Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: levy, v.t.

levy, v.t. “Levy” = (1) “to impose (as a fine or a tax) by legal sanction” {the court levied a fine of $500}; (2) “to conscript for service in the military” {the troops were soon levied}; (3) “to wage (a war)” {the rebels then levied war against the government}; or (4) to take or seize (property) in execution of a judgment {the creditor may levy on the debtor’s assets}. In sense 1, this verb is sometimes mangled through object-shuffling: “He quit hours after the football program was levied with sanctions that included a two-year ban on post-season play, a loss of 10 scholarships for each of the next two recruiting classes, and removal from the Pac-10’s television revenue-sharing pool for 1993.” Jim Cour, “Coach Quits in Protest,” Austin Am.-Statesman, 23 Aug. 1993, at C1. A program (or person) is not “levied with” a penalty; rather, the penalty is “levied against” the program (or person). The word is pronounced /LE-vee/; it’s sometimes wrongly pronounced like the surname “Levy” (usually /LEE-vee/). For information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “For many people, the question ‘Why bother to study language?’ would be as pointless, irrational and insulting as asking a philatelist ‘Why bother to collect stamps?’ The ultimate answer in both cases is that it is a question of personal taste, and no amount of reasoning about applications can get round this.” David Crystal, Linguistics 11 (1971).
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