Tag: English usage

riot

Riotous words

Various English cities spent a good portion of last week dealing with rioting, avoiding the riots, commenting on said riots, and cleaning up the aftermath. Leaving aside the ongoing discussion regarding the causes and effects of these civil disturbances, it would be interesting to look at the word riot itself. Riot has been in use […]

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redundant

Redundant expressions

Bad habits are hard to break A bad practice in writing (and speaking) is redundancy. Anyone who has sat through a speech that goes round and round and uses the same few words over and over knows what I mean. We may sometimes do this deliberately, for stylistic reasons, or in order to raise the […]

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Militate or mitigate

Mitigate or militate?

These two verbs have similar spellings and they sound alike when they are pronounced. As a result, it’s easy to get them confused, even though their meanings are completely different. Mitigate means ‘make something less harmful, severe, or bad’. It’s often used in formal or official contexts, as in the following sentences from the Oxford […]

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Short and tweet

Keeping it short and tweet

I’m getting addicted to @OxfordWords on Twitter, where you can see all the latest from Oxford Dictionaries plus some great interaction with our thousands of followers. There’s a real skill to tweeting well: as many of you know, there is a 140-character limit to Twitter posts, so it can take some ingenuity to get your […]

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illusion

Alluding to illusions …

Emmy host Jimmy Fallon … made a sly illusion to Conan O’Brien’s firing as host of “The Tonight Show”. CNN transcripts, August 2010 (taken from the Oxford English Corpus). As the above incorrect usage shows, among many troublesome twosomes in the English language are illusion and allusion. It doesn’t help that their pronunciations are similar, […]

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compliment or complement

Compliment or complement?

A lot of people get compliment and complement confused. It’s easy to see why: they’re pronounced in the same way and have very similar spellings but they have completely different meanings. If you compliment someone, you are expressing admiration for them, or praising them for something. Here are some examples from the Oxford English Corpus showing the correct use […]

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Affect or effect? Which word would you use to describe the result of a single domino being knocked over?

Affect or effect?

Lots of people are confused about the difference between affect and effect, two words which have almost the same spelling, but very different meanings. The basic difference between them is that affect is chiefly used as a verb. Its main meaning is ‘to influence or make a difference to’, as in the following example sentences, […]

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Viral now has more meanings than it used to.

Word trends: viral

Viral now has more meanings than it used to. In the twentieth century, you would only have encountered this word in the physiological context of diseases: Rabies is an acute viral infection that is extremely rare in the UK. A quarter of the residents had high levels of viral hepatitis. In the twenty-first century, most […]

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