If you’re on a long car ride through the mountains, you could call it tortuous, or if you’re prone to getting car-sick, maybe it’s even torturous; however, it’s essential that you know the difference. Look closely. Did you notice that I used two different words? Yes, these are in fact two different words. More
Oh, I know, you’re confident on this one. Just listen to that pronunciation!
Starting off with refreshers, we know that a tasty post-meal treat is a “dessert” (s x 2). We know that cacti grow in “deserts” (s x 1).
When you use the “just deserts”/”just desserts” expression, it is pronounced the same way you say “desserts.” It’s clearly not talking about a sandy, dry locale. There’s probably some etymological backstory about a poisoned soufflé or something, right? Yeah, that guy got his “just desserts,” someone once said, and it stuck, right? Someone like Shakespeare? Something from Titus Andronicus? If you think about it hard enough, it almost makes sense, doesn’t it?
But then, of course, you would be wrong. More
Here’s a thought: when Destiny’s Child sang, “All the honeys that making money, throw your hands up at me,” were they annoyed that “honeys” and “money” didn’t make an exact rhyme? Were they right to say “money” and not “moneys” or “monies”? Did they miss an opportunity for poetic perfection? Am I over-analyzing things again?
Hold that thought, early-Beyoncé fans. Do you know the difference between “money” and “moneys” and “monies”?
The good news here—for all of us—is that Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle were absolutely right in their use of “money.” This is an example of a mass noun, which often refers to an uncountable abstract. We’re talking about the idea of cash or capital, not a specific amount of dollars or cents. There’s a plurality that’s understood in “money,” which is what often confuses people about the uses of “moneys” or “money.” More
In case you’ve ever wondered which word is the one you really need, you’re confusion is understandable. Both words come from the same Latin root, tenere, which means “to hold.” It’s just a matter of holding beliefs (tenet) or holding a lease (tenant).
Are there any other words that make you wonder if you’re using the right one?
Recently, a challenge was thrown down from one of you. And you know me; I can’t ignore a good writing dispute. It’s like a double-dog dare in the school yard–just switch out the bold kid with me sitting at my computer, glasses on, jaw steeled with determination. (An intimidating picture, I know)
The claim states, “There are 923 words that break the ‘i’ before ‘e’ rule. Only 44 words actually follow that rule.”
For the sake of a writing tip, let’s take a moment to get into the nitty gritty fine print that this statement ignores. The “i” before “e” except after “c” rule applies only to words where the “ie” makes the “ee” sound (e.g. “achieve,” “piece,” “belief,” “receive,” “ceiling,” “receipt,” etc.). Some spelling textbooks even record this as part of the rhyme:
I before E except after C,
When the sound is “ee” More
Let’s be wild today and think about an equation.
Singular + Singular = plural
That’s simple, right? No one would argue that.
Hedgehog + Hedgehog = Hedgehogs
Book + Book = Books
However, sometimes, the addition of an “s” is not as simple as differentiating singular and plural. Let me mess with your brain here. The following equation is also correct:
Costs + Costs = Cost
Whoa. Mind-blowing, right?
A client came to me with this question earlier in the week, and I thought it was a great one. “Cost” in its singular form refers to the sum of a total group; “costs” refers to all of the pieces within that group. For example, “the cost of a service includes material costs and labor costs.”
From legal contracts to discussions of budgets, the difference between “cost” and “costs” often befuddles people. But no longer you, savvy reader. No longer you.