Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: taut (2).

Today: And “taunt,” n. & vb. “Taunt is both a verb (“to provoke with sarcasm or insults”) and a noun (“a sarcastic, provocative gibe”). Unfortunately, writers are increasingly confusing that word with the adjective “taut” (= tightly stretched [literally or figuratively]) — e.g.: o “He and Tucker, who goes by the name Chongo, tinkered with the rope, tuning it taunt [read ‘taut’] like a violin string.” Nora Zamichow, “A Spiritual Quest on a Rope,” L.A. Times, 28 Nov. 1998, at A1. o “The shoulders are still broad and round with muscles, the biceps taunt [read ‘taut’].” Elton Alexander, “Phills Takes Charge as Hornets’ Leader,” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 18 Apr. 1999, at C17. o “Kai’s eyes gleamed as he waited by his partner’s feet, muscles taunt [read ‘taut’] under his golden fur as he anticipated the coming command.” LaDonna Nicholson, “Four-Legged Enforcement,” Orange County Register, 30 Mar. 2000, at 1. Language-Change Index — “taunt” misused for “taut”: Stage 1. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Upon the whole, then, figures of speech give no beauty to style: it is when the expression is agreeable to the sense of the speaker and his affection that we admire it.” Adam Smith, Lectures of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres 30 (1963).
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