Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: vis-à-vis.

vis-à-vis. “Vis-à-vis” (lit., “face to face”) is a multihued preposition and adverb in place of which a more precise term is often better. The traditional sense is adverbial, “in a position facing each other.” But the word is most often figurative. And as a preposition, “vis-à-vis” has been extended to the senses “opposite to; in relation to; as compared with.” Although more straightforward phrases are often available, they’re sometimes longer — e.g.: o “This shift appears to be based partly on the assumption that private equity returns provide some diversification (vis-à-vis traditional stock market investments).” “Plenty of Potential in Private Equity,” Fin. Times, 21 July 1997, at 10. (Possibly “as compared with”?) o “Small, remote towns suffer from a number of deprivations — along with corresponding advantages — vis-à-vis big cities.” Jonathan Chait, “Illiberal Arts,” New Republic, 29 Sept. 1997, at 14. (Possibly “compared with”?) But shorter substitutes are often available — e.g.: o “A German mark sharply lower vis-à-vis [read ‘against’] the dollar and sterling has also helped boost exports.” “Germany: Carmakers Show the Way,” BusinessWeek, 15 Sept. 1997, at 88. o “But I’ve often had this question vis-à-vis [read ‘about’] business lunches: Just how unusual and personalized can I be with them and not lose every client I’ve ever had?” Pamela Margoshes, “Power Lunches, in My Apartment,” N.Y. Times, 28 Sept. 1997, § 3, at 14. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ————————————— Quotation of the Day: “A man will be forgiven even great errors in a foreign language; but in his own, even the least slips are justly laid hold of and ridiculed.” Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son (November 24, 1749; no. 91), in Classics in Composition 95, 96-97 (Donald E. Hayden ed., 1969).
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