Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: single; singular.

Part A: As Adjectives.

“Single” = (1) only one in number; sole; individual {a single strand of hair at the crime scene}; or (2) unmarried {single white male seeks single female for conversation and possible romance}. “Singular” = (1) exceptional, remarkable, one-of-a-kind {a singular achievement}; or (2) odd, eccentric {singular behavior}.

In the following example, the writer uses “singular” once correctly (in the sense “one-of-a-kind”) and once incorrectly (for “single”) in a forced attempt at a parallel: “It was not supposed to end this way. His final story was to have an Omaha dateline, where he was carried triumphantly off the field at majestic Rosenblatt stadium, his players propping up their singular coach whose career was driven by a singular [read 'single'] goal. One more win.” Kirk Bohls, “The Memories Will Be Treasured Even if the Unthinkable Is True,” Austin Am.-Statesman, 18 July 1996, at A1.

Part B: As Nouns, “single” for “singular.”

“‘Criteria’ and ‘phenomena,’ heard everywhere as singles [read 'singulars' or 'singular nouns'], are encountering stern opposition from people who take care to speak of ‘a graffito,’ but never say ‘a confetto.’” Robertson Cochrane, “Verbum Sap,” 21 Verbatim 11, 11 (1994).

For more information about the Language-Change Index click here.
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Quotation of the Day: “I sometimes think risky generalizations are the only kind that are of interest. Safe generalizations are usually rather boring. Delete that ‘usually rather.’ Safe generalizations are quite boring. But I generalize.” Joseph Epstein, The Middle of My Tether 190 (1983).

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