Thursday, February 08, 2007

Word Usage: The Right Word Does Matter

By Tara Manderino

Words are used for communication and are very convenient when the people communicating cannot see each other. Spoken words still have the advantage of the speaker’s voice inflection, or facial expression to help put the message across. A written word does not. Because the written word has to stand naked before the reader, it is vitally important to use the correct word.
English is an extraordinarily rich language. Over the centuries, we have borrowed, built on, and stolen words from other languages. We’re very catholic about it too! One language is not given preference over another. If it works, we use it. If it doesn’t work, we create words.

With such a rich language history, it’s hard to believe that anyone can use a wrong word. Yet, the number of wrong words, and more importantly wrong meanings, abound.

Some of the more aggravating redundancies are:

LCD display. The acronym stands for Liquid Crystal Display. If you’re using the acronym, make sure you don’t say LCD display—a common error. Try LCD screen instead.

Chai tea. In many Asian countries, chai means tea. If you’re having a cup of chai, you’re having a cup of milky spiced tea. You wouldn’t ask someone if he want a cup of tea tea.

Alliterate. Pairs of words with the same beginning letter and sound are alliterate. Someone who cannot read is illiterate. Similar sounds, but very different meanings.

Aspire. To have a long-range ambition is to aspire to a goal. Because of the similarities in spelling and pronunciation, the word is often confused with inspire, which means to arouse.

Congratulations. Okay, this one is more a spelling error, but its variation – congradulations – abounds. You might miss it when the word is spelled out, but it often appears on messages in a shorter form – congrads instead of congrats!

The above list is a very brief one, showcasing a few of my pet peeves. There are many other examples, which is rather amazing since I hardly consider myself a word maven.

Tara Manderino is a published author specializing in fiction, and the Regency era. She offers manuscript critiques, resume writing and editing services.

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