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Friday, January 23, 2015

8 more surprising "language errors" that have become standard

Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis, said the Romans: "Times change, and we change with them".

From time to time I like to look at usages that have been roundly criticized in the past but are now standard. Click here for "11 surprising "language errors" that have become standard". 

Here are 8 more, from the peeververein (to use John McIntyre's great word) of the 19th century:

The Normal Grammar, Analytic and Synthetic: Illustrated by diagrams

Stephen Watkins Clark - 1870

"The teacher requested William to recite" is proper and not inelegant. But, "I believe the milkman to be honest" inelegant and objectionable. The thought is better expressed thus: "I believe that the milkman is honest".

Good Words - Volume 24 - Page 404

Norman Macleod, ‎Donald Macleod - 1883 -

EXECUTION, EXECUTED -- We read, from time to time, that So-and-so was executed for murder. "Execution at Maidstone gaol" is intelligible enough; but "Execution of the murderer Nokes" is nonsense. The plain English is that the executioner hangs Mr. Nokes, and thereby follows out (which is the meaning of executes) the sentence of the law.

APPRECIATE, ESTIMATE --   The genteel vulgar are much given to appreciate  all sorts of things, without saying how or which way the appreciation is determined. You may appreciate a thing quite as much in detesting as in relishing it, provided that your detestation or your liking be definite. But in nine cases out of ten, where appreciate is used, the word should have been estimate.

"TERRORISM" -- What force has this abominable coinage that the word Terror lacks? What added meaning does your wretched ism confer? Let us pass from this absurdity to ananother, equally vulgar, feeble, and modern.

PURIST -- What a word! We have here possibly the only instance of an attempt to make a noun, by this clumsy inflection, directly out of a raw adjective. Puritist should be the term, if Puritan will not serve. But why there may not be puritans of language, as well as of life and religion, passes my power to guess.

Every-day Blunders in Speaking

Edmund Routledge - 1866

"One of those American words has so insidiously and effectually crept into our books and periodicals that it has become recognised by most of our writers. It is the word reliable. I wish to ask you if I am right in assuming the word to be incorrect..."
 "I am very glad that you have drawn my attention to the use of this objectionable word...Its legitimacy...was..so clearly disposed of in Notes and Queries of 26th March, 1864...: "That there are forcible objections to this word appears to be evident to a large number both of writers for the press and others. It has not come to be regarded with general favour, but holds much the same position in the language as the verb to progress, which most persons who are careful as to their style avoid. ...it is not a word of just English formation...[F]rom "we depend on the man," "the man is to be depended on," we cannot form the adjective "dependable"... If we would form words in able and ible from such verbs we must take in the prepositions, as in the odd words come-at-able, get-at-able. Similarly from "to be relied on," "to be depended on", we should say relionable, dependonable... All this being so evident, I sincerely hope that the word "reliable" will be at length excluded from the pages of our newspapers and magazines, and especially from all books that wish to take an honourable place in English literature."

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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.