Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: register; registrar.

register; registrar. Both terms designate a governmental officer who keeps official records. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that “register” was commonly used in this sense from 1580 to 1800 and that “registrar” is now the usual word. But in American English “register” retains vitality: various levels of government have “registers of copyrights,” “registers of deeds,” …

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries.

Miscellaneous Entries. recreational; recreative. “Recreational” is the standard adjective corresponding to the noun “recreation”; it’s about 1,000 times as common as its synonym “recreative,” a needless variant. But “recreative” is genuinely useful in the sense “tending to re-create” — e.g.: “The paradoxically destructive and recreative force of the mythical flood seemed as real to Friday’s …

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Language-Change Index

Language-Change Index. The third edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage reflects several new practices. Invariably inferior forms, for example, are now marked with asterisks preceding the term or phrase, a marking common in linguistics. The most interesting new feature is the Language-Change Index. Its purpose is to measure how widely accepted various linguistic innovations have …

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: refute.

refute. “Refute” is not synonymous with “rebut” or “deny.” That is, it doesn’t mean merely “to counter an argument” but “to disprove beyond doubt; to prove a statement false.” Yet the word is commonly misused for “rebut” — e.g.: “Ontario Hydro strongly refuted [read ‘denied’ or ‘rebutted’] the charges, saying none of its actions violate …

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries

Miscellaneous Entries. recital; recitation. These words overlap, but are distinguishable. Aside from a (usually) solo musical or dance performance, “recital” may mean “a rehearsal, account, or description of some thing, fact, or incident” {a recital of all the incidents would be tedious}. “Recitation” usually connotes an oral delivery before an audience, whether in the classroom …

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2011 in Review

The Year 2011 in Language & Writing Bryan A. Garner* January Eight-thousand literature and language professors and scholars gathered in Los Angeles for the convention of the Modern Language Association of America. The recurrent subject during the week was the economy’s effect on humanities faculty and students. The association’s executive director, Rosemary Feal, lamented that …

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: “reek” misspelled “reak.”*

reek; wreak (3). Today: “reek” misspelled “reak.”* “Reak” is a common misspelling of “reek” — e.g.: o “The oil company subsequently hired a firm to clean the oil, but after six weeks of work and a declaration the house was inhabitable, the house still ‘reaked [read ‘reeked’] of oil,’ Hansen said.” MaryAnn Spoto, “Suit Seeks …

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: “wreak” for “reek.”

reek; wreak (2). Today: “wreak” for “reek.” “Wreak” for “reek” is a surprisingly common slip-up — e.g.: o “Watching Jagger, a grandfather, singing the songs of his youth is embarrassing — like watching an old tart plastered in powder, wreaking [read ‘reeking’] of cheap perfume, stumbling along the Champs-Elysees, leering at passersby.” Natasha Garnett, “Focus: …

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Redundancy (3).

Redundancy (3). Today: Common Phrases & One-Word Redundancies. Though many redundancies look like unique ones — the result of semiconscious writing — some are so commonplace that they’ve been all but enshrined in the language. Adept editors must be alert to such phrases as “absolute necessity,” “actual fact,” “advance planning,” “basic fundamentals,” “brief respite,” “closely …

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