Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: want, n.

want, n. The usual sense, of course, is “something desired” or “a desire.” But “want” has a long history as a formal word meaning “lack,” especially in the phrase “for want of.” Though this sense formerly had a literary cast, today it is fairly common even in informal writing — e.g.: o “The Republican incumbent, William C. Cleveland, 48, a U.S. Capitol Police officer, said his motions often die for want of a second.” Mike Allen, “GOP Struggles to Be Heard in Staunch Democratic Port,” Wash. Post, 5 May 1997, at B3. o “The kids are killing their parents at home for want of something to do, a place to go where they can be kids and act like kids the way we adults did.” Letter of Ben E. Thomas Sr., “Racial Bias Does Exist Here,” Anchorage Daily News, 23 Sept. 1997, at B8. The participle “wanting” (= lacking) is somewhat more common — e.g.: o “It was not the intellectual gifts or probity of the three that the ABA found particularly wanting.” Harvey Berkman, “ABA’s ‘Unqualified’ Judges Doing Well,” Nat’l L.J., 13 Jan. 1996, at A1. o “Broccoli sprouts may prove to be wanting in any number of these qualities.” Natalie Angier, “Broccoli Sprouts Rated ‘New’ Wonder Food,” Denver Post, 16 Sept. 1997, at A1. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ————————————— Quotation of the Day: “Bearing in mind the central thought, that the use, and the only use, of language is to convey ideas, it must follow that the plainest, simplest, shortest story is always best.” Clarence Darrow, “Literary Style,” 1 To-morrow 25, 27-28 (Jan. 1905). —————————————
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