Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries

Miscellaneous Entries

zombie; *zombi. The first spelling so predominates today — 500-to-1 in a 2008 LexisNexis search — that the original term is almost a lifeless corpse. *”Zombi” derives from “nzambi,” the Bantu name of a West African python deity thought to raise the dead. A generally disparaging term in common use (in the sense “a dullard”), “zombie” was, for example, what Canadian army regulars called draftees in World War II. The notion of a “zombie” as brain-eating monster evolved from horror movies, starting with White Zombie (1932), starring Bela Lugosi.

zonal; zonary. The adjective corresponding to “zone” is “zonal” in all but medical (obstetric) senses.

zonate (= arranged in zones) is the standard spelling. *”Zonated” is a variant.

zoology is pronounced /zoh-OL-uh-jee/ — not /zoo-OL-uh-jee/.

Zoroastrianism; *Zoroastrism. For the pre-Islamic religion in Persia, “Zoroastrianism” is the standard term. *”Zoroastrism” is a needless variant.

zwieback (= a sweetened bread that is baked and then sliced and toasted) is sometimes misspelled *”zweiback” — e.g.: “At his school, zweiback [read 'zwieback'], a type of German bread, was the preferred snack.” Jane Tinsley Swope, “Calvert and Hillyer,” Baltimore Sun, 26 Oct. 1994, at A15. The word is pronounced /SWEE-bak/ or /SWI-bak/.

*Invariably inferior form.

For more information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “According to Coleridge, it is no decisive mark of genius that a man should write well concerning himself. This cannot be ignored in any discussion of the many autobiographical novelists of our time.” Van Wyck Brooks, Opinions of Oliver Allston 297 (1941)).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: yours.

yours.

“Yours,” an absolute possessive, is sometimes wrongly written *”your’s” — e.g.:

o “‘So, when’s this big party of your’s [read 'yours'] happening?’ asks the salesman.” Peter Goddard, “Imperial Esso Man Still Slick as Ever,” Toronto Star, 5 Aug. 2000, Entertainment §, at 9.

o “I believe all men have consciences that guide them; let your’s [read 'yours'] guide you this election.” Letter of Dorothy Jean Paxton-Butler, “GOP Has Right Stance on Morals, Decency, Life,” Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.), 14 Aug. 2000, at A11.

Sometimes, too, it displaces the simple possessive “your” — e.g.:

o “With the many attractions now calling for your’s [read 'your'] and your family’s attention, chances are you may have very little time left to visit the park.” Cathy Summerlin, “The Mountains’ Wild Side,” Tennessean, 27 Aug. 2000, at G1.

o “Thanks, Dad . . . . It was through your’s [read 'your'] and Mom’s hard work and guidance that I have come this far.” Ginny Rudy, “Traveling in Memory of Dad,” Pitt. Post-Gaz., 26 Dec. 2000, at E3.

Language-Change Index — (1) *”your’s” for “yours”: Stage 1; (2) *”your’s” for “your”: Stage 1.

*Invariably inferior form.

For more information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “It is not always realized how fundamentally language is a defining characteristic of man. Even among students of man it is probably more common to define him as ‘the tool-making animal’ than as ‘the talking animal.’” Archibald A. Hill, Introduction to Linguistic Structures 9 (1958).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: your.

your.

“Your,” the possessive form of the second person, is sometimes misused for “you’re,” the contraction of “you are.” Often, as in the second example below, the error is that of the journalist who reports speech:

o “Just saying your [read 'you're'] going to get fit this year doesn’t mean you will unless you define what you mean by the term ‘fit’ and establish some step-by-step goals to help you accomplish your fitness resolution.” Lareta M. Tabor, “Have You Already Given Up Your New Year’s Resolutions?” Kansas City Star, 15 Jan. 1994, at 19.

o “Gallagher said: ‘They can accept it if your [read 'you're'] older and time goes by.’” Malcolm Moran, “Some Final Goodbyes for a Fallen Fordham Player,” N.Y. Times, 18 Oct. 1996, at B24.

The opposite error also occurs, somewhat less commonly, but again most often in recorded speech — e.g.: “‘In boxing you don’t have that kind of luxury or time. If you mess up in a fight or two, you’re [read 'your'] career could be over.’” Maureen Landis, “Arroyo Wins Gold Gloves Title,” Lancaster New Era, 29 May 1996, at 9 (quoting Ernie Arroyo).

Language-Change Index — (1) “your” misused for “you’re”: Stage 1; (2) “you’re” misused for “your”: Stage 1.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “Of the language of art, it has been said, two things, apparently contradictory, are plainly true: first, that there is no single way of responding to its meaning; what one finds depends on what one brings. And equally, what one finds is there already; the meaning is there in the language.” Hilda M. Hulme, Explorations in Shakespeare’s Language 2 (1962).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #177: “Whoever” vs. “whomever.”

Whoever vs. whomever.

Like who and whom, whoever and whomever can be tricky for both lawyers and nonlawyers. Here are a few guidelines that should help:

If the word completing the syntax after -ever is a verb, and the -ever word is the subject of that verb, the correct choice is whoever {please send the evaluation to whoever attends the meeting}. This rule applies even if there are a few intervening words {whoever, under the circumstances, attends the meeting will receive a gift card}.

If the word syntactically following the -ever isn’t a verb for which the -ever word stands as subject, the correct choice is usually whomever {we should depose whomever our client remembers being present}. Again, this rule applies even if there are a few intervening words {please hire whomever, according to the final vote, the directors recommend}.

If you’re unsure, choose whoever. Even when the objective whomever would be strictly correct, whoever is at worst a casualism (not bad except in formal contexts).

For the possessive of whoever, use whosever in formal prose {Whosever brief is clearest and least cluttered usually prevails with Judge Breitel}. Yet whoever’s is now the usual colloquial form {Whoever’s blood is on the victim’s clothes will be arrested}. More strictly, however, the form whoever’s is a contraction of whoever is {Whoever’s going to the hearing needs to leave before noon} or, less commonly, whoever has {Whoever’s applied for the position must be notified immediately}.

The form whomever’s is always wrong. If it’s intended as a possessive form, it’s wrong for whosever {whomever’s [read whosever] team wins the appeal will receive a bonus}. If it’s intended as a contraction of whomever is, then whomever is wrongly acting as the subject of is {he told whomever’s [read whoever's] in charge of the building}.

In modern writing, the forms whoever and whomever are preferred. Avoid the legalese and archaisms whosoever and whomsoever. Justice Holmes sometimes used whosesoever, a correct form made unnecessary by the modern preference of who(s)ever over who(se)soever.

It’s worth it to master using these terms. Whoever your readers are will appreciate the effort, and your grammatical precision will reflect well on you. (The preceding sentence is a tricky one: Whoever is the subject of will appreciate.)

Further reading:
Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 946 (3d ed. 2011).
Garner’s Modern American Usage 862-64 (3d ed. 2009).
The Chicago Manual of Style § § 5.62-5.63, at 220-21 (16th ed. 2010).

Note: If you missed last week’s lesson on who and whom, please click here: LawProse Lesson #176.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: you can’t eat your cake and have it too; you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

you can’t eat your cake and have it too; you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

The second phrasing, now the more common one, is sometimes stigmatized: “The first form makes sense: once you’ve eaten the damned thing, you can no longer have it. Not so the later, corrupt form: you can have your cake — enjoy looking at it, or keep it in the freezer, or have it set aside for you at the bakery — and then, at the proper moment, eat it, too. But some dolt somewhere along the line reversed the order, and it stuck.” John Simon, Book Rev., The New Criterion, Mar. 1997, at 66, 69.

In fact, though, it’s not clear that the second form is illogical — much less impossible. Assume that the phrase were “you can’t spend your money and save it too”; why couldn’t you just as easily say “you can’t save your money and spend it too”? Essentially, that idea is perfectly analogous to the one involving cake.

But Simon is right that the “eat-have” sequence is the traditional one. That’s the phrasing given both in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (14th ed. 1989) and in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (16th ed. 1992). The latter book traces a form of the phrase back to John Heywood’s collection of colloquial Elizabethan sayings: “Would ye both eat your cake and have your cake?” Heywood, Proverbs pt. I, ch. 9 (1546). The Oxford English Dictionary gives examples from 1562, 1711, 1815 — all in the order that Simon prefers.

Yet the “have-eat” sequence has been the dominant one since the mid-20th century — e.g.:

o “I want to have my cake and eat it too.” Paul Gallico, “Mainly Autobiographical” (1946), in A Reader for Writers 30, 53 (William Targ ed., 1951).

o “Still wanting to have your cake and eat it, too, Gregory?” Patricia Wrede, Mairelon the Magician 244 (1991).

o “A theory that promises liberty as part of equality seems to allow us to have our cake and eat it too.” K. Anthony Appiah, “Equality of What?” N.Y. Rev. of Books, 26 Apr. 2001, at 63.

Language-Change Index — “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”: Stage 5.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “When established idiom clashes with grammar, correctness is on the side of the idiom. Put another way, if sticking grimly to rules of grammar makes you sound like a pompous pedant, you are a pompous pedant.” William Safire (1983) (as quoted in Casey Miller & Kate Swift, The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing 1 (2d ed. 1988)).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: yoke; yolk.

yoke; yolk.
“Yoke” = (1) a twice-curved, usu. wooden beam with U-shaped brackets beneath to enclose the necks of two oxen or other draft animals {after a struggle, the oxen were fitted into the yoke}; or (2) a pair of animals suitable for yoking {a yoke of oxen}. “Yolk” = the yellow center of an egg {he liked omelettes made with egg whites — he didn’t miss the yolks}. “Yoke” is sometimes a verb; “yolk” never is.

With this pair, word-swapping is fairly common. Sometimes “yolk” is misused for “yoke” — e.g.:

o “A couple of Jacqueline Ott’s sculptures are quite cunning: [for example,] two flat plywood umbrellas yolked [read 'yoked'] together like Siamese twins.” William Zimmer, “Spirited Shows in New Haven,” N.Y. Times, 27 July 1986, § 11, at 26.

o “But now that information is king, members of the media monde have thrown off the yolk [read 'yoke'] of oppression and now mostly cover each other, cutting out silly distractions.” David Brooks, “Media Monde,” Wall Street J., 28 Apr. 2000, at W17.

o “She glances across the Cow Camp, studying the salted ham hanging from the shingles, the oxen yolk [read 'yoke'] draped over the back fence, the spurs and the skillets and the bull skull nailed to the roof.” Lane DeGregory, “The Cracker Life,” St. Petersburg Times, 15 Feb. 2002, at D1.

The reverse error, though uncommon, does occur — e.g.: “I was stunned by the mix of aquamarine, luscious tans, dusty reds, yellow of egg yoke [read 'yolk'], the turquoise as mute as a lizard.” Sean Connolly, “One Nation, Cool and Damp,” Pitt. Post-Gaz., 30 Aug. 1997, at A9.

Language-Change Index — (1) “yolk” misused for “yoke”: Stage 1; (2) “yoke” misused for “yolk”: Stage 1.

For more information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear.” Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading 32 (1934).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries

Miscellaneous Entries


zetetic; *zetetick.
The adjective meaning “proceeding by inquiry or investigation” is preferably spelled “zetetic” (OED & W3). The Center for Scientific Anomalies at Eastern Michigan University publishes a journal called The Zetetic Scholar, devoted to the skeptical analysis of paranormal claims.

zibeline (= of or relating to sables) is the preferred spelling. *”Zibelline” is a variant. The word is pronounced /ZIB-uh-liyn/ or /-leen/.

zinc, vb. (= to coat with zinc), makes “zincked” and “zincking.”

zither (= a type of stringed instrument) is the standard spelling. *”Zithern” is a variant.

*Invariably inferior form.

For more information about the Language-Change Index click here.
Quotation of the Day: “The degradation and deterioration of the language become, though always losses, the source of new gains.” Christopher Ricks, “American English and the Inherently Transitory,” in The Force of Poetry 417, 425 (1984).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: yet.

yet.

Part A: Beginning Sentences with. Like other coordinating conjunctions, “yet” is perfectly acceptable as a sentence-starter. It’s a rank superstition to believe otherwise. E.g.:

o “Yet if a student can — and this is most difficult and unusual — draw back, get a critical distance on what he clings to, come to doubt the ultimate value of what he loves, he has taken the first and most difficult step toward the philosophic conversion.” Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind 71 (1987).

o “Yet God must by now be hardened to blasphemous bulls.” Christopher Ricks, Beckett’s Dying Words 170 (1993).

o “Campaign professionals . . . are becoming the new breed of influence peddlers. Yet they don’t need to register as lobbyists in Washington.” Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, “Washington’s Power 25,” Fortune, 8 Dec. 1997, at 144.

Part B: Idioms Involving “yet.” There are two common negative phrases revolving around this word: “no person has yet done something” and “the person has yet to do something.” Some writers have ill-advisedly conflated the two idioms to come up with their own brand of illogic — e.g.: “No artist has yet to capture the essence of the Thai sea.” Advertisement of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Island (Mag.), Fall 1995, at 7. The writer has inadvertently suggested that every artist has already captured the essence of the Thai sea.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “Much bad writing today . . . is learned, an act of stylistic piety which imitates a single style, the bureaucratic style I have called The Official Style. This bureaucratic style dominates written discourse in our time, and beginning or harried or fearful writers adopt it as protective coloration.” Richard A. Lanham, Revising Prose vi (3d ed. 1992).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

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

Today: “You all.”

Many speakers in the South and Southwest, even highly educated ones, use the uncontracted “you all” as the plural form of “you.” This is a convenient usage, since “you” alone can be either singular or plural — and therefore is sometimes ambiguous.

True, “you all” is unlikely to spread beyond regional usage. But speakers who (like the author of this book) grew up with the phrase won’t be easily dispossessed of it. It’s handy, and it’s less susceptible to raised eyebrows than “y’all.”

There is, however, a noticeable tendency in urban areas to replace this phrase with “you guys,” even if those addressed include females. One Texas writer calls “you guys” a “horrid Yankee construction.” Steve Blow, “What’s Up with Y’all?” Dallas Morning News, 27 Sept. 2002, at A25. This may have resulted from the great influx of a geographically diverse population in major cities such as Dallas throughout the 1980s and 1990s, coupled with a growing sense among natives that “you all” and “y’all” signal provincialism.

For information about the Language Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “The connexion of each paragraph with that which precedes and that which follows it should be at once apparent. Though . . . the paragraph may in one sense be regarded as complete in itself, it is complete only as each link in a chain is complete.” A. Cruse, English Composition 29 (1923).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #176: “Who” vs. “whom”

Who vs. whom.

Edward Sapir, the philosopher of language, prophesied in 1921 that “within a couple of hundred years . . . . not even the most learned jurist will be saying ‘Whom did you see?’ By that time the whom will be . . . delightfully archaic . . . . No logical or historical argument will avail to save this hapless whom.” Language 156–57. Well, in the last 93 years whom hasn’t exactly become archaic, and it doesn’t look to be in danger of full extinction. There may yet come a day when no distinction is made between who and whom, but until then, lawyers and nonlawyers alike ought to understand how to use these words correctly.

As an overall guideline, keep in mind that who acts as (1) the subject of a verb or (2) the complement of a linking verb; whom acts as (1) the object of a verb or (2) the object of a preposition. Some examples make this clearer.

Who as the subject of a verb:

Ex.: Please tell me who wrote that superb brief.
[Who is the subject of wrote.]
Ex.: He hired an accountant who he believes can handle the task. [Who is the subject of can (he believes is simply a parenthetical assertion).]

Who as the complement of a linking verb:

Ex.: They know who you are. [Are links the subject you to the complement who in this inverted construction.]
Ex.: He is who he is. [Who is the complement of both instances of he.]

Whom as the object of a verb:

Ex.: Judith, whom I call a friend, is moving to our neighborhood next week. [Whom is the object of call.]
Ex.: Those are the professors whom she thanked in her speech. [Whom is the object of thanked.]

Whom as the object of a preposition:

Ex.: James Robert is the attorney to whom we are indebted. [Whom is the object of to.]
Ex.: For whom does the bell toll? [Whom is the object of for.]

Of those four usages, who most strongly encroaches upon whom‘s territory as the object of a verb. In this one instance, whom feels creakier year by year. Yet formal writers stick to it.

William Safire took an interesting approach for those who fear seeming pedantic (by using whom) or being incorrect (by using who for whom): “When whom is correct, recast the sentence.” “On Language,” N.Y. Times, 4 Oct. 1992, § 6, at 12. It seems unlikely, however, that anyone will have much success with “For what person does the bell toll?”

Next week: whoever vs. whomever.

Further reading:
Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 944-45 (3d ed. 2011).
Garner’s Modern American Usage 860-62 (3d ed. 2009).
The Chicago Manual of Style § 5.52, at 218 (16th ed. 2010).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment