A word to the dumb
Be wary of the words you choose. They may mean something entirely different from what you thought they meant.
Someone posted on Facebook the photo of an attractive young female teacher who led the school cheerleading squad and seduced a high school athlete into having sex with her. A fellow commented: “A man in the same situation would get considerable jail time and be marked a sexual predictor for life.” Carelessness like this invites wisecracks, such as the one yours truly couldn’t resist: “I keep predicting sex will come my way, but I’m always wrong.” I kinda sorta think the guy meant sexual predator.
Poring over a book
This miscue, from a promotion for a natural thyroid treatment, elicits a chuckle wherever it occurs: “And I began pouring over scientific research studies looking for some sort of missing link or glimmer of hope.” One wonders what the guy (gal?) in question poured over those studies. Coffee, maybe? Probably not, because scientific research is a valuable commodity. The writer wanted poring, which means reading studiously or attentively.
Here’s a common mistake, found in a newspaper article: “It not only violates the sovereignty of the cities but it wrecks havoc with the cities’ ability to properly and predictably handle their budgets.” I seem to have gotten caught up in using various forms of predict, but that has nothing to do with the point I’m making here, which is that a word in that sentence was used incorrectly. The word, of course, is wrecks. Havoc does indeed suggest a wreck, but what the writer wanted was wreaks, which means to cause or bring about.
Like logging out and logging in
Log in — not Login
The advent of the Internet introduced a trend toward making nouns out of two non-nouns joined into one word, which is intended for use as a verb. Login usually is used as a verb, although it is actually a noun. It’s two words: log and in. Log is a verb here, and in is an adverb. Thus, you don’t login to your account; you log in to the account. Once there, you have accomplished a login.
With login has come other wrongly combined words. This ad appeared in my local newspaper: “Baer’s closed until Saturday to markdown prices.” Markdown is a noun, but a verb and adverb were intended here: “to mark down prices.”
Mark down — not Markdown
Then there are words to which letters are unnecessarily, though not incorrectly, added for what would seem to be nothing more than pretense. “In short, genomic medicine … is becoming an integral part of modern healthcare, not only improving treatment options but also allowing patients to take preventative measures …” Aside from the error in making a single word out of health and care, the word preventative means exactly the same as preventive. There is no reason to add the syllable ta. Another example was in a ballot question for Palm Beach County voters that referred to “early learning and reading skills, development, treatment, preventative and other children’s services …” Trust me, preventive services work just as well as preventative services.
Speaking of pretense, a prime example is the phrase an historic. Pronunciation guidelines call for use of an before words beginning with a vowel: an apple, an idiot, an outrage, an enviable situation. Words beginning with a consonant should be preceded by a: a truck, a loser, a despicable deed, a syllable – a historic milestone.
Drop the pretense, cable television talk-show hosts: It’s a historic, not an historic. That’ll help keep your tongues untangled.
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