Don’t Have a Heart Attack

You know how it is. You’re typing away in Word, and maybe you truly aren’t aware of the difference or maybe you just made a typo, but in either case the blue squiggles have shown up under one or two words. I don’t often experience the blue squiggles. I’m familiar with the red (misspelled word) and the green (fragment). But when I see the blue squiggles, I know something is wrong.

It happened recently when I typed the word anymore. Making anymore into two words solved the problem, but I couldn’t let this correction go without re-familiarizing myself with the why behind it. Never hurts to brush up on my grammar, not to mention it makes a great blog post for The Weight of Words.

Any more and anymore have related meanings, but they are not interchangeable. How you use it will determine whether you type or write it as one word or two. Any more deals with quantities such as:

Would you like any more cookies?

Anymore is an adverb and has to do with time:

I don’t like cookies anymore.

A quick check to see if you need the single-word version is if you can switch it for the word nowadays. One source claimed this usage to be unacceptable in formal writing and quite rare, however, I believe it would add flair to one’s writing whether in the prose or as dialog. I also am a great proponent for keeping alive interesting words deemed archaic.

Another interesting fact regarding anymore vs. any more is that the traditional though less common spelling was as two separate words: any more. Apparently, in the last fifty years, anymore has increased in use giving rise to the one-word and two-word spellings, distinct definitions, and usage.

Old Literature, New Words

Nothing like a great classic to bring up some words you may know, but weren’t aware had interesting multiple definitions, and a few you may not know.  I’m sure you’ll want to add these to your vocabulary, work them into your writing, and use them to win a round of Jeopardy.

First is beetling.  When I came across it in a sentence, I thought I knew the definition of the word, but its usage didn’t make sense where it had been written.  So, I went in search of the definition that would fit the sentence.

As a verb, beetling can mean:

Make one’s way hurriedly or with short, quick steps.

To use a beetle on; drive, ram, beat, or crush with a beetle.

To project or overhang threateningly.

As a noun:

A heavy hammering or ramming instrument, usually of wood, used to drive wedges, force down paving stones, compress loose earth, etc.

Any of various wooden instruments for beating linen, mashing potatoes, etc.

Any insect of the order Coleoptera, having biting mouthparts and forewings modified to form shell-like protective elytra (two-wing casing of a beetle).

As an adjective:

Projecting, overhanging.

That’s quite a few definitions for a word that sounds rather cute when you say it.  Try it this way:

But just then the moon, sailing through the black clouds, appeared behind the jagged crest of a beetling, pine-clad rock, and by its light I saw around us a ring of wolves, with white teeth, lolling red tongues, with long sinewy limbs and shaggy hair.

Now it doesn’t sound so innocent, does it?  Clearly the adjective of beetle was the one the author had in mind.

Let’s move on to prosecuting.  I don’t know about you, but I instantly think all things legal when I hear the word.  A verb all around, drop the –ing and head straight for prosecute to discover what it means:

Institute legal proceedings against (a person or organization), institute legal proceedings in respect of (a claim or offense), and (of a lawyer) conduct the case against the party being accused or sued in a lawsuit.

See what I mean about the legal thing.  But press on a titch to find:

Continue with (a course of action) with a view to it completion.

And the archaic:

Carry on (a trade or pursuit).

Consider the sentence:

I think had there been any alternative I should have taken it, instead of prosecuting that unknown night journey.

Our character is fearful of his surroundings and the strange goings-on, so no doubt the second definition of prosecute applies here.

The last word is a fun one and needs to be worked into conversation at every opportunity not unlike the word huzzah.  Try faugh on for size.  The exclamation is used to express disgust, and I came across it in the sentence:

I am alone in the castle with those awful women.  Faugh!  Mina is a woman, and there is nought in common.  They are devils of the Pit!

You might believe the author is writing about the Kardashians, but he’s not.  The women in question are vampires, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I wasn’t going to mention this word, but lest anyone think I’ve misspelled it, nought in the sentence above is not spelled incorrectly; it’s a variation of naught.  But you, brilliant follower, already knew that.

Where Are We Going With This?

The other day I banged out a sentence on the ole laptop and paused when my son interrupted my thought process to ask a question.  When I returned my attention to the sentence, one word in particular caught my attention.  My head tilted as I assessed the word, questioned the spelling.  Strangely enough, the obnoxious red squiggles Microsoft Word is so found of hadn’t appeared, so I assumed I’d spelled it correctly.  Still, something didn’t look quite right.  Or perhaps I should say spot-on.

Perhaps you’ve guessed by now that I spelled the word in question, travelling/traveling, as if I was writing for our friends across the pond.  I mentioned before in How Reading Taught Me to Misspell Words that I’ve been tripped up by the British spelling preferences.  Usually, Word catches them.  Not so this time.

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that travelling and traveling are both verbs meaning to go from one place to another, as on a trip or journeyThis isn’t a case of a second or third definition.  In fact, the two spellings can be used interchangeably.  What’s more, what I’m about to tell you applies to travelled/traveled and traveller/traveler.

So what’s the difference, you ask?  There isn’t one.  Today’s The Weight of Words is another example of British versus American spelling preferences.  British writers employ the double L version of the word and American writers go for the single L spelling.  No big deal if you’re jotting off a note to someone or a private letter.  But if you’re writing a larger work for a particular audience or about Brits or Americans specifically, it might be wise to use a spelling your intended readers will not think is a mistake.

A tidbit of research uncovered the reason behind the differences in spellings:

Each word has its own unique history, but the primary mover and shaker in this transatlantic drama is the nineteenth century American lexicographer Noah Webster, he of dictionary fame.  According to “A History of English Spelling” (Manchester University, 2011) by D.G. Scragg, Webster’s dictionary of 1828 is largely responsible for standardizing the accepted spelling of American English.

Before 1828, many words, such as humor (or humour), defense (or defence) and fiber (or fibre), had two acceptable spellings on both sides of the pond, because they were introduced in England via both Latin and French, which used different spellings.  Webster picked his preferred forms (the former ones in each example above), justifying his choices in various ways, but partly on nationalist grounds:  he wanted American spelling to be distinct from, and (in his opinion) superior to, British spelling.

I can appreciate Mr. Webster’s patriotism, but sometimes I wish he’d chosen another way to express it rather than in different spellings.

~~~~~

Wolchover, Natalie. “Why Do Brits and Americans Spell Words Differently?” LiveScience, Purch, 17 Apr. 2012, http://www.livescience.com/33844-british-american-word-spelling.html.

To Praise with Admiration

For far too long those crazy Latin-speaking people have influenced English to the detriment of high school students everywhere.  Until we can stop them, here’s some information on compliment versus complement.  No doubt the confusion started with the fact that they are pronounced alike and used to have similar meanings.  Fortunately, they evolved into separate words.

The older of the two words, complement with an E derived from the Latin complementum.  As a noun, complement means “a thing that completes or brings to perfection” and “a number or quantity of something required to make a group complete.”  As a verb, it means “to add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect.”

Noun 1:  The lyrics provided the perfect complement to the music.

Noun 2:  As of today, we have a full complement of employees.

Verb:  The navy blazer complements the tan slacks for a classic look.

If something complements something else, it completes it or enhances it.  A handbag can complement an outfit, and a throw pillow can complement a sofa.  Remember the color wheel from grade school art class?  Complementary colors were those that were directly across from each other.  The contrast between them enhanced their relationship:  orange and blue, yellow and purple, red and green.

Remember:  if something complements something, it completes it.

Compliment with an I also derives from the Latin root completmentum, which explains some of the early overlap of meaning.  It was introduced to English by way of the Spanish cumplimiento, via the route of Italian and French.  You can pay someone a compliment, or compliment someone for a job well done.

As a noun, compliment means “a polite expression of praise or admiration.”  As a verb, it means “to politely congratulate or praise (someone) for something.”

Noun:  George paid me an enormous compliment.

Verb:  Marcia complimented Darren on his academic achievements.

Hopefully, today’s The Weight of Words helps with the compliment versus complement confusion.  If not, blame those pesky Latin-speaking folks.

Just a Titch

No, this is not me!

I am on a roll with The Weight of Words this week.  Microsoft Word keeps telling me that titch isn’t really a word.  Every time I type it, the red squiggles instantly appear beneath it.  Since I used it in yesterday’s blog post, I feel obliged to pay homage to tiny, little titch.

I first heard titch as a teenager while trying to explain to the stylist about to perm my hair into a mass of curls that would make any teen of the ‘80s green with envy exactly how little hair I wanted removed prior to perming.  She assured me that any hairdresser would understand I wanted nothing more than the dead ends cut off if I simply told him or her to cut just a titch.  Lo and behold, to this day, her advice holds true.

Titch is informal British for a small person.  The slang originated in the 1930s from Little Tich, the stage name of Harry Relph, an English music-hall comedian of small stature.  Apparently, Relph earned the nickname because he resembled Arthur Orton, the Tichborne claimant.

Somewhere along the way, it came to mean a small amount, to tut-tut someone in disapproval, or a small child.

I’ll have a titch of coffee before I go.

Titch—you ate all the cake and didn’t save me any?

He’s just a titch of a thing who hasn’t grown much in the past year.

Fortunately, you will not need to expend several cans of Aqua Net to employ the word titch.

Using Vulgar Language

I’m not bragging when I say I read voraciously.  Ever since I discovered reading as a child, it has been one of my absolute favorite pastimes.  My personal library attests to this as does my activity on Goodreads.  Reading has added a few words to my vocabulary that I didn’t think were all that unusual, but apparently they are.  One such word is unbeknownst.  I don’t use it all the time and I’m certainly not trying to sound haughty when I do.  It appears a few commentators do not agree with me.

Today’s The Weight of Words is in honor of unbeknownst, a humble adjective usually used with ‘to’ that simply means happening or existing without the knowledge of a specified person or persons.

Unbeknownst to my mother, my brother and I are planning a surprise birthday party for her seventy-fifth birthday complete with a cruise to Hawaii as a present.

According to one site I checked, the first known use of unbeknownst was in 1626, so yes, it probably does sound a little archaic.  But that doesn’t render the word useless or worthy of exclusion from the English language.  I used it recently in a blog post which prompted this post in turn!

Unbeknownst derives from beknown, an obsolete synonym of knownUnbeknownst has widespread usage, including appearances in the works of Charles Dickens, A.E. Housman, and E.B. White, yet despite its candid history, unbeknownst has caused a ruckus among usage commentators.  It has been called everything from “obsolete” to “vulgar.”

I’ll continue to use the word, especially since it still crops up in new writing, and unbeknownst to those who have no idea what it means, I shall talk over their lazy, empty heads.  Okay, now that did sound a titch haughty.

 

Triple Play on Words

Today’s The Weight of Words arose from a conversation I had with a Facebook friend regarding which flavor of MoonPie appealed to my palate.  I paused over what I had typed, and since I’m a writer (and it would look bad to post a typo) and a perfectionist, I took a moment to double check myself.

Turns out I used the correct spelling of palate which refers to the taste of something, one’s preference in taste, and the top of your mouth.

Her discerning palate detected the flavor of oak, apples, and honey in the chardonnay.

Banana MoonPies reign supreme on my palate!

Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth to feel the hard and soft palate.

Palette can be the board upon which artists place dollops of paint or a range of colors.

She mixed cerulean and cobalt blue on her palette to create a most beautiful shade for clouds.

The sunset was a palette of subtle pinks and smoky purples dashed with mandarin orange rays.

Pallet is a platform used for moving things.  It can also refer to a small bed or straw mattress.

The warehouse workers loaded the pallets with dry goods before shrink-wrapping them.

Mother made a small pallet of blankets on the porch during summer for us to sleep on.

Sidebar:  Did you know that MoonPie has a website where you can buy the delicious treats and other cool stuff!

Just Don’t Get a Ticket

As I was reading the other day, I came across the phrase speeded up.  By now you know my affinity for words and all things word related, so you’ll understand my reaction of sitting bolt upright.  Not only did the phrase not sound correct, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it used that way nor have I used it myself.  Naturally, this sent me to the laptop to check in with some of my favorite grammar websites.

As it turns out, neither sped nor speeded is more correct as they are both standard variations of the verb to speed.  In many old English reference books, the rule is that speeded works only in the past tense phrasal verb speeded up such as I had read.  What I found amusing is that I usually lean toward those archaic/dated words and phrases, but obviously not in this particular instance.

Today writers use what they think sounds best.  Speeded is often used without up whereas sped is used with up or alone.  Also, sped is more common than speeded these days which, according to some sites, makes it the safer choice.  In either case, be consistent when writing.

Quote vs. Quotation

Today’s The Weight of Words came about because I was looking up the proper usage of single and double quotes and came across a debate on the words quote versus quotation.  I wish I could find the original article as the author thereof was quite adamant about not using them interchangeably.  Articles I’ve found since have been a lot more lenient but no less informative.

I’m also featuring this today because I’m using it to launch Quotation Station.  It’s been on my mind for some time as I read books and perused the Internet to share quotations I came across that struck me as intelligent, wise, funny, poignant, relevant to writing, or any combination thereof.  My goal is to feature three posts a week, but I feel as if I’m leaving my followers hanging over the weekend.  Quotation Station will be a sincere handshake as we part company from Friday to Monday to relax from the hectic week.

Per Richard Nordquist writing for ThoughtCo.:

In formal English, quotation is a noun (as in “a quotation from Shakespeare”) and quote is a verb (“She likes to quote Shakespeare”).  However, in everyday speech and informal English, quote is often treated as a shortened form of quotation.

The noun quotation refers to a group of words taken from a text or speech and repeated by someone other than the original author or speaker.

  • direct quotation is a report of the exact words of an author or speaker. Direct quotations are placed inside quotation marks.
  • An indirect quotation is a paraphrase of someone else’s words:  it reports on what a person said without using his or her exact words.  Indirect quotations are not placed inside quotation marks.

The verb quote means to repeat a group of words originally written or spoken by another person. In informal speech and writing, quote is sometimes used as a shortened form of the noun quotation.

Nordquist, Richard. “What’s the Difference Between the Words “Quotation” and “Quote”?” ThoughtCo. N.p., 03 May 2017. Web.

For examples, usage notes, and practice enjoy reading the article in its entirety here:  “What’s the Difference Between the Words “Quotation” and “Quote”?

Be Sure About the Word You Choose, Friend

Today’s The Weight of Words is one I see botched on social media (between confident and confidant) and in writing (between confidant and confidante).  By now you probably think your eyes are playing tricks on you, so allow me to expound with definitions to assist with choosing the correct word.

Confident:

feeling or showing confidence in oneself; self-assured

                                He was a confident, assertive person.

feeling or showing certainty about something

She was confident she had made the correct decision.

Confidant:

a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others

George trusted his brother as the perfect confidant since Ralph had never betrayed his secrets before.

Confidante:

a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others

Did you notice there is no difference between the definitions of confidant without the E and with the E?  Here’s why:  strict grammarians reserve confidant for males and confidante for females.

This may not be a big issue in writing today where so many rules are often thrown to the wind, but for someone writing historical fiction, especially if the passage is a letter wherein the word is used, how much more realistic would it be to use the proper spelling of the word?  Besides, who wouldn’t want to expand their knowledge of words, definitions, and spellings with such useful tips as those provided above?

Now for the monkey wrench that is the English language:  the archaic definition of confident (spelled with an E) is confidant (spelled with an A, see above definition).  You gotta love second, third, and archaic definitions!  My advice is to stick with the first three so as not to confuse yourself.

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