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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No ants!

It's a common mistake to use the word "tenant" when what is meant is "tenet". A tenant is someone who pays to occupy or use property but does not own it. A tenet is a basic belief. Both words ultimately come from the Latin word tenere (to hold). "Tenet" is in fact the form of the verb meaning "he/she/it holds". Perhaps a way to remember the correct spelling of "tenet" is this: while ants may occasionally turn up in your rented home or business, there's no way they can infiltrate your (or anyone's) religious, political, or philosophical beliefs.

Another common mistake is to double the n in "tenant". Goodness, n's are intrusive! "Tennant" is a surname (originally for someone who was a tenant farmer, just to be confusing), but not an acceptable variant spelling of the word "tenant".

1 comment:

  1. Oh good! Thank you Katherine.

    This one really annoys me, but I'm never completely certain that I heard the speaker say tenant for tenet. Firstly, my hearing is not so acute anymore and, secondly, I think, "Surely that educated person could not have said that; must have been a slip of the tongue!"


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.