Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: vale of tears.

vale of tears. In this age-old idiom, “vale” means “world.” But writers have often mistakenly spelled it *”veil of tears” — e.g.: o “Edwin C. Daly left this veil [read ‘vale’] of tears on Monday (April 15, 1996) at his home in Tamarac, FL.” “Edwin C. Daly” (obit.), Hartford Courant, 30 Apr. 1996, at B8. o “‘For my part, and I know some here will disagree, I’d like to have the right to terminate my stay in this veil [read ‘vale’] of tears and bow to no man with respect to maintaining a high measure of privacy as to my personal life,’ Wright said.” James Bradshaw, “Ex-Justice Says Courts Go Too Far to Call Assisted Suicide a Right,” Columbus Dispatch, 25 July 1996, at C5 (no doubt mistranscribing the quotation from Craig Wright, a former justice of the Ohio Supreme Court). Because “vale” has so commonly been confounded with “veil,” some writers have begun using the latter noun as if it referred to a stream of tears covering the face (a watery veil) — e.g.: o “This time, prosecutors were so eager to puncture the dissembling veil of tears that Lyle Menendez never took the stand to repeat his Oscar-caliber performance.” “Justice for Two Killers,” Seattle Times, 22 Mar. 1996, at B4. o “Three weeks ago in a veil of tears, Abdur-Rahim announced he was leaving school to make himself available for the June 26 NBA draft.” John Crumpacker, “Shareef Returning to Bears,” S.F. Examiner, 30 May 1996, at D1. Perhaps a pun was intended in each case, but the phrasing arouses the suspicion that the writer simply doesn’t know any better. Language-Change Index — *”veil of tears” for “vale of tears”: Stage 1. *Invariably inferior form. For more information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “For whatever else you may have to offer as added inducements, to be effective your communication has to be interesting — first and last.” Ernst Jacobi, Writing at Work: Dos, Don’ts, and How Tos v (1976).
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