As I live in Florida, I pay close attention to the Weather Channel. However, I’m annoyed today at the use of the word “decimate” in describing Dorian, the worst hurricane in the history of the Bahamas.
I previously ranted about using decimate instead of annihilate or devastate. Originally decimate meant to eliminate one tenth. So TWC is literally claiming the worst storm in history demolished only a tenth of The Bahamas. I don’t think that’s what they meant to say.
While decimate is becoming accepted in usage as meaning annihilate, it’s still not a good word choice.
Two verbs writers occasionally confuse are flout and flaunt. They may look similar, but they aren’t synonyms.
Flaunt means to show off. She flaunted her wealth by driving her Mercedes convertible everywhere.
Flout means to scorn or show contempt. She flouted the traffic laws with her excessive speeding. (Flout can be used also as a noun meaning scornful insult, but I’ve seen only Shakespeare do it.)
Next time you’re tempted to write She flouted her wealth, be sure you mean she scorned it. Otherwise, change to She flaunted her wealth.
Welcome to another edition of “You don’t say!” when we examine expressions and sayings often confused or misunderstood. Here are some favorites.
- If you think that, you have another thing coming.
- She made a 360 degree change in attitude.
- We’ll play irregardless of the weather.
- I could care less.
- Supposably that’s his real name.
- He intended to extract revenge if it took every dime he had.
If you write or say any of these, stop! Your meaning is confused or contradicted. Here are the corrected sayings.
- If you think that, you have another think coming. (As in “think again.”)
- She made a 180 degree change in attitude. (360 gets her all the way back where she began)
- We’ll play regardless of the weather. (Irredgardless isn’t a word. Period.)
- I couldn’t care less. (Otherwise, you care because you could care less)
- Supposedly that’s his real name.
- He intended to exact revenge if it took every dime he had. (I guess one could extract revenge, but it’d be messy.)
What incorrect sayings do you see or hear?
SpellCheck is a wonderful tool featured in my word processing software. It’s saved me from many typos. But navigating the spelling waters is tricky when it comes to correctly spelled but incorrectly used words.
You may intend to type “celebrate” but your fingers type “celebate.” Both words spelled correctly meaning different things. Previously I posted about “mandolin” (the instrument) instead of “mandoline” (the cutting tool) that appears in my latest cookbook. I’m still suffering bouts of embarrassment over that fiasco.
Here are a few commonly misused words that writers should double-check.
Choose or chose?
Choose is present tense; chose is past. Simple as that.
She wondered which tie he would choose. Relief filled her when he chose the blue plaid.
Loose or lose?
Not as simple as choose and chose. Loose means not tight and lose means rid or misplace.
The jeans were so loose, she decided she didn’t need to lose weight.
Ensure (forget the meal replacement drink) is not the same as insure. To make certain, you ensure. To protect against loss, you contact an insurance company to insure.
He paid a premium to insure his life. If he died, he wanted to ensure his children didn’t go hungry.
A book I recommend (if you can find it) is Words You Thought You Knew… by Jenna Glatzer. It contains (as its subtitle says) 1001 Commonly Misused and Misunderstood Words and Phrases.
I recently read a book that began with a Forward. I don’t know who edited the book, but I suspect the writer intended the page to be a foreword, which is a noun that means preface. Forward is an adverb meaning onward or advancing.
The same mistake could happen with afterward and afterword. An afterword appears at the end of a book and is, as its name suggests, a postscript by the author. Afterward is an adverb meaning later.
When in doubt, consult a dictionary.