Thursday, July 31, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 49)

Here are some more oft-misused words:


Right: He left his waitress a niggardly tip.

Perhaps due to the unfortunate similarity to another word, some people mistakenly assume niggardly is a racial slur of some sort. In fact, it simply means miserly or stingy. Still, due to the potential for confusion, perhaps it’s best to use a synonym instead.

This reminds me of the story of a politician who used dirty tricks in a campaign, by claiming of his opponent that “He has been seen masticating in public and his wife is a known thespian.” The politician evidently counted on the voters possessing poor vocabularies. Similarly, you might enjoy this spoof of a campaign speech by Bill Garvin, published in Mad Magazine in 1970:

Spaded vs. spayed

Wrong: Have your dogs spaded or neutered.
Right: Have your dogs spayed or neutered.

To spay means to have a female surgically sterilized. Spaded means shoveled as with with a spade. Do you really want to encourage people to shovel their dogs?

More next time.


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