dollars from him.”

~transpire~ is condemned by the best writers in the sense of _happen_.
“The verb _transpire_ formerly conveyed very expressively its correct
meaning, viz., to become known through unnoticed channels--to exhale,
as it were, into publicity through invisible pores, like a vapor or gas
disengaging itself. But of late, a practise has commenced of employing
the word ... as a mere synonym to _to happen_.... This vile specimen
of bad English is already seen in the dispatches of noblemen and
viceroys.”--MILL, _Logic_, bk. iv. ch. 5, p. 483.

~truth~. Compare VERACITY.

~try~: This word is often erroneously used for “make.” Do not say
“_Try_ the experiment yourself” but “_Make_ the experiment.” An
experiment can only be tried, as a speech (in its literal, that is
verbal, sense) can only be spoken.

~try and~: A common but incorrect locution. Do not say “Try and come
to-day,” but, rather, “_Try to_ come to-day.”

~tumble to~: Slang for “to understand.” Do not say “Do you tumble to
it?” Say, rather, “Do you understand it?”

~turn down~: Undesirable, though perhaps expressive slang for “reject”;
“ignore”; or “dismiss.” In commercial circles, this expression has
wide usage but is not the less inelegant and should be avoided. A
proposition is quite as fully disposed of when it is “rejected”
as when it is “turned down;” besides, “rejected” should be given
preference if only by reason of its brevity.

~turn up~: Used in the sense of to “put in an appearance” this
expression has been condemned. The remark of a barrister in a London
County Court that a defendant had “not turned up” caused the Judge to
exclaim: “Pray do not use such slip-shod expressions.” The barrister
apologized. “These are high-pressure days,” he said, “and since your
Honor’s days at the bar we have no longer time to indulge in perfect

~twenty-three~: A slang term used as the equivalent of “fade away” in
theatrical and sporting circles: a recent expression the origin of
which has been variously explained. Compare FADE AWAY.

~two~. Compare COUPLE.

~two and two is~ (or ~are~) ~four~: As an abstract proposition or
statement, _is_ is undoubtedly correct; for four _is_ two added to two,
or twice two; but when two specific things are added to two others,
the verb must be in the plural. In the former case we are saying that
a certain single and definite result _is_ attained or total given by
the combination of two numbers; in the latter we say that in a given
body or number of things _are_ so many single or individual things.
Two _men_ and two _are_ undoubtedly four; that is, four men _are_
(constituted of) two and two. Beyond doubt, twice one _is_ two; for it
can not be that two (as a single and specific number) are twice one.

~two first~: Of this expression James Murdock says: “The only argument
against the use of _two first_, and in favor of substituting _first
two_, so far as I can recollect, is this: In the nature of things,
there can be only _one first_ and _one last_, in any series of things.
But--is it true that there can never be more than _one first_ and
_one last_? If it be so, then the adjective _first_ and _last_ must
always be of the _singular_ number, and can never agree with nouns in
the plural. We are told that _the first years_ of a lawyer’s practise
are seldom very lucrative. The poet tells us that his _first essays_
were severely handled by the critics, but his _last efforts_ have been
well received. Examples like these might be produced without number.
They occur everywhere in all our standard writers.... When a numeral
adjective and a qualifying epithet both refer to the same noun, the
_general rule_ of the English language is to place the numeral first,
then the qualifying epithet, and afterwards the noun. Thus we say,
‘The _two wise_ men,’ ‘the _two tall_ men’; and not ‘the _wise two_
men’ ‘the _tall two_ men.’ And the same rule holds in _superlatives_.
We say ‘the _two wisest_ men,’ ‘the _two tallest_ men’ and not ‘the
_wisest two_ men,’ ‘the _tallest two_ men.’ Now if this be admitted
to be the general rule of the English language, it then follows that
we should generally say ‘the _two first_,’ ‘the _two last_,’ etc.,
rather than ‘the _first two_,’ ‘the _last two_,’ etc. This, I say,
should _generally_ be the order of the words. Yet there are some cases
in which it seems preferable to say, ‘the _first two_,’ ‘the _first
three_,’ etc.” Compare FIRST.


~ugly~, which signifies the reverse of beautiful or want of comeliness
(actual or figurative) is colloquially extended in the United States to
uncomeliness of character or personal demeanor; as an _ugly_ fellow;
an _ugly_ beast; anger makes him _ugly_. In polite speech this usage
is not sanctioned. Say “irritable,” “vicious,” “quarrelsome,” as the
disposition inclines or indicates.

~un-~: For the sake of lucidity the use of a negative prefix with a
negative antecedent should be discouraged. Avoid such expressions
as “He spoke in _no un_mistakable terms” which means, of course,
“mistakable terms” the direct opposite of the speaker’s intention.
“_Not_ an _un_kempt one among them” means that all were well kempt.

~unbeknown~: A vulgar provincialism used chiefly in the form

~uncommon~: Used for _uncommonly_: a vulgarism meaning “to an unusual
degree or extremely.” Do not say “Her eyes are _uncommon_ beautiful”;
say, rather, “... _uncommonly_ beautiful.”

~unconscionable~: When used for _unconscionably_ is a bad
provincialism. Used also by the illiterate instead of _uncommonly_; as,
“She is an _unconscionable_ handsome girl”--this is bad English.

~under~: Much philological nonsense has been written in disapproval
of the expression “_under_ his signature,” for which “over his
signature”--that “preposterous conceit,” as Gould aptly terms it--is
suggested as a substitute. But it is clear that the expression is
elliptical, and means “under sanction or authority of his signature.”
“_Under_ oath” is good enough to impress upon an unwilling and
prevaricating witness the distinction between perjury and a lie, and
that although he does not physically lie _under_ the oath.

~understand~ should not be used as an expletive with interrogatory
inflection, as a contraction of “_Do you understand?_” There is no
excuse for this nor for its objectionable iteration. Avoid such
absurdities as: “Grammar, _understand_, is the science that treats of
the principles, _understand_, that govern the correct use of language,”
etc. _See_ is also misused in the same manner.

~unique~: As this word implies “being the only one of its kind” it
should never be preceded by “very” which implies degree. On this
subject the STANDARD DICTIONARY says: “We may say _quite unique_ if we
mean absolutely singular or without parallel but we can not properly
say _very unique_.”

~United States~: Under this designation the several states comprising
the American Union are known collectively as one great nation. As such
the expression is singular and accordingly is correctly followed by a
verb in the singular.

~universally by all~: A common error. Where anything is done
_universally_, it must be done _by all_, and these words being
redundant should be omitted.

~universe~ should not be used where _earth_ is intended. If one desires
to say of a certain person that he “thinks he owns the _earth_,” one
should certainly be careful to limit his vast possessions and not
extend them to the _universe_. The latter embraces all comprised in
space. “No doubt, there is a _universe_; but the word means all created
things, as a whole; not only our entire solar system, but all the other
systems of which the fixed stars are but the centres.”--E. S. GOULD,
_Good English, Misused Words_, p. 83.

~unless~. See WITHOUT.

~unwell~, owing to its common euphemistic application, should not be
used for “ill.”

~up~: In general the word _up_, used in such a phrase as “Open up” or
“He _opened up_ his sermon with a parable” is redundant and should be
omitted. Compare OPEN.

~up against it~: A colloquial expression used as the equivalent of
“face to face with” some condition or thing, usually of a discouraging
or disastrous character. Though common in commercial circles it is an
expression that it is best to avoid.

~upon~: Often used for _on_ in such phrases as “call _upon_,” whether
meaning _visit_ or _summon_ and “speak (or write) _upon_.” The
reasonable tendency now is to use the simpler _on_ whenever the idea of
superposition is not involved.

~usage~. Compare HABIT.

~use~: This word is used in all sorts of incorrect and inelegant ways;
yet the conjugation of the verb is positive and very simple--_use_;
_used_; _using_. There appears to be no difficulty in applying it
affirmatively but when used in a negative form one often hears such
uncouth expressions as “You _didn’t use_ to,” “you _hadn’t used_ to”
instead of “You used not to,” etc. It need scarcely be said that
these expressions are vulgarisms of the worst type. “I usedn’t to” is
not pretty, but is less formal than “I used not to,” and can not be
objected to on grammatical grounds.

~usually~. Compare COMMONLY.

~utter~ as a verb should be distinguished from _say_, as articulate
expression is differentiated from written. To _utter_, save in the
legal sense, is to emit audibly. Adjectively the word can be used only
in an unfavorable sense for “complete.” _Utter_ discord there may be,
but _not_ utter harmony; _utter_ silence, but _not_ utter speech.


~vain~, ~vein~: Words of similar pronunciation whose spelling is
sometimes confused by the careless. _Vein_ is the Latin _vena_,
blood-vessel, from _veho_, carry, and is therefore totally distinct
from _vain_, which is from the Latin _vanus_, empty.

~valuable~ is occasionally misused for _valued_. _Valuable_ is said
correctly only of things that have monetary value or derive worth
as from their character or quality. One may have _valued_ friends
and _valuable_ art-treasures, but _not_ valuable friends nor valued

~venal~, ~venial~: Discriminate carefully between these words. One
who is _venal_ is ready to sell his influence or efforts for some
consideration from sordid motives; he is mercenary. But one who is
_venial_ has committed only a slight or trivial fault. A man who has
sold his vote for preferment is a _venal_ politician; a starving man
who has stolen a loaf of bread for his family has been guilty of a
_venial_ offense.

~ventilate~ should not be used for “expose” or “explain.”

~veracity~, ~truth~: Do not confound these words. _Truth_ is applied to
persons and facts; _veracity_ only to persons and to statements made
by them. One should not speak of the _veracity_ of anything that has
occurred. A man of integrity may have a reputation for _veracity_; if
so, there is no doubt that he told the _truth_ or that the account he
gave was _true_.

~verbal nouns~, especially such as could be replaced by a noun pure and
simple, etymologically coordinate, should be preceded by a possessive
in sentences of this character: “The cause of Henry (_’s_) dying was
appendicitis.” _Dying_ is here equivalent to _death_; and we should (if
we substituted the pronoun) certainly say “the cause of _his_ dying”
rather than “the cause of _him_ dying.”

~verse~: The chief meaning of this word is a single line of poetry;
sometimes it is used as a synonym for _stanza_. Some grammarians
advocate the use of _verse_ instead of _stanza_, and the familiar
character of the word seems to argue in favor of this use.

~very~: Excepting where a participle is used solely as an adjective, it
is now thought to be more grammatical to interpose an adverb between
the participle and this word. Thus, “_very greatly_ dissatisfied” is
preferred to “very dissatisfied,” whereas “_very_ tired” is accepted as
correct. Compare REAL.

~vest~: In the sense of waistcoat, this word, which is in better usage
a synonym for _undervest_, is not used by precise speakers.

~vice~. Compare CRIME.

~vicinity~ should not be used for “neighborhood.”

~visit~: A term sometimes misused. Do not say “The actor has just
_visited_, with much abuse, the head of the critic,” when you mean
that he abused him roundly. This is an erroneous application of the
word, which is confounded with the Scriptural usage “to send judgment
from heaven upon” as punishment.

~vocation~. Compare AVOCATION.


~wa’n’t~: A contraction of _was not_, or improperly of _were not_; as,
“He _wa’n’t_ (or they _wa’n’t_) at home”: a common vulgarism.

~want~ and ~need~ are not synonymous terms, although both denote a
lack. _Want_, however, refers more properly to a personal conception
of shortcoming or shortage, whereas _need_ denotes the matter of fact.
Thus a delinquent son may _need_ castigation, while he distinctly does
not _want_ it. _Want_, therefore, signifies a wish to supply what is
lacking. But the word _want_ is sometimes less strong than _need_,
for a covetous man _wants_ (_i. e._, desires) many things he does not
_need_ (or things for which he has an absolute necessity). “I _need_
assistance or I shall drown.” Again, “I _want_ a position, but do
not _need_ it, because I can continue as I am without it; but when
resources fail I shall _need_ it.”

~want of~: An undesirable colloquialism. Do not say “What does he _want
of_ a yacht?” say, rather. _want with_, or “_What need_ has he _of_ a

~warm~: A slang term used for “rich,” formerly in vogue in England.

~warm, not so~: A vulgar phrase applied to persons and meaning usually
“not as important” or “not as accurate” as the person to whom the
epithet is applied may think himself to be.

~was~, ~is~: These terms are sometimes confused, especially in
dependent sentences that state unchanging facts. Then _the present
tense_ should be used in the dependent sentence notwithstanding the
fact that the principal verb may denote action in _the past_. Say, “He
_said_ that space _is_ (_not_ was) infinite”; “We _assert_ that life
_is_ everlasting.”

~watch~, ~observe~: These words have a similarity of meaning, but
_watch_ expresses a scrutiny or close observation which is not implied
by the latter. You _observe_ a preacher’s manner but carefully _watch_
a thief. When you _observe_ intently and concentrate your entire
thoughts upon the thing observed you _watch_. You _observe_ the hour of
day but _watch_ the time lest you lose your train.

~way~ or ~’way~, as an abbreviation of the adverb _away_, as “_’way_
out West,” is an impropriety of speech. Say, rather, “He has gone (or
is in the) West.”

~ways~, for ~way~: In the sense of “space or distance,” the erroneous
form _ways_, for _way_, is often used colloquially, perhaps originally
through confusion with the suffix _-ways_; as, “The church is a long
_ways_ from here,” which should be “The church is a long _way_,” etc.

~weary~. Compare TIRED.

~weather, under the~: In the sense of “somewhat ill,” as though
depressed by the weather, this is a colloquialism better avoided.

~went~: This word should never be used as a participle; say, “He
_went_” or “he has _gone_” instead of “he _has went_.” Never use _went_
after any part of the verb _have_. Do not say “I _have went_ there
often”; but “I _have been_ there often.” _Went_ should never be used
for _go_. Some illiterate people say “I should _have went_” when they
mean “I should _have gone_.”

~were her~: Often used incorrectly as in the sentence “If I were
_her_.” Say, rather, “If I were _she_.” Her is the objective case; here
the nominative _she_ should be used.

~wharf~: E. S. Gould declares that as _dwarves_ would be an improper
plural for dwarf, so is _wharves_ for wharf. However, both forms are
now admitted. Compare DOCK.

~what~: As _what_ is both antecedent and relative the use of the
antecedent with this word is wrong. “All _what_ he said was false”
should be corrected by the elision of “all.” _What_ is used only in
reference to things, whereas _that_ can be said of persons, animals,
and things, and can be substituted for it.

~what was~, ~what was not~: “What was” and “what wasn’t my surprise”
may both be used correctly to express considerable surprise, and
with almost the same meaning, the one expression differing from the
other but by a shade in sense. “How great was my surprise,” and “What
surprise could equal or be greater, than mine,” would about paraphrase
the usages. The former sentence implies great surprise, but the
possibility (though unreferred to) of a greater; the latter indicates
that there could not be any greater surprise.

~wheels in the~ (or ~his~) ~head, to have~: A slang phrase used as a
substitute for “to be eccentric, peculiar, or erratic.”

~whence~: “_Whence_ came you” is sufficient and correct. “From
_whence_” is pleonastic, the _whence_ being nothing less than “_from_
where” and thus including the _from_. Compare THENCE.

~where~: The prepositions _to_ or _at_ should never end a sentence
beginning with _where_. Such use is vulgar and illiterate. Avoid:
“_Where_ has he gone _to_?” “_Where_ was I _at_?”

~whereabouts~: This word, plural in form, but singular in construction,
always takes a verb, in the singular. “Husband and wife disappeared;
their whereabouts _is_ a mystery.”

~wherever~: This word, although a combination of two words “where” and
“ever” is not spelt “where ever” when written as a solid word. Then it
drops the first “e” in “ever” and is correctly “wherever.”

~whether~: Avoid such a locution as “whether or no,” which is rapidly
gaining ground, and say instead the preferable phrase, “whether or
not.” _Whether_ properly means “which of two.” Therefore, in expressing
doubt, make mention merely of the exact thing doubted without using
the word _whether_ unless it be to introduce an alternative subject of
doubt or a comparison of doubts. Just as _either_, which is strictly
applicable to two only is wrongly applied to more than two, so is
_whether_, which is a contraction of _which of either_.

~which~. Compare THAT, WHO.

~who~: Often improperly used for _whom_: a mark of ignorance when so
applied. Do not say “_Who_ do you refer to?” but “To _whom_ do you
refer?” Not “_Who_ is that for?” nor “Who did you give it to?” but “For
_whom_ is that?” “To _whom_ did you give it?” Compare THAT, WHO.

~whole~, ~whole of~: The _whole_ or _whole of_ should be used before
a plural noun carefully, and then only when the body is referred to
collectively. In general the word _entire_ would better express the
phrase. In such cases _all_ should never be employed, as this relates
to the individual of which the body is composed. Thus, one may say,
“The _whole_ staff accompanied the general,” or (for emphasis) “The
_whole of_ the staff,” etc., but it would be better to say “The
_entire_ staff.”

If referring to the individual officers, the sentence should read
“_All_ members of the staff accompanied the general.”

~whole push, the~. See PUSH.

~widow woman~: A pleonasm. Do not use the word _widow_, which applies
only to a woman, with the words _woman_ or _lady_. It is an error
of speech, common in rural districts, against which it is wise to
continually guard.

~wife~. Compare LADY.

~wild~: A colloquialism for “angry” which is to be preferred.

~windbag~: A coarse term for a boastful and wordy talker: not used by
persons who cultivate a refined diction. “Braggart,” “braggadocia,” are
more elegant, yet equally expressive terms.

~with~, ~and~: A nominative singular is sometimes used with an
objective after _with_ to form, jointly, the subject of a plural verb;
as “The captain _with_ all his crew _were_ drowned.” But according to
best usage the conjunction _and_ is substituted for “with”; thus, “The
captain _and_ all his crew _were_ drowned.” Where the objective is
separated parenthetically by commas, a verb in the singular is used;
as, “Aguinaldo, with all his followers, _was_ captured by Gen. Funston.”

~without~: This, as used for “except” or “unless” is at the present
day a vulgarism. “_Without_ you intend business, do not call”; say,

~witness~. Compare SEE.

~woman~. Compare LADY.

~worse~: An adverb sometimes used for _more_; as, “He disliked tea
_worse_ than coffee”: a vulgarism.

~worst kind~: For _much_ or _extremely_; as, “I need (or want) a new
pen the _worst kind_”: a vulgarism, besides equivocally suggesting “the
worst kind of a pen.”

~would better~. Compare HAD BETTER.

~would say~: A hackneyed expression used by many commercial
correspondents; inelegant and useless.

~would seem~ should not be used for “seems.”

~wrath~. Compare TEMPER.

~write you~: This expression, for “write to you,” though common, is
not grammatically correct. Where an object is expressed the dative
“to” may be omitted. “He shipped _me_ costly fabrics,” for “he shipped
costly fabrics to _me_” is permissible, but “he shipped _me_” without
any objective, or rather other objective of _me_ would imply that the
person speaking had been shipped. Of the expression “I will write you,”
the only justification for it that can be found is in the supposition
that the words “a letter” are understood.


~yappy~: A slang term used as an equivalent of “foolish” which is to be

~yes~: Discard such vulgarisms as _yeh_ and _yep_ and pronounce as a
single syllable, and not with affectation, as, sometimes in England
_ya-as_, or with a Yankee drawl _ye-es_. Avoid, too, the objectionable
habit of using this word as the sole response in conversation; a habit
which is indeed fatally destructive of conversation, which should
partake more or less of an interchange of ideas. “Yes! she would
reply encouragingly ... and yes! conclusively, like an incarnation of
stupidity dealing in monosyllables.” (MEREDITH, “Beauchamp’s Career,”
vol. iii. ch. 10, p. 185.) Also, when speaking in English do not inject
the German “Ja!” when you wish to signify assent. This practice is
rapidly gaining ground among the middle class.

~Yid~: A Jew: an appellation common among the vulgar and therefore one
to be avoided.

~you~ even when used in relation to one person, is still grammatically
plural, always requiring the plural verb; as, “You _were_ fortunate,”
not “You _was_ fortunate”; “If you _were_ to curse you would sin,” not
“If you _was_ to curse,” etc.

~you and I~, ~you or I~: Phrases in which the objective pronoun _me_
and the first personal pronoun _I_ are often confused; as, “This
will not do for _you and I_,” instead of “This will not do for _you
and me_.’” The rule is very simple, viz.: use _I_ or _me_ in such
connection just as if the words “you and” or “you or” were omitted.
“They were not citizens as (_you and_) _I_”; “He is not so tall as
(_you or_) _I_.”

~you don’t say?~ Compare IS THAT SO?

~your’s truly~: An incorrect form, _yours_ being a possessive pronoun
does not need the sign of the possessive after it.


~zeugma~: “Is the joining of two or more words (as nouns) to a third
(as a verb) with which only one or a part of them can be made to agree
except by using the nouns in different senses, or by taking the verb in
different senses in relation to the different nouns, or by letting the
underlying logical relation overrule the grammatical--in Greek a very
common figure, but in English quite unusual and ordinarily a violation
of the principles of construction and a grave fault in diction. “The
_control_, as well as the _support_, which a father _exercises_ over
his family _were_, by the dispensation of Providence, withdrawn”;
_control_ is properly _exercised_, but _support_ is not; the verb-form
_were_ is made plural to accord, not with the grammatical relation
of _control_ and _support_, but with the logical relation underlying
_as well_ as regarded as equivalent to _and_.”--STANDARD DICTIONARY.
Compare WITH, AND.

Transcriber's Note

The following apparent errors have been corrected:

p. 7 "bargain." changed to "bargain.”"

p. 17 "I have" changed to "“I have"

p. 21 "Polly." changed to "Polly.”"

p. 43 "·COLERIDGE" changed to "--COLERIDGE"

p. 44 "“steal" changed to "“steal”"

p. 70 "_the other_" changed to "_the other_”"

p. 82 "severly" changed to "severely"

p. 90 "_from the effects of_" changed to "“_from the effects of_"

p. 94 "LADY" changed to "LADY."

p. 106 "last month; say" changed to "last month”; say"

p. 109 "vulger" changed to "vulgar"

p. 111 "_had that_" changed to "_how that_"

p. 113 "~if~. ~whether~" changed to "~if~, ~whether~"

p. 125 "beat.”" changed to "“beat.”"

p. 142 "_Mussulman_" changed to "_Mussulman_."

p. 143 "Macaulay" changed to "Macaulay."

p. 154 "have seen;" changed to "have seen”;"

p. 165 "intensely comic” or “absurd.’”" changed to "“intensely comic”
or “absurd.”"

p. 173 "The perference" changed to "The preference"

p. 187 "_converse_" changed to "_converse_."

p. 187 "_Rev._ Jones,”" changed to "“_Rev._ Jones,”"

p. 191 "_Jesus_" changed to "_Jesus’_"

p. 205 "rather." changed to "rather,"

p. 227 "surprise" changed to "surprise."

p. 232 "WITH AND" changed to "WITH, AND"

The following possible errors have been left as printed:

p. ix Vesilius

On p. 108, the entry for "hen-party" refers to a non-existent entry for

p. 126 a object

The following are used inconsistently in the text:

matinée and matinée

slipshod and slip-shod

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