The adjective naive is a badly assimilated French borrowing. Ever since it entered the language as naïve in the seventeenth century, it never has managed to look like an English word, and it presents many English speakers with difficulty in pronunciation and spelling.
A reader asks: Can the words jail and prison be used interchangeably?
In current usage, penance is associated with spiritual practice as a form of self-imposed punishment.
A reader feels there’s a difference between the words minimize and reduce: Writers often use “minimize” to mean “reduce.” To minimize something is to reduce it to the smallest amount or degree. To “reduce” something is simply to make it smaller.
Strolling along Internet Boulevard one morning, I encountered more than the usual quota of misspelled-words-per-minute.
The phrases “center around” (US) and “centre round” (Br) are often heard in speech and seen in writing on the Web.
The error of using despite to introduce a noun clause may be more common with ESL speakers, but plenty of examples can be discovered in the writing of native English speakers.
In Old English, the word that is now spelled buck referred to a male deer. Later, the word also came be applied to the male of other species.
A reader has asked about the use of these two terms: I was wondering if you would care to comment on the difference between cost-efficient and cost-effective. In both, Oxford and Webster (the free online versions), cost-effective is properly defined while the cost-efficient page points to that of cost-effective. It looks like cost-efficient is a tolerated synonym of a lesser status.
The auxiliaries may and might are often used interchangeably. Most of the time, interchanging them doesn’t seem to matter.
Numerous readers wrote to correct me regarding the following entry in my post about commonly confused words that begin with M.
The word Luddite originated in the nineteenth century as a label for an organized group of English workers and their sympathizers who set out to destroy manufacturing machinery in the midlands and north of England between 1811 and 1816. These enemies of the new technology were called Luddites, Ludds, and Ludders. Luddite is the term that has survived.