Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: usage.

usage. “Usage” generally refers to an idiom or form of speech, an occurrence of one, or forms of speech in general. E.g.: o “The first three usages [of ‘received pronunciation’] attested in OED indeed derive from his work, beginning in 1869.” L.C. Mugglestone, “John Walker and Alexander Ellis,” Notes & Queries, 1 Mar. 1997, at 103. o “The word ‘angler’ in this usage has nothing whatever to do with playing the angles.” Michael Pakenham, “After 344 Years, ‘The Compleat Angler’ Still Works Magic with the Human Heart,” Baltimore Sun, 14 Sept. 1997, at F4. Here, the use (not “usage”) of the word is poor: “My criticism is just a small one and concerns language usage [read ‘language’ or ‘usage’ or ‘the use of language’], rather than the argument of the editorial.” Letter of Jean Kimble, Tucson Citizen, 29 Aug. 1997, at 19. Whenever “use” is possible, “usage” shouldn’t appear. But “usage” for “use” is not an uncommon error — e.g.: “Although reproductive-health clinics and college health services have been prescribing the ’emergency’ Pill for more than a decade, the Food and Drug Administration sanctioned this usage [read ‘it’] only last summer.” Hallie Levine, “The 10 Myths That Stand Between You and the Pill,” Cosmopolitan, 1 Mar. 1997, at 150. The opposite error — “use” for “usage” — is quite uncommon but does occur: “This Concise Dictionary is primarily a manual for people who aspire to write a clear and forceful American [English] in accord with current good use [read ‘usage’].” Robert C. Whitford & James R. Foster, Concise Dictionary of American Grammar and Usage v (1955). Given the title of the book, that sentence also illustrates inelegant variation. Language-Change Index — (1) “usage” misused for “use,” n.: Stage 3; (2) “use” misused for “usage”: Stage 1. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “When we’re insecure — perhaps we don’t know enough, we don’t trust our understanding, or we’re trying to impress — we resort to pretentious language.” Patricia T. O’Conner, Words Fail Me 50 (1999).
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