Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Grammar: Howlers 21


Sometimes a long word like appendicectomy becomes appendectomy, orientated becomes oriented – and so on.

adaptation: adaption
metamorphosised: metamorphosed
acclimatise: acclimate
preventative: preventive
orientate: orient
hypothesise: hypothecate
eugenicist: eugenist
opinionated: opiniated
asininity: asinity
nicotiniana: nicotiana.
digitalised: digitised
exploitative: exploitive
odoriferous: odiferous
Beethovenian: Beethovian
decolonialise: decolonise
demonstratable: demonstrable
empathetic: empathic
nictitate: nictate

Sometimes syllables are added, like interpretative for interpretive. You don't interpretate. Or fornification – which, a Latin scholar points out, means "becoming an oven". 

casket of rum
All the Covid measurements were taken away too soon! (Measures – like mask-wearing.)
epinomyous: eponymous

And sometimes we add an intrusive R: prostrate for prostate, brought for bought.

Or we try to get a Latin plural right, but add an extra I: 
We must respect the genius locii. (The spirit of a place is its "genius loci".)
Doughnuts are perfect torii. (Torus is the Latin for doughnut-shape: its plural is tori.)
Dame Edna Everage showered the audience with gladiolii. (gladioli)

The genii was out of the box. (Genii is the plural of genius, but here a genie is meant – and they  usually live in bottles. Confusingly, "genie" is an anglicisation of the Arabic djinni. The dictionary says that "djinni" is the singular, meaning an evil spirit, and the plural "djinn".)

French terms can be confusing:

It’s what we call champloisé. (Bargain Hunt. It's "champlevé" enamel.)
It’s called Carolean, after Queen Caroline. (Bargain Hunt. It’s after King Charles I or II.)
the Italianette style (Italianate)

child protégé 
(A talented child is a “prodigy”. A protégé is someone you are looking after and supporting. A music teacher’s favourite pupils may be her protégés, but they may not be prodigies.)

And the coastal area in Italy is  Cinque Terre, not Chique Terre. (European Tourism)

Take care with Yiddish. Can you tell your shmuck (rude) from your shmutter (clothes)? 

Sometimes it helps to say it in American:

not have bad (It's “not half bad”.)
mind-bottling for mind-boggling 
deep-seeded hate (It’s “deep-seated”.)
I shutter to think... (shudder)

What DO people think “quixotic” means?

Grade inflation, caused by quixotic predictions, could be as damaging to posterity as the closure of schools. (Times 2020. Wild? Well-meaning?)

It was typical of Bruce Lester's quixotic career that the following year he was playing a bit part in I Walk Alone, and he continued to take small parts until retiring from acting in 1958. (Independent obituary 2008 Up and down career? It means “mercurial”, says someone on Twitter. Like Don Quixote tilting at windmills thinking they were giants, says another, correctly.)

And what do they think "genuflect" means? 

To show great respect or devotion. Examples of Genuflect in a sentence:

After Ted’s funeral, hundreds of people went by his house to genuflect to his widow.  

When Jill met her idol, she could not help but genuflect to the singer who had inspired her to become an entertainer.  

We genuflect to the heavenly father by lighting a white candle in his honour.  

The servants genuflect to their royal employers by bowing before them.  


Genuflect literally means going down on one knee. You may metaphorically genuflect to academic authorities, or widely held ideas.

Supposably” is now included in Cue people moaning about irregardless and pacifically. Do change the record.

Grammar: Howlers 24

cut and dry
 (Cut and dried. In Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson talks of corn “cut and dried in the fields”. Painting by John Nash.)

forge a path, despite the effort of forging the tunnels (You forge a sword on an anvil; you beat a path, excavate a tunnel.)

Do Americans think that a “manse” is a mansion? It's a house lived in by a Presbyterian minister.

We recorded our 500th specie! (“Species” is both singular and plural. So is Homo sapiens. Aurochs is singular – the plural is aurochsen.)

Camilla is now a fully pledged member of the Royal family. (That's "fully fledged", like a young bird that has acquired adult feathers.) 

Oh dear, Biden and Harris want to bring in “mashell law”. (That's "martial law", but they haven't yet.)

I was at your beckon call. (Beck and call – beck means the same as beckon.)

white-bred Christian male (It’s “white-bread”, meaning “normal, standard, plain vanilla”.) 

Someone on Twitter used “rote tasks” to mean exercises like “fill in the missing word”. (Rote learning is learning by heart, but its meaning seems to have expanded. When people say “rote learning”, they probably don’t intend “memorising poetry, tables and the dates of the Kings and Queens of England”.)

Espouse for endorse (He publicly espoused her wonderfulness. You espouse – literally "marry" – a cause, but endorse a candidate. Confusingly, they could both be substituted by "support" in that context. You might approve a candidate, but adopt or embrace a cause. Avoiding French and Latin, you could uphold a cause, and back a candidate.)

claiming the high moral ground (It’s the "moral high ground”. Taking the high ground is important in a land battle. Once you’re on a rise or hill, you can see further, and you can push the enemy down the slope whereas he is forced into an uphill fight.)

Playing on your mind for preying on your mind. The metaphor of predator and prey passes most people by, and “playing” has almost overwritten “preying”. 

Manga Carta, Magma Carta (End Oct 2020. Apparently Magna Carta states that governments can’t impose lockdowns.)

Harbour sympathy for generate sympathy (If you harbour something you give it a refuge. Metaphorically you can “harbour” a grudge etc.)

Ironically, the tiles were not put back on the walls when the kitchen was refurbished. (What do people think it means?)

When did “jam-packed” become “ram-packed”? “Rammed” means stuffed or crowded. The jam in jam-packed is a traffic jam or log-jam.

The entire situation has cast a pallor over my pregnancy. ( A pall is a black, white or purple cloth you drape over a coffin. Pallor – paleness – is from the same root as “pale”, but the funeral pall is from pallium, a garment.)

Tears have flown on more than one occasion. ( The birds have flown, and tears have flowed.)

tidied over (It’ll keep me tided over – ie it’ll keep me going until the next high tide when I can go out and catch more fish.)

He held on to the tenants of his faith. (Tenets – "tenet" is Latin for "he holds".)

The anaesthetics of the oligarch's flat were surprisingly restrained. (aesthetics)

Ratifiers for ratafias, gobble-stitch for gobelin-stitch (Girls’ Own Annual, 1920)

More here, and links to the rest.