Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: sextant; sexton.

sextant; sexton. A “sextant” is an old-fashioned instrument used in navigation. A “sexton” is an officer who handles day-to-day affairs at a church or synagogue, with varying responsibilities depending on the religious institution. The two words are occasionally confounded, especially in obituaries — e.g.: o “He was a parishioner of Holy Ghost Church, where he served as a sextant [read ‘sexton’].” “Obituaries,” Providence J.-Bull., 17 Oct. 2000, at C3. o “He was a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and served for more than 50 years as sextant [read ‘sexton’] and treasurer of the St. John’s Cemetery.” “Deaths and Funerals,” Dayton Daily News, 18 Nov. 2000, at B2. o “Mr. Whitehurst was a member of New Saint Mark Baptist Church . . . , where he was a past chairman; member of Deacon Board; past president of the Floral Club; Pastor’s Aide; Trustee Board; past treasurer of the church; and Sextant [read ‘Sexton’].” “David R. Whitehurst Sr.” (obit.), Virginian-Pilot & Ledger Star (Norfolk), 29 Nov. 2001, at B8. Language-Change Index — “sextant” misused for “sexton”: Stage 1. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Writing a book is a full-time occupation. You are thinking about it all the time.” Jay Parini, “On Being Prolific,” in Writers on Writing 199, 199 (Robert Pack & Jay Parini eds., 1991).
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