Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries.

Miscellaneous Entries.

stoic, adj.; stoical. Neither form is rare enough to be called a needless variant. But H.W. Fowler rightly observed that “stoical” appears more often as a predicate adjective {his behavior was stoical}, while “stoic” is better used attributively {stoic indifference} (Modern English Usage 1st ed. at 565). Unless specifically referring to the ancient Greek school of philosophy, “stoic(al)” should not be capitalized.

stony. So spelled — not *”stoney.”

story; storey. For the floor or level of a building, “story” is American English and “storey” British English. The plural forms are “stories” and “storeys.”

stratagem. So spelled — though the mistaken *”strategem,” on the analogy of “strategy,” appears about 20% as often as the correct spelling. Though the words “stratagem” and “strategy” are etymologically related, they came into English by different routes, and their spellings diverged merely as a matter of long-standing convention. What happened is that the Latin “strategema” became “stratagema” in Romance languages such as French. (The Century Dictionary calls the Romance spelling “erroneous.”) “Stratagem” came into English in the 15th century, through French. But it wasn’t until the early 19th century that English and American writers borrowed “strategy” (originally a Greek term) from Latin. Hence our incongruous spellings today.

*Invariably inferior forms.


Quotation of the Day: “Most of us handle language irresponsibly a good deal of the time — just as, if we will admit it, we handle an automobile irresponsibly or neglect our health.” John E. Jordan, Using Rhetoric 185 (1965).

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