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Daresay

The verb daresay means (1) suppose, or (2) presume to say. For instance, if you think daresay means something else but are not sure what, you might comment, "I daresay this post is wrong," or "I daresay you don't know what you're talking about!"  It is one word, and has been so for centuries, and though it has an archaic ring, it remains useful and appears fairly often for an archaism. Examples His foray on to the Temple Mount was not his first and I daresay will not be his last. [Jewish … [Read more...]

Dyeing vs. dying

Dying relates to death. Dyeing relates to soaking items in colored solutions. Dieing is a misspelling. A similar distinction applies to the past participles died and dyed. Die becomes died, and dye becomes dyed. Examples Dyeing and dying are occasionally mixed up---for example: Each part of the dying process---soaking, tying, dying---was given its own station. [Foster's Daily Democrat] The English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) compared alchemy to a dyeing man who told his sons … [Read more...]

Assent vs. consent

Assent and consent are mostly synonymous---they both mean to agree or to give permission---but assent connotes a greater degree of enthusiasm, and consent often comes with reluctance. In law and government, consent is more readily denied, while assent is often a mere formality. Examples One may readily assent to part of Koppel's 1987 assertion: Humanity needs the Truth, and human beings need moral absolutes. [The New American] Venezuela issued a decree banning use of President Hugo Chàvez's … [Read more...]

Vis-a-vis

Vis-à-vis is a loanword from French, where it means face to face (derived from the French visage, meaning face). In English, it's most commonly a preposition meaning in relation to or compared with, and it's sometimes used to mean simply face to face. The French grave accent over the a is optional in English, but it appears more often than not in edited writing. Examples "That Old Gang Of Mine" continues in that vein, and it ties up some loose ends vis-à-vis [involving?] Gunn and his old … [Read more...]

Par excellence

The French loan phrase par excellence, meaning (1) quintessential, (2) excellent, or (3) to a degree of excellence, is both an adjective and an adverb. But unlike standard English adverbs and adjectives, par excellence usually comes after the word it modifies. For example, a great writer is not a par excellence writer but rather a writer par excellence. Because par excellence has earned a spot in the English language, there's no need to italicize it in normal use. It's usually spoken with a … [Read more...]

Just deserts vs. just desserts

The expression meaning that which is deserved was originally just deserts. The phrase is the last refuge of an obsolete meaning of desert---namely, something that is deserved or merited. But because most modern English speakers are unfamiliar with that old sense of desert, the phrase is often understandably written just desserts. Using just desserts is not a serious error, and it is much more common than just deserts in 21st-century texts. Some people still consider it wrong, however. Whether … [Read more...]

Dual vs. duel

The adjective dual means (1) composed of two usually like or complementary parts, (2) double, or (3) having a double character or purpose. A duel is (1) a prearranged combat between two people, or (2) a struggle for domination between two individuals, groups, or ideas. The word also works as a verb, meaning to have a duel. These homophones have different roots. Dual comes from the Latin duo (which has Indo-European roots), meaning two, while duel comes from the Medieval Latin duellum, … [Read more...]

As far as

The common phrase as far as only makes logical sense if followed by a complementary phrase such as I know, that goes, or that's concerned. When the complementary phrase is omitted, as far as becomes illogical. Still, its use without the complementary phrase is common, so we might consider it idiomatic. For example, as far as is logically questionable in these sentences: As far as other appearances, Democratic State Treasurer candidate Robin Kelly and Democratic Cook County Board President … [Read more...]

Du jour

The French loan phrase du jour, meaning literally of the day, came to English in the 1960s when restaurants started using it to highlight their daily specials (their plats du jour). More recently, it has expanded from its original sense, and it now sometimes means recent, current, or trendy. But unlike its adjectival synonyms, du jour follows the French grammar by coming after the noun it modifies. For example, you might call a trendy hat the hat du jour, not the du jour hat. Because du … [Read more...]

Endear

In its traditional sense, endear means to make dear, with its direct object making itself dear to its indirect object. For example, I might endear myself (direct object) to you (indirect object) with this post if you find it useful, or you might endear yourself (direct object) to me (indirect object) by posting a comment expressing your thanks. If we give most credence to the standard dictionary definition---which isn't always the best approach, but we'll do so here for the sake of … [Read more...]

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