Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: weaponize.

For a long time — probably beginning in the 1970s — this “-ize” neologism was in the exclusive domain of military and international-relations jargon. Uses were infrequent, but the word occurred as early as 1984 — e.g.: “‘Absolutely no work is being done to develop, manufacture, store or weaponize biological warfare agents,’ the [Pentagon] statement says.” R. Jeffrey Smith, “New Army Biowarfare Lab Raises Concerns,” Science, 7 Dec. 1984, at 1176.

After September 11, 2001, when terrorists brought down the World Trade Center in New York and attacked the Pentagon, the general public became more aware of biological warfare and bioterrorism. Shortly after that event, cases of anthrax started appearing in cities scattered throughout the U.S., and the word sprang into general use — e.g.:

o “The United States suspected, but lacked the intelligence to ascertain (have they learned nothing?) that Iraq had, in militaryspeak, ‘weaponized anthrax and botulinum’ for use in the Gulf War.” Martin Levin, “The Bio-Warriors,” Globe & Mail, 22 Sept. 2001, at D16.

o “Not only did the incident lift the curtain on the Soviet Union’s decades-long program to weaponize disease — hundreds of tons of anthrax, and a few dozen tons of plague and smallpox, were stored around the country for potential deployment in bombs and missiles — but it brought home how vulnerable crowded urban areas are to biological warfare.” Ken Alibek & Stephen Handelman, “Bioterror: A Very Real Threat,” Wall Street J., 11 Oct. 2001, at A22.

Although many neologisms ending in “-ize” are considered ugly and undesirable, the very thing that “weaponize” (as well as “weaponization”) denotes is horrific. And there’s no other word for it. So this is a word whose coinage almost no one objects to — all the right-minded objections focus on the thing that the word denotes.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “Mankind has not yet mastered language; often it has mastered them — scientists and all. Few of them realize this. And that only makes it worse.” F.L. Lucas, Style 21 (1955; repr. 1962).

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

Miscellaneous Entries.
vice; vise. In American English, a “vice” is an immoral habit or practice, and a “vise” is a tool with closable jaws for clamping things. But in British English, the tool is spelled like the sin: “vice.”

vichyssoise (= a thick soup made with potatoes and leeks and usu. served cold) is often misspelled by transposing the double-s and the single-s (as if it were *”vichysoisse”). The word is pronounced /vish-ee-SWOZ/ or /VEE-shee-swoz/, and remembering the “-z-” sound in the final syllable should help you think of the “-se” at the end of the word.

victuals, pronounced /ViT-uhlz/, is spelled phonetically (“vittles”) only in colloquial usage. Related forms are “victualer” (= one who provides food and drink for payment), victualed, and victualing in American English; these three forms double the “-l-” in British English.

videodisc. The Associated Press and New York Times stylebooks both make this and most other “video-” compounds one word {videotape} {videoconference}. But when preceded by “digital,” the two-word form is far more common in print — no doubt because of the ubiquity of DVDs, popularly known as “digital video discs.” When the phrase appears without “digital,” the compound is usually made one word: “videodisc.”

vilify is often misspelled *”villify” — e.g.: “Democrats say they may wage [an ad campaign] to villify [read 'vilify'] Republicans who voted against the proposal.” Patrice Hill, “Dickering Almost Kills Deal on Budget,” Wash. Times, 22 May 1997, at A1. No doubt the misspelling is influenced by “villain,” rather than the word’s actual cognate, “vile.”

*Invariably inferior form.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “A dictionary is not merely a home for living words; it is a hospital for the sick; it is a cemetery for the dead.” R.W. Dale, “Lectures on Preaching” (1878) (as quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary).

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LawProse Lesson #160: Correct punctuation with quotation marks.

Correct placement of punctuation in relation to quotation marks.

A common grammatical concern is how to punctuate around a quotation correctly. Does a semicolon go inside or outside the closing quotation mark? What about a question mark? What if the quotation itself is a question? And what if you have nested quotations? Here are some guidelines:

1. Period and comma. Always place periods and commas inside the closing quotation mark, including any nested ones. This is the traditional American style. (In British English, the style is generally to place periods and commas outside the quotation marks. But there are many exceptions.)

Ex.: The sign said, “No motor vehicles.”
Ex.: Only positive adjectives, such as “reliable,” “kind,” and “trustworthy,” were used to describe the plaintiff.
Ex.: The officer said, “My partner told Mr. Taylor, ‘Please get in the car.’”
Ex.: “State law will be preempted when Congress intends federal law to ‘occupy the field,’” stated the Crosby opinion.
Ex. (with a possessive): Linda’s son told her, “I’ll be working at the Joneses’.”

2. Semicolon and colon. Place final semicolons and colons outside the quotation mark, even if the quoted material happens to have a semicolon or colon in that position.

Ex.: The author’s rough draft correctly used “affect”; the final draft was wrong.
Ex.: Our lease listed three people under the section titled “Parties”: (1) Stephen Malloy, (2) Belinda Malloy, and (3) Kaleigh Malloy.

3. Question mark and exclamation point. A question mark or exclamation point may go inside or outside the quotation mark, depending on whether it’s part of the original quotation. If it is, as in the second and fourth examples, place it inside; otherwise, leave it outside.

Ex.: Did the victim “suffer an economic loss as a result of a crime”? (The question mark goes on the outside because this asks a question about a statement.)
Ex.: The attorney asked the witness, “Did you see the defendant hit her?” (The question mark goes on the inside because this makes a statement about a question.)
Ex.: It’s snowing, but the meteorologist this morning forecast “a warm and sunny day”! (The exclamation point goes on the outside because the whole sentence is an exclamation.)
Ex.: She yelled, “Fire!” (The exclamation point goes on the inside because this makes a statement about an exclamation.)

If the sentence and the quoted material end in the same punctuation mark, use only one mark and place it inside the quotation mark.

Ex.: Have you seen Professor Garner’s lesson titled “Is the correct past tense pleaded or pled?” (This asks a question about a question.)

So now you’ll be able to exclaim “Yes!” if someone asks you, “Do you know the correct way to punctuate around quotation marks?”

For more detailed discussion, see:
The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style § 1.31, at 24-25 (3d ed. 2013).
The Chicago Manual of Style §§ 6.9-6.10, at 309-10 (16th ed. 2010).
William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual 70-72 (10th ed. 2005).

Thanks to J. Alan Holman, Christopher B. Nelson, and Mark F. Saker for suggesting this topic.

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: wean.

“Wean” means either “to cause (a child or young animal) to become accustomed to food other than the mother’s milk” or, by extension, “to withdraw (a person) gradually from a source of dependence.” Thus, a person is typically “weaned off” something — e.g.:

o “Skeptics have claimed this decline in caseload would slow and then halt once the most employable welfare recipients were weaned off the rolls.” Robert Rector, “Don’t Listen to Naysayers: Welfare Reform Is Working,” Las Vegas Rev.-J., 27 Apr. 1997, at D8.

o “The FDA recommends patients stop taking the drugs immediately. But some doctors say patients can experience depression unless they are weaned off them.” “Q&A,” St. Petersburg Times, 16 Sept. 1997, at A3.

But “weaned on” — used illogically in the sense “raised on, brought up with” — is a spreading contagion. E.g.:

o “For a culture weaned on [read 'brought up on'] Hollywood’s interpretation of romance, the very notion that any healthy, intelligent, attractive male might desire a woman over 35 is a radical concept.” Shari Graydon, “There’s Powerful Appeal in the Wrinkles of Age,” Vancouver Sun, 25 May 1996, at D6.

o “We women were weaned on [read 'nurtured on' or 'brought up on'] tales of princes and princesses, fairy godmothers, ugly villains and comely heroes of noble character winning against the odds at every turn.” Bea Perry, “The Dream Is Over,” Denver Post, 12 Oct. 1997, at D5.

Language-Change Index — “weaned on” for “raised on”: Stage 2.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “The best writers have many ideas and hence hold them cheap, while the poor writers have few ideas and hence cherish them.” Walter B. Pitkin, The Art of Useful Writing 18 (1940).

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: *way which.

*way which.

*”Way which” is erroneous for “way in which.” E.g.: “This column has as its main goal the empowerment of you, the reader, about ways which [read 'ways in which'] you can become more informed and thereby take more responsibility for your own health.” Glenn Ellis, “Using Herbs as a Method of Preventive Medicine,” Phil. Trib., 14 Jan. 1997, at B8.

But it’s often quite natural and idiomatic to use “that” in place of “in which,” or even to omit the relative pronoun altogether. These phrasings are much more relaxed — e.g.:

o “Ways that they can help include volunteering to tutor.” Letter of Janie Moore, “Parents’ Help at Schools Is Good for Children,” Columbus Dispatch, 7 Nov. 1997, at A10.

o “Well, that’s the way they would do it in Mayberry.” Letter of Kathy Heath, Tampa Trib., 12 Sept. 1997, at 6.

Language-Change Index — *”way which” for “way in which”: Stage 1.

*Invariably inferior form.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “The only way to keep the best writing in circulation, or to ‘make the best poetry popular,’ is by drastic separation of the best from a great mass of writing that has long been considered of value, that has overweighed all curricula, and that is to be blamed for the very pernicious current idea that a good book must be of necessity a dull one.” Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading 13 (1934).

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

In the sense “the length of a course or distance,” “way” is the standard term {a long way}. “Ways” is dialectal.

So it’s surprising to find “ways” in serious journalism — e.g.: “This is premature, of course; Fox still has a ways to go [read 'some way to go'?] before it’s a full-fledged network.” Larry Reibstein & Nancy Hass, “Rupert’s Power Play,” Newsweek, 6 June 1994, at 46.

Language-Change Index — “a ways to go”: Stage 2.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “There once was a time when everyday folk spoke one language, and learned men wrote another. It was called the Dark Ages.” Samuel T. Williamson, “How to Write Like a Social Scientist,” in The Ways of Language 109, 112 (Raymond J. Pflug ed., 1967).

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

Miscellaneous Entries.
verbatim; literatim; ipsissima verba. These apparent synonyms carry slight nuances. “Verbatim” = word for word. “Literatim” = letter for letter. Sometimes the phrase “verbatim et literatim” is seen. “Ipsissima verba” (lit., “the selfsame words”) = the exact language used by someone quoted (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary [11th ed.]).

verdict refers to a jury’s pronouncement. It shouldn’t be used in reference to a court’s decision — e.g.: “Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor jerked forward in her black leather chair, visibly astonished. . . . The verdict [read 'decision'] is expected next year.” Keith C. Epstein, “Ohio Free Speech Case Shocks Supreme Court,” Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 13 Oct. 1994, at A3. Language-Change Index — “verdict” in reference to a judge’s decision: Stage 2.

vermilion. So spelled.

vertebra (= a single bone that, together with similar bones, forms the spinal column) has two plurals: “vertebrae” (/VUHR-tuh-bree/ or /VUHR-tuh-bray/) and “vertebras” (/VUHR-tuh-bruhz/). The Latinate plural (“vertebrae”) is so common that some writers mistake it for a singular — e.g.: “There were fears that he could be crippled after the fall, but an operation successfully treated a fractured vertebrae [read 'vertebra'].” Charles Laurence, “Death Fall: British Skydiver Flies Home,” Daily Telegraph, 5 July 1997, at 3. Language-Change Index — “vertebrae” misused as a singular for “vertebra”: Stage 1.

vertical, adj., is sometimes misspelled *”verticle” — e.g.: “To achieve that goal, the companies said they will test verticle-takeoff [read 'vertical-takeoff'] and landing technology.” “McDonnell-Boeing Aim: Cheaper Space Travel,” Orange County Register, 16 June 1995, at C2.

vestigial. So spelled; *”vestigal” is a not-uncommon misspelling.

Veterans Administration. “Veterans” takes no apostrophe.

*Invariable inferior form.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “The progress of language is the absorption of new analogies.” T.E. Hulme, Notes on Language and Style 15 (1929).

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: waylay / waylaid / waylaid.

waylay / waylaid / waylaid.
Occasionally the past tense or past participle is misspelled *”waylayed” — e.g.:

o “Keggi’s career was waylayed [read 'waylaid'] in 1993 when she drank some bad water and was stricken with lingering symptoms from E-Coli bacteria.” Paul Harber, “They’re Going the Distance,” Boston Globe, 24 Apr. 1997, at C10.

o “The Trojans melted at 12:25 of the second half Friday, when [Taj] Gibson (team-high 16 points and 12 rebounds) was waylayed [read 'waylaid'] with the fourth foul.” Brian Hamilton, “Heels Rush In,” Chicago Trib., 25 Mar, 2007, Sports §, at 1.

o “Within the first three hours of the 26.2-mile event, hundreds of runners had been waylayed [read 'waylaid'] by the heat and medical tents were filled with participants requiring treatment for dehydration and heat exhaustion.” Michael Tsai, “Honolulu Marathon Feels Chicago’s Heat,” Honolulu Advertiser, 10 Oct. 2007, at D1.

*Invariable inferior form.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.

Quotation of the Day: “So far, the anglophone world has never really been forced out of its monoglot complacency, and the legend that there is something in the Anglo-Saxon genes that forbids linguistic proficiency continues to be fostered.” Anthony Burgess, A Mouthful of Air 155 (1992).

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LawProse Lesson #159: Were you “summonsed” or “summoned” to appear in court?

Were you summonsed or summoned to appear in court?

Although summonsed isn’t downright wrong, in modern legal usage it’s much preferable to say that someone was summoned to appear in court.

Summons as a verb dates from the 17th century. It has been used to mean (1) “to cite to appear before a court, judge, or magistrate,” or (2) “to request (information) by summons.” The common word from which it is derived (the noun summons) predates this use by four centuries.

The verb summon has always been much more common. Searches of Google Books, Lexis, and Westlaw show that 21st-century legal writers rarely use summonsed. For example, summoned is the only form used in U.S. Supreme Court opinions. And a Westlaw search of writings since 1999 returns only 804 hits for summonsed; in many of these, the term appeared in a quotation. A general Google search shows 244,000 hits for summonsed but over 28.4 million hits for summoned. (Of course, that 28.4 million also includes all instances in which summoned is used in nonlegal contexts.) Google Books returns 25,000 hits for summonsed spanning several centuries, but about 70% of those are from nonlegal texts.

Summonsed grates on the ears of many respected legal writers. One of the greatest, Glanville Williams, denounced it this way: “The horrible expression ‘summonsed for an offence’ (turning the noun ‘summons’ into a verb) has now become accepted usage, but ‘summoned’ remains not only allowable but preferable.” Learning the Law 15 n.28 (11th ed. 1982).

     That’s still true today. Let’s summon up the courage to call summons, as a verb, a needless variant of summon.

Further reading:
Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 864-65 (3d ed. 2011).
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 1251 (11th ed. 2011).
Black’s Law Dictionary 1574 (9th ed. 2009; 10th ed. forthcoming).

“summons, v.”. OED Online. March 2014. Oxford University Press. (accessed April 10, 2014).

Thanks to John N. Love for suggesting this topic.

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: water under the bridge; water over the dam.

water under the bridge; water over the dam.
Both phrases allude to time gone by and events passed. What the latter phrase adds to the former is the connotation of missed opportunities — e.g.:

o “Whether other prosecutions should have taken place under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is another question, and it appears at this point to be water over the dam unless Mr. Fitzgerald and the Department of Justice have further plans in mind.” Editorial, “Libby’s Fate,” Pitt. Post-Gaz., 7 June 2007, at B6.

o “After a one-year hiatus — and a whole lot of water under the bridge since then — the World Bank is bringing back the office Christmas party.” Amy Argetsinger & Roxanne Roberts, “Banking on Holiday Cheer,” Wash. Post, 3 Dec. 2007, at C3.

The two expressions occasionally get mangled — e.g.: “As I’ve said before, Newark never should have dumped $210 million into the arena . . . . That, however, is water over the bridge [read 'water under the bridge' or 'water over the dam'] and into the sewer.” Joan Whitlow, “Around Arena, Rubble, Rubble, Toil and Trouble,” Star-Ledger (Newark), 5 Oct. 2007, Editorial §, at 19.

For information about the Language-Change Index click here.
Quotation of the Day: “When we speak or write we want to be understood and respected. We want to convey our meaning and we want to do it in a way that will command admiration. To accomplish these ends we must know the meanings of words, their specific meanings and their connotations, implications and overtones.” Bergen Evans & Cornelia Evans, A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage v (1957).

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