Fervent vs. fervid

Some English usage authorities draw a distinction between fervent and fervid, saying that while both mean having great passion or zeal, fervid feelings are more extreme and perhaps irrational than fervent feelings. In other words, fervidness is ferventness to an excessive degree. While this distinction might be useful, it is not consistently borne out in real-world usage. The word are generally interchangeable, with fervent being the more common form by a large margin. Trying to make these … [Read more...]


Connexion is an archaic variant of the noun we now spell connection. (Similarly, reflexion, inflexion, etc. are now most often spelled with the -ction ending.) It was fairly common in British English until the late 20th century, but today the spelling has faded out of use except in a few proper nouns (usually company names) and special uses. Many if not most speakers of British English would regard it as strange or incorrect, and most usage guides advise against it, but several British-oriented … [Read more...]


The verb orientate, formed via backformation from the noun orientation, is a variant of orient common in the U.K. (but despite what some reference books say, the word is not more common in 21st-century British English than orient, which prevails by a large margin).1 It is especially common in its past-participial form, where it tends to appear in phrasal adjectives such as results-orientated and family-orientated, where orientated (as well as oriented when it appears in similar phrasal … [Read more...]

Spatter vs. splatter

To spatter is to scatter or dash (a liquid) in small drops. The small drops are key. For example, a light rain might spatter the roof. Splatter, which came later and was probably formed by blending splash and spatter, has a similar meaning, but it doesn't necessarily involve small drops. A splatter of liquid might be large and messy. For example, paint from an upturned bucket might splatter on the floor. Think of spatter as a synonym of sprinkle or spit, and splatter as closer to … [Read more...]


The verb grind is usually inflected ground in the past tense and as a past participle. Grinded might be considered incorrect in some contexts, but it has grown more common over the past several decades. It's especially common in American sports commentary and writing, where grind means to overcome adversity by playing hard. Based on historical Google News searches, this sense of grinded has been around at least since the 1960s. And though spell check disapproves of grinded, it is actually not … [Read more...]


The conventional spelling of the noun meaning a sure winner is shoo-in, not shoe-in. The term uses the verb shoo, which means to urge something in a desired direction, usually by waving one's arms. The idea behind the word is that the person being shooed---for example, into the winner's circle, into a job, or into a field of award nominees---is such a lock that we can shoo him or her in without hesitation. The term originated in the early 20th century. The earliest instances relate to horse … [Read more...]

Irregular plural nouns

[QUIZZIN 4] … [Read more...]

Economic vs. economical

Economic means, primarily, of or relating to the economy or economics. Economical means prudent, efficient, or thrifty. The adjectives were once variants of each other---and some dictionaries still list them this as such---but the differentiation is well established and generally borne out in real-world usage. Examples Many private sector forecasters are expecting Japanese economic growth to return to positive territory in the third quarter. [Wall Street Journal] Through six economical … [Read more...]

In the course of

In the course of is wordy for during, in, over, or while. There are rare instances in which in the course of is appropriate (especially when course is meaningful or denotes an actual route or path), but in most cases the phrase could be shortened to a one-word equivalent. Examples In each of the following sentences, in the course of could be shortened with no loss of meaning: But tension returned quickly, and in the course of [during?] their argument, Rick called her out. [Atlantic] More … [Read more...]

Overtones vs. undertones

The nouns overtone and undertone---usually pluralized, overtones and undertones---should logically be opposites, but they are effectively synonyms when used to mean an underlying or implied quality or meaning. The words are often used interchangeably. Overtone has a music-related definition---a musical tone that is higher than the fundamental tone---that it does not share with undertone. And undertone has a definition---a hushed tone or sound---that it does not share with overtone. But when … [Read more...]

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