It’s true: i’m a bit of a grammar nazi. i’m not, like, a high-ranking grammar nazi or anything. i’m no Grammar Goebbels. i’m more like a Hitler Youth. Of grammar.
So while the Anti-Defamation League drafts a strongly-worded email, let me list a few words that people tend to misspell or misuse, for the greater benefit of Beloved Internet.
i’m not going to call you out too loudly if you fumble this one. It’s French, and it’s got that silent “s” on the end. But the problem with apropos, which means “fitting” or “appropriate”, is that it’s only used in English in a snooty context. People use it when they think they sound smart. “Apropos of nothing”, you say, looking down your nose at someone’s non sequitur.
So when you misspell something in that situation, you sound like the opposite of smart: you sound like an a-hole.
2. Per se
Again, this one’s not English – it’s Latin. But like apropos, it’s often said with verbal italics by someone who thinks he’s clever. When you try to sound clever on a blog, and you write “per say”, you don’t come off like a complete a-hole per se …
This is one of those words like “of” (could of [WRONG] vs. could have [RIGHT]), where because of people’s lazy diction, it gets misspelled.
WRONG You don’t like cheese? You’re bias.
RIGHT You have a bias against cheese. You’re biased.
This one surprises me every time i see it spelled. To renege is to go back on a bid or a promise. That unnecessary “e” messes me up … looks like you should say it “re-NEEJ”, but as you’re aware from college euchre tournaments, the word actually rhymes with “egg”. Indeed, when you are a person who reneges, you are a reneger (not a renegger). Bizarre.
i’ve been banging this drum for a long time.
Yeah: a lazy or casual way to say “yes”. Matches the “a” sound in “man”. Speaking of men, Kool-Aid Man, after breaking down the wall and terrifying all the children, exclaims “oh YEAH.”
Yea: Rhymes with “hay”. Opposite of “nay”. Used in voting.
Yay: Rhymes with “hooray”, and used in similar circumstances.
Ya: Equivalent to “ja” in some European languages. Rhymes with “raw”. NOT to be used interchangeably with “yeah”. i say nay to that plan.
i always thought this was spelled “reCOUPerate”. To boot, i thought “recoup” was an abbreviation of recuperate. In fact, they’re two completely different words. Who knew? To recuperate is to regain strength or lost finances, and to recoup is to do the same thing … or to regain an equivalent amount to what was lost. Even though they sound similar and have similar meanings, the two have different etymological roots.
i’d love to add to this list. What do you think should be on it?