Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Language-Change Index

Language-Change Index.

The third edition of Garner’s Modern American Usage reflects several new practices. Invariably inferior forms, for example, are now marked with asterisks preceding the term or phrase, a marking common in linguistics.

The most interesting new feature is the Language-Change Index. Its purpose is to measure how widely accepted various linguistic innovations have become. Such a measuring system for usage guides was first proposed by Louis G. Heller and James Macris in 1967. They noted that “usage specialists can make ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: register; registrar.

register; registrar.

Both terms designate a governmental officer who keeps official records.

The Oxford English Dictionary notes that “register” was commonly used in this sense from 1580 to 1800 and that “registrar” is now the usual word. But in American English “register” retains vitality: various levels of government have “registers of copyrights,” “registers of deeds,” “registers of patents,” “registers of wills,” and the like.

As a matter of American English usage, a “registrar” is usually a school official, whereas a “register” is ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: registrable.

registrable.

“Registrable (/REJ-is-truh-buhl/) is so spelled — e.g.: “The stakes are open to all AKC registrable pointing breeds.” Doug Smith, “Walleyes Are Hot on Mille Lacs,” Star Trib. (Minneapolis), 26 May 2002, at C19.

“Registerable”* is a common misspelling — e.g.:

o “[In] KanPopper, the inevitable deformation of the name . . . makes it registerable [read ‘registrable’] as a trademark.” Dennis Baron, Declining Grammar and Other Essays on the English Vocabulary 195 (1989).

o “Those under 21 with a registerable [read ‘registrable’] ...

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

Miscellaneous Entries.

refugee; evacuee. “Refugee” (= one who flees home to seek safety) originally denoted French Huguenots who fled to England in the late 1680s to escape religious persecution. The word has another (rare) sense, denoting a fugitive on the run. “Refugee” had lost most of its connotations of foreignness or truancy when Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of New Orleans residents out of the city in August 2005. But many of those who fled objected to being referred to as ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: relative to.

relative to.

“Relative to” (= in relation to; in comparison with) is, in Eric Partridge’s words, “gobbledygook” (Usage & Abusage at 263). Though that pronouncement is a bit strong, the phrase can be easily replaced to good advantage — e.g.:

o “If you made a list of the worst banking crises relative to [read ‘in relation to’] a nation’s GDP over the past 15 to 20 years, America’s S&L crisis doesn’t even make the top 50.” Rob Norton, “The Big Costs ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: reiterate, -tion; iterate, -tion.

reiterate, -tion; iterate, -tion.

It is perhaps not too literalistic to use “iterate” in the sense “to repeat,” and “reiterate” in the sense “to repeat a second time [i.e., to state a third time].” But the distinction is observed by only the most punctilious writers, “reiterate” being the usual term in either sense.

Since an “iteration” repeats a former event, the term can’t logically apply to the first anything — e.g.:

o “Allison’s first iteration [read ‘appearance’] in 1989 drenched Houston. It ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: regiment.

regiment.

“Regiment” (= a military unit made up of several battalions) is coming to be misused for “regimen” (= a systematic plan designed to improve health, skills, etc.) — e.g.:

o “Wealthy people plagued with weak nerves and ‘auto-intoxication’ flocked to the San, as it was known, from all over the world to undergo a strict regiment [read ‘regimen’] of sinusoidal baths, Vibrotherapy, laughing exercises and five enemas a day.” Laurie Muchnick, “In Battle Creek, Not All Flakes Were Made of Corn,” ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: regretful; regrettable.

regretful; regrettable.

Errors made are “regrettable”; the people who have made them should be “regretful.”

The most common error is to misuse “regretful” for “regrettable,” especially in the adverbial forms — e.g.:

o “Yet regretfully [read ‘regrettably’], there may be less than full understanding that MARTA’s rail-service areas are really a function of trip volume densities and urban economics.” Ray Magliozzi & Tom Magliozzi, “Is MARTA Just a Downtown Train?” Atlanta J.-Const., 4 Mar. 1992, at A14.

o “Regretfully [read ‘Regrettably’], the articles ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: regardless.

regardless.

“Regardless” (= without regard to) should not be used for “despite” (= in spite of). E.g.:

o “Take heart. Regardless [read ‘Despite’] what happened Saturday, the Broncos will be performing in the Super Bowl Sunday.” Mark Wolf, “Get Over the Broncos: Others Need Support,” Rocky Mountain News (Denver), 7 Jan. 1997, at C2.

o “He looked more like a public relations man than a football coach — regardless [read ‘despite’] what was printed on the large, white board.” Randy Kindred, “New Illini ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Remote Relatives (2).

Remote Relatives (2).

Today: With “that,” “who,” and “whose.”

Remote relatives (relative-pronoun construction separated from their antecedents) are most common with “which” clauses. But other relatives get their share.

The relative pronoun “that” is almost as troublesome, and when used remotely is even more likely to cause confusion — e.g.: “C-130 aircraft packed with radio transmitters flew lazy circles over the Persian Gulf broadcasting messages in Arabic to the Iraqi people that were monitored by reporters near the border.” Patrick E. Tyler, “War ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Remote Relatives (1).

Remote Relatives (1).

Today: Generally.

“Every relative word which is used shall instantly present its antecedent to the mind of the reader, without the least obscurity.” Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric 65 (Grenville Kleiser ed., 1911).

Surprisingly few modern grammarians discuss what has become an increasingly common problem: the separation of the relative pronoun (“that,” “which,” “who”) from its antecedent. For example, in the sentence “The files sitting in the office that I was talking about yesterday are in disarray,” the word “that” ...

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

Miscellaneous Entries.

registrant /REJ-i-struhnt/ does not rhyme, in the final syllable, with “restaurant.” Yet somehow, within the influential Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., the pervasive pronunciation is /REJ-i-stront/, with a moderately strong final syllable.

regulable (/REG-yuh-luh-buhl/) = able to be regulated; susceptible to regulation. “Regulatable,”* though incorrect, does occur — e.g.: “Where the highway leads is cloudy, but the traffic keeps growing and does not seem to be readily regulatable [read ‘regulable’].” Walter Goodman, “At Age 9, Light-Years Ahead,” N.Y. ...

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