Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Style Maven: Off the Rack

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
Happy New Year, darlings! The holiday season may be behind us, but the weather outside is still frightful. If I hear one more forecast that includes the words “polar vortex,” I shall simply scream. At least I have this smashing wool coat to keep me toasty. While we’re on the lookout for more congenial weather, let’s have another little quiz; they’re such fun!

1. You’ve won the battle, but still may lose the war. Have you engaged in strategy or tactics?

2. Wrack or rack; which one denotes wreckage, and which one indicates torture?

3. Can a grisly scene also be grizzly?

4. There is enormity, and then there’s enormousness. Which is used to indicate size?

5. The neighbor’s dog is barking. Is the sound continual or continuous?

Right, then. Pencils down, all! Are we feeling confident? Of course! Let’s have a peek at the answers; I’m sure you all did beautifully.

If you’ve gained a short-term victory, you can thank clever tactics. If it’s a long-term goal you seek, it’s time to invest in a sound strategy.

Did you rack your brain over question two? No need to torture yourself over it; just remember that a storm’s wrack leaves wreckage.

If the grisly details include the wretched cut of someone’s grizzly, or grayish, hair, feel free to use both words in your scene. If you think your readers can bear it …

Are you describing the atrociousness of Black Friday shopping manners? Enormity would be the word of choice in that instance. If you want to depict the abnormally large crowds you saw while shopping, enormousness will convey the feeling nicely.

While the yapping of an excited dog may seem continuous, it can’t really go uninterrupted. Even Fido needs sleep. Continual, that which is frequently repeated, is the appropriate choice here. No matter what one’s ears may indicate.

Well, that was a treat! Speaking of treat, you’ll have to excuse me. There’s a future roulade in the kitchen, awaiting assembly. Dark chocolate cake with chestnut cream; I fear I’ll soon be switching to elastic waistbands. Ah, well. Be on the lookout for popped buttons, and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!

Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew 
Seeking escape from freezing temperatures and howling winds, the Style Maven has laid in an enormous supply of milk and cocoa, and is pondering the logistics of a hot chocolate bath. If she succeeds, the story will be posted on The Procraftinator.


  1. I will add these to my complicated word list that I keep in a Word document. I get rack and wrack confused every time.

  2. Love this discussion of correct usage versus what "sounds right." The English language is under attack—we need all the reminders we can get to preserve what's left of it!

  3. Oops! I use wrack my brain all the time, read it in others' works too. Good post. De-wracking now.

  4. Ah, Style Maven, you had me nervous with this quiz, as anyone would be when pitted against an authority like you! While I passed your quiz, you did make me think. I like that about you, thanks!

  5. Haha. Some people can be so serious. Here's a comment from my FB page today: Actually it is not guttural. It is fricative. "Guttural" refers to that sound you make when you're hocking a lugy, or saying the German "auch" or the Gaelic "loch." "Guttural" does NOT mean "of the gutter." This misusage is the kind of thing up with which I will not put.

  6. Love the lessons from the Maven. Are you sharing the cake?

  7. Thanks,
    Now, all I have to do is remember your examples!

    Morgan Mandel


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