I once had the ghastly misfortune to work with a newspaper editor who insisted on mixing up words like affect and effect, or whoever and whomever in various stories. He claimed that it was perfectly fine, because “people talk like that.” I speculated (silently) that he was descended from cave slugs.
Common usage doesn’t always mean proper usage. Leggings and crinolines might be all the rage in 8o’s music videos, but don’t even think about sporting such attire at a formal gathering. The CMOS offers a lengthy list of words and phrases that can send even the most prolific writers thumbing through a dictionary. Shall we try a little quiz? Like a bad hat, take the answers straight from the top of your head.
- Given a choice between abjure and adjure, which word would you choose to denote renunciation under oath?
- Between all right and alright, which does the CMOS consider all wrong?
- Clinch or clench? One is physical; the other is generally used figuratively.
- Can something be edible without being eatable?
- Both innate and inherent can describe characteristics, but which word is best used to describe traits of living things?
Oo, I’m excited; I’m sure you all did smashingly well. Ready?
If you chose abjure as the answer to question one, give yourself a quick knuckle-buff. To abjure is to renounce or deny under oath, while to adjure is to require or urge a particular action.
In the case of question two, the CMOS suggests avoiding the use of alright. All righty, then.
Clinch your victory by answering all five questions correctly, and you can shake your clenched fists in the air.
If you’re confused by the difference between edible and eatable, I’ll give you some help. My father believes that mushrooms are edible, but he finds them thoroughly uneatable. The former means that something is fit for human consumption, while the latter indicates that the eater might actually enjoy the food in question.
Question five has a built-in clue. The “nate” portion of innate tells us that innate characteristics are those we’re born with, while inherent is more likely to be used for inanimate objects. Her innate loveliness shone through the inherent gaudiness of her dress.
And there you are; a quick peek at some of the literary trouble spots. There are scads more, so be sure to study. Until next time, dearies. Your Style Maven needs a nap. While it may be practicable to attempt city driving while bleary-eyed, it’s hardly practical. Have a lovely week, and remember, a well-turned phrase is always in style!
|Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew |
After months of filling out reams of paperwork, the Style Maven is in hiding in a large metropolitan area. Following a well-deserved mental health break, she plans to update her signature blurb and Procraftinator column, both of which are in desperate need of rejuvenation.