Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 51)

Still more oft-misused words:

Squash vs. quash

Wrong: Saddam Hussein squashed the rebellion.
Right: Saddam Hussein quashed the rebellion.

To squash is to crush, flatten, or pulp. To quash is to suppress, quell, or subdue. Although a dictator might be said to crush a rebellion, he doesn't literally press it into a flat mass to squeeze the juice out of it. The correct term for ending a rebellion, or to deny a legal motion, is to quash it. Although the difference in meaning between these two words may seem trivial, as Mark Twain once said: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Purposely vs. purposefully vs. on purpose

Right: You did that purposefully.
Right: You did that purposely.
Right: You did that on purpose.

Purposely means intentionally (as opposed to accidentally) or on purpose. If you do something for an express purpose, you do it purposefully. Both expressions are correct, but be sure you use them correctly.

More next time.

Mark.

1 comment:

Ivy said...

Purposely means on purpose or intentionally. It describes an action with a specific purpose behind it. You might say, for example, that you purposely left the front light on because you'd be returning after dark. If intentionally works in the sentence, choose purposely rather than purposefully.

Purposefully means full of purpose and describes the manner in which the subject does something. For example, if you have something important to say, you might stride purposefully to the podium.