I am a dilettante and dabbler in many things. But I’m dead serious about good grammar.
The English language is an amazing tapestry of borrowed words, phrases and structure. It is constantly evolving in usage and meaning. I should say the English languages (plural) because nuances differentiate American English from British English and Canadian English, eh?
Within American English, there are regional dialects: Southern American English, Midland English, Upper Midwest, Southwest, Pacific, and so on. (Texting is an entirely different creature, and is not under discussion today.)
Charming dialectic differences aside, there are a few words that are frequently mangled both when written and mispronounced. And just between you and me (not you and I), this might explain why your word geek friend seem distracted when you are speaking to them.
A few bold souls swiftly correct misspeaks as though it is their civic duty. Most of us suffer in silence because we would rather be happy than right. Here are ten of my personal pet peeves, in no particular order:
- mischievous is pronounced MIS-chiv-us, not mis-CHEE-vee-ous. (You don’t pronounce mischief as mis-cheef, do you?)
- accept and except mean two entirely different things: the store accepts all credit cards except American Express. The pronunciation is different, too. Really.
- forte (a strength) is just plain FORT. It’s not a for-TAY unless you are speaking of music. Provide liberal context cues for your audience. Spread the word!
- voila is how it’s spelled. More properly with a diacritical mark over the a. But it is not spelled “vwa-la” or “wa-la” or however you wish say it.
- pore (not pour) means to carefully look over something.
- peel (not peal) means to keep your eyes or ears open for something.
- effect is what you have on others.
- affect is when you fake something. (It has other meanings, too.)
- regardless, not irregardless. If you meant irrespective, you should use it when appropriate.
- lose is the opposite of win; loose is the opposite of tight. You might lose your scarf if it comes loose.
With all that said, please don’t become self-conscious when speaking or writing (to me or anyone else.) But if you notice someone grimaced when you used a word or phrase, make a mental note to look it up later. You’ll be the better for it and so will our wonderful language.
Now it’s your turn: what words make you wince when you hear or see them mistreated?