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Old 30th Apr 2007, 13:03   #1
John Self
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Default Top 10 Misused Words

OK, here's a place for us to vent our pedantic rage at the widespread misuse of certain words. In many cases, the misuse is so pervasive that the words have effectively changed their meaning, so this thread can also be used as a graveyard for the old, 'proper' meanings. This also means that arguably the old uses are now wrong if they're almost never used: so it's us who are misusing the words. Ooer.

1. Screensaver. Most people I know use this word when they mean 'wallpaper,' ie the background picture on your computer screen. "Ooh, I must use that as my screensaver." Of course as most new monitors don't need actual screensavers, the word would fall out of use if it wasn't being abused in this way. So good on them.

2. Disinterested. It means impartial or unbiased. Not uninterested.

3. Continue from here...
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 13:13   #2
ono no komachi
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

Oh dear, I'm aside-ing already. I'd guess an awful lot of businesses use screensavers still, for security reasons, i.e. if someone forgets to 'lock' their PC, their (password-protected) screensaver kicks in after a period of inactivity to stop any passing visitor getting their hands on, for example, a junior doctor's home address, religion and sexuality.
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 13:14   #3
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self View Post
OK, here's a place for us to vent our pedantic rage at the widespread misuse of certain words. In many cases, the misuse is so pervasive that the words have effectively changed their meaning, so this thread can also be used as a graveyard for the old, 'proper' meanings. This also means that arguably the old uses are now wrong if they're almost never used: so it's us who are misusing the words. Ooer.

1. Screensaver. Most people I know use this word when they mean 'wallpaper,' ie the background picture on your computer screen. "Ooh, I must use that as my screensaver." Of course as most new monitors don't need actual screensavers, the word would fall out of use if it wasn't being abused in this way. So good on them.

2. Disinterested. It means impartial or unbiased. Not uninterested.

3. Continue from here...
There is, of course, the use (or lack of use) of the subjunctive. For example, using "wasn't" after "if", rather than "weren't". Pedantic maybe and I can't think what brought it to mind!
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 13:31   #4
John from Paris
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

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3. Continue from here...
It's always particularly annoying when a word is used to mean the total opposite of what it really means.

3. hoi poloi
Major quibble: with people who use it to refer to the priviliged élite, whereas it actually refers to the common masses.
Minor quibble: with people who say the hoi poloi [hoi means the...]

4. infer confused with imply, as in What are you inferring by that?

5. substitute confused with replace, as in Why don't you substitute the sugar by honey? [when it's actually a question of substituting honey for the sugar...]

++++++++++++++++++++....

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[...] to stop any passing visitor getting their hands on, for example, a junior doctor's home address, religion and sexuality.
There must be more direct ways of getting one's hands on a junior doctor's sexuality, surely?
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 13:44   #5
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

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There is, of course, the use (or lack of use) of the subjunctive. For example, using "wasn't" after "if", rather than "weren't". Pedantic maybe and I can't think what brought it to mind!
This is where the arguments about current usage become interesting. The current edition of Fowler's says:

Quote:
In BrE the subjunctive mood is most likely to be found in formal writing or speech... But it is seldom obligatory and indeed is commonly (?usually) invisible because the notionally subjunctive and the indicative forms are identical.
I'd view it on a par with the rule about not putting a preposition at the end of a sentence, which Winston Churchill apparently described as the sort of nonsense 'up with which I will not put'. In other words, I'd normally try and avoid breaking the rule, unless I thought the result sounded forced or unnatural.
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 14:04   #6
John from Paris
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

Words, words, words...??
[Couldn't syntax have a thread of its own?]
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 14:11   #7
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

It probably doesn't bother many people here, but I do get annoyed when people say 'stencil' when they mean 'screen print'. I mean honestly - what's wrong with the world?!
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 14:18   #8
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

I am unaccountably offended by the term "manhood" when used to mean anything other than the abstract concept of masculinity.
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 17:20   #9
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

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It probably doesn't bother many people here, but I do get annoyed when people say 'stencil' when they mean 'screen print'. I mean honestly - what's wrong with the world?!
Similarly, I don't expect many people to be annoyed that this story originally had the flail described as a mace. Which is something else entirely.
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Old 30th Apr 2007, 17:56   #10
John from Paris
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Default Re: Top 10 Misused Words

One of my own real peeves is this use of indulgent (found on the Tesco diets site, but they're doubtless not the only culprits) :

Quote:
Or, of course, you could go for berries (look for frozen ones at this time of the year) with double cream for an indulgent dessert.
And yet... it's perfectly clear what it means... an indulgent dessert is the kind you grab when you're in the mood for indulging yourself...

I feel annoyed by this, but maybe I (we?) should stop and ask myself (ourselves?) if I'm (we're) not being slightly reactionary here (good example, leyla).
After all, Shakespeare did this all the time.
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