Note: The pronunciation of these terms varies according to how familiar the speaker is with French. Usually, getting close is good enough. I’ve included pronunciation for six terms that may be especially tricky for some English speakers.
Although I’ve adopted a few initialisms such as BTW, LOL, and IMHO in my own informal writing, I’m mostly ignorant of the alphabet soup current on Twitter and other social media sites.
The words in the following list represent misunderstanding of the words’ meanings and not simply an inability to spell them correctly. This post covers words starting with the letters e and f (the a-b list is here, and the c-d one here).
A reader asks about the use of “there is” and “there are”: I am writing to express my puzzlement over whether to use “there is” or “there are”. When I was reading a script, I came across [this] sentence: “In his arms there are a whole bunch of corn husks.” Should it not be “there is”?
Although furor and fury derive from the same Latin verb, furere, “to rage, be mad,” when the intended meaning is “public uproar,” furor is the better choice.
The lovely word cryptid came to my attention in reference to the ivory-billed woodpecker. One of these birds, long believed to be extinct, was sighted in eastern Arkansas in 2004. As no subsequent sightings have been reported, the survival of the species is still disputed.
A reader asks: Can you explain the origin of the word discomfiture? This seems to be a recent invention; I was not coming across this word about 10 years ago. However, recently its use has increased. Is it the same as discomfort?
In general usage, mediate and arbitrate are synonyms. However, as a reader pointed out when I used the words mediator and arbitrated in a sentence illustrating the difference between uninterested and disinterested, the roles of mediator and arbitrator in a legal context are distinct.
The English word regard has multiple meanings as both noun and verb. A common error is to attach an s to the noun in certain expressions.
Compound nouns are of three kinds: open, hyphenated, and closed.
As the names imply, “open compounds” are written as separate words, “hyphenated compounds” are written with one or more hyphens, and “closed compounds” are written as a single word.
One of the innovations of Newspeak, the version of English used by the totalitarian government in Orwell’s dystopic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, was the elimination of antonyms. A writer at the Oxford Dictionaries site explains
A reader sent me this request: Would you please do a blast-out about the word nauseated versus nauseous?