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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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries

Miscellaneous Entries. ready, willing, and able. In law, this set phrase traditionally refers to a prospective buyer of property who can legally and financially consummate the deal. A less common variant is “ready, able, and willing.” reasonable; rational. Generally, “reasonable” means “according to reason; sensible.” “Rational” means “having reason.” Yet “reasonable” is often used in …

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: redoubtable

redoubtable. “Redoubtable” (= [1] venerable; or [2] fearsome) is a 14th-century loanword from the Old French “redoutable” (= dreaded). Both senses are common: o Sense 1: “Chipperfield and a number of ‘britischer Architekten,’ as Architectural Review notes in its April 2006 issue, have been leaving a redoubtable imprimatur on Germany’s landscape.” Suzanne Stephens, “David Chipperfield …

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My first blog

Although I’ve been tweeting for some time, I skipped a step: the blogosphere. Don’t yet know how much I’ll do this, but I’ll try to say something interesting from time to time. BAG
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