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
You know what’s cool about the word “queue”? You can remove its last four letters, and it’s still pronounced the same way. Of course, it’s also pronounced the same way as the word “cue.” Are you spelling the word you intend to? (I’m looking at you, American writers.) More
I would like to give a compliment to you. Perhaps it’s your fabulous grammar know-how. Perhaps it’s your bravery to tackle the sometimes nonsensical English language head-on. Perhaps it’s your awesome earrings. (Where did you get them? Can I borrow them sometime?)
Whatever the reason, remember my first sentence: “I would like to give a compliment.”
If you are looking for the word meaning an expression of praise or admiration, you’re looking for a word with an “i” in it: compliment.
If you are looking for the word meaning something that completes, balances, or pairs well with something else, you’re looking for the form with an “e”: complement.
So if I just complimented you on your earrings, I could note that they complement the necklace that you’re wearing. Or perhaps the sparkle of sun on the Venice canals. Either way, you get the idea.
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?
This week, when you gather with your siblings, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, mom, and dad, will you know how to write down all of their names correctly? And I don’t mean an impromptu spelling bee (there’s a great Thanksgiving idea… just kidding, I’m not that crazy).
Now, I’m going to ignore the cool kids with their graphic design backgrounds who just like writing everything—including proper names—in lower case (you know who you are). I’m also going to pretend I don’t notice the obsession with capitalizing all family names like a nonsensical sign of respect. Sometimes, it’s just “mom.” It’s true. Don’t worry. Respecting your elders is one thing, but don’t get carried away
Let’s talk about the method to the madness:
As you know, you capitalize names. If you’re using “mom” or “dad” as a proper name, capitalize it. To test whether this is the case, swap it out for their real name. If this swap makes sense, keep it upper case. If you’re referring to the role of “mother” or “father,” there’s no need to capitalize it. Perhaps that sounds trickier than it is. Seeing it in action will help:
Mom, what’s for dinner? (Mary, what’s for dinner—yep, checks out.)
Happy Thanksgiving, Grandpa! (Happy Thanksgiving, Ted—yep, that works too.)
My dad is excited about the football games on Thursday. (My David is excited—nope, that’s a bit weird.)
Across the country, moms and daughters will be prepping Thanksgiving feasts. (Across the country, Bettys and Sues will—okay, you get the idea.)
I hope this clears up the confusion. Have a happy turkey day, everyone!
Here’s one that might peak your interest. Or is it pique your interest? This is one people often feel really confident about—that is, until they realize they’ve always been wrong. If your interest is rising, “peak” makes sense, doesn’t it? Maybe. But it’s not the correct usage in this case. A “peak” is a high of some sort, real or metaphorical; however “to pique” is the correct usage for this specific phrasing. It’s from a French word meaning “to prick” or in this case “to excite.” If your curiosity is piqued, you’re interested. If your curiosity is peaked, I wonder if it’s really all downhill from there—the passing of some sort of obsession. And I can’t wrap up this post without a little shout out to the final alternate spelling of “peek,” as in to look when you’re not supposed to. “Peeking your interest” definitely doesn’t make sense. Please don’t write it. Got it?
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