“The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité

Dearest creature in creation,Study English pronunciation.I will teach you in my verseSounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.I will keep you, Suzy, busy,Make your head with heat grow dizzy.Tear in eye, your dress will tear.So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.Just compare heart, beard, and heard,Dies and diet, lord and word,Sword and sward, retain and Britain.(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)Now I surely will not plague youWith such words as plaque and ague.But be careful how you speak:Say break and […]

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51 Most Commonly Misused Words

In his latest book, The Sense of Style, Harvard cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker explores the most common words and phrases that people stumble over.

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Here are the 51 most commonly misused words and phrases from his book:

Adverse means detrimental and does not mean averse or disinclined. Correct: “There were adverse effects.” / “I’m not averse to doing that.”
Appraise means to ascertain the value of and does not mean to apprise or to inform. Correct: “I appraised the jewels.” / “I apprised him […]

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Revert Back and Other Pleonasms

Lately I’ve seen a number of instances of “revert back”, which to my mind is poor usage, as revert means “to return to a previous state or condition”, so the only direction in time is backwards. “Reverting forward” would make no sense.

This kind of error is known as a pleonasm, using more words than necessary to convey meaning. Other examples include:

safe haven
head honcho
false pretence
past history (or experience)
each and every
usual custom
totally unique
forward planning
end result
close proximity
regular routine
…and there are many

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Evacuate, Evacuate!

On the radio the other day I heard a newsreader mention that parts of the Balkans were flooded. He went on to say that the residents had been evacuated. I hope for their sake that wasn’t true.

While evacuate (main meaning: to empty or void) can be used to describe the removal of people from an unsafe location, that location needs to be stated.

WRONG: The residents were evacuated.
RIGHT: The residents were evacuated from a flood

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