Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Words misused, meanings forgotten.

So is snuck a word? In my favorite dictionary, American Heritage Dictionary of the American Language (c 1975), it's described as "nonstandard", which sort of means No.
Your English teacher would probably agree.

A popular mistake these days is using shimmy when shinny is appropriate.
To clarify, shimmy is a hip-and-shoulder-shaking dance move.
Shinny is how you climb a rope or pole, gripping between your shins.
I think it's pretty well impossible to shimmy up a rope.

People often use disinterested when they mean uninterested.
Disinterested means impartial - we value a disinterested justice system.
Uninterested means "don't bother me with that boring stuff."

Then there are horde (a group of ruffians) and hoard (guard that treasure).

How about marshal and martial?
Marshal: to gather (forces), or the person enforcing the law
Martial - pertaining to war (derived from Mars, the Roman war god)
A US Marshal could marshal a posse who use martial arts to enforce martial law.

Capital/ capitol, anyone?
Capital is the top of a column, or the city that's the seat of government,
or "excellent!" if you're a Brit, or upper-case letters.
Capitol is that specific building where legislative action takes place.

Enormity means evil monstrousness not just hugeness.
One could refer to the enormity of torture,
but not of the recent Japanese tsunami, horrible as it was - unless you believe the ocean and sea-bed did that on purpose.

Share your misuse bugaboos!

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