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Plough vs. plow

In American and Canadian English, plow is the preferred spelling of the farm implement and its related verbs. Plough is the preferred spelling in the main varieties of English from outside North America. The spelling distinction applies to all senses of the word, including figurative ones. British and Australian writers always use plough, along with ploughed and ploughing; American and Canadian writers always use plow, plowed, and plowing. Both spellings are pronounced the … [Read more...]

Coordinate adjectives

Coordinate adjectives are adjectives that appear in sequence with one another to modify the same noun. For example, the adjectives in the phrases bright, sunny day and dark and stormy night are coordinate adjectives. Coordinate adjectives are usually separated with either commas or and, and and always comes before the final adjective. Some sequential pairs or groups of adjectives that modify single nouns are not coordinate. For example, in the phrase harsh verbal warning, harsh and verbal are … [Read more...]

Proved vs. proven

Proven is usually an adjective (e.g., a proven formula), and proved is usually the inflected form of the verb prove (e.g., I proved it; I have proved it). This is not a rule, though, and exceptions abound, especially in American English, where proven is often used as a participial inflection of the verb. For example, where a British writer is likely to write I have proved you wrong, an American writer might write I have proven you wrong. Both forms are many centuries old. Proven appears in … [Read more...]

Poster child

The phrase poster child originally referred to a child who appears on a poster for a charitable organization. For example, a poster child might be a child cancer survivor on a poster of an organization that fights cancer. While this older definition remains, a new, idiomatic meaning---a person who is a prominent example or representative of something---now appears more often. It's even used in reference to people and things that are not children. Poster child does not need to be in quotation … [Read more...]

Uber

The German loanword uber, which sometimes functions as a prefix and sometimes as an adjective, means super or very. The German word has an umlaut over the u---über---but the umlaut is often omitted in English. In German, the word also means over or above, but the subtleties of the German word don't extend to the English definition. Uber is new to English and has not appeared in many dictionaries. It may never rise above buzzword status, which would make sense, because super always works in … [Read more...]

Elocution vs. locution

Elocution is (1) a style or manner of speaking, and (2) the art of public speaking. A locution is a word or a phrase or the act of saying a word or phrase. Locution is so often used in place of elocution that many dictionaries now list the words as synonyms in some uses, but the words generally remain separate in well-edited writing. A third, rarer word, allocution, refers to a formal or authoritative speech or address. Examples When she heard me developing a broad Yorkshire accent, I was … [Read more...]

Factoid

When it was first coined, the noun factoid referred to a piece of inaccurate or unverified information presented as factual. The -oid suffix normally means resembling or having the appearance of, so a factoid is something that has the appearance of fact but is not necessarily factual. The word was coined by Norman Mailer in his biography of Marilyn Monroe, where he defined factoids as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper." In the United States, … [Read more...]

Neandertal vs. neanderthal

Neanderthal is the more common spelling of the noun denoting the species of robust humanlike creatures that went extinct around 30,000 years ago. Neandertal is preferred by a few scientific publications. Neanderthal, the original spelling, was derived from the German valley where Neanderthal fossils were first discovered in the 19th century. In 1901, however, the German name of the valley was officially changed to Neandertal. Some scientists and scientific publications have extended the … [Read more...]

Tho, altho

Tho and altho, shortened forms of the conjunctions though and although, have each had a few brief heydays scattered through the history of modern English, but neither has permanently caught on. This could change in the coming years as Textish makes such shortened words more common. For now, though, edited publications prefer though and although to tho and altho, and the shortened forms might be considered out of place in formal writing. Examples Tho and altho often appear in informal writing … [Read more...]

Dealt vs. dealed

Dealt is the more common past tense and past participle of the verb deal. This is the case throughout the English-speaking word. Dealed appears occasionally---especially in the phrase wheeled and dealed (mainly for the rhyme)---but it has never gained wide acceptance, and some might consider it incorrect. It might someday enter the language, but so far it has not caught on the way similar forms such as learned, smelled, and spelled have. Examples In writing from this century, dealed almost … [Read more...]

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