Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: straighten; straiten.

straighten; straiten. These two verbs have different meanings. "Straighten" = to make or become straight. "Straiten" = (1) to make narrow, confine; or (2) to put into distress, esp. financial hardship. Because "straiten" is the rarer word, it is sometimes wrongly displaced by "straighten" — e.g.: o "Brookes may pride itself on a different sort of education — mature and part-time students, flexible courses — but in these financially straightened [read 'straitened'] times, does it not look with envy towards its neighbour, well on the way to meeting its £340 million target for its fund-raising appeal?" James Meikle, "New Universities: Oxford Leaves Its Blues Behind," Guardian, 23 Mar. 1993, at E4. o "When it was revealed that the woman was 28 years old, 16 weeks pregnant, unmarried, already has a child and lives in 'straightened [read "straitened"] circumstances,' donations began pouring in." Alex Bellos, "Britain Abortion Debate," Newsday (N.Y.), 7 Aug. 1996, at A4. (Note the nonparallel construction in that sentence.) o "While most farmers were in straightened [read 'straitened'] circumstances and too old-fashioned to want machinery, he believed Gridley Gerhardt to be forward-looking and prosperous." John Gould, "Phil Sugg's Struggle with a Mighty Machine," Christian Science Monitor, 13 Sept. 1996, at 17. Language-Change Index — "straighten" misused for "straiten": Stage 2. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "Whatever the nature or the purpose of a narrative, the occurrences must be so recounted as to culminate in a point [that] in itself has interest or value." Carolyn M. Garrish & Margaret Cunningham, Practical English Composition 94 (1912).
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