Answers to More Questions About Usage

By Mark Nichol

Confusion about words or phrases with similar connotations or constructions is common; here are several questions from DailyWritingTips.com readers about usage, and my responses.

1. What is the difference between remuneration and emolument?

The words have essentially the same meaning – “compensation or payment” — though remuneration also pertains to payment by a customer or client, and emolument also refers to perquisites, or perks (privileges or offers for employees such as one’s own parking space or free use of a fitness center.)

2. I wish to know when and where to use toward or towards, and what is the difference?

The words are variations with identical meanings. Towards is British English, though many Americans use it, especially in conversation. Toward is preferable in formal US English.

3. In my country, bottled, aerated drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are called “cold drinks” universally. But a sizable community calls them “cool drinks.” How do I convince and let them know the difference between cool and cold? Also, many people use the term action in place of acting when it comes to describing someone’s performance in a film or a play.

“Cold drink” (and “cool drink”) may be universal in your country, but there are many terms for carbonated beverages, so I think any effort to try to control usage in this case is futile. As for action used as you describe, English usage evolves, and what may seem like an aberration now will often become standard vocabulary in the future. Even if action never becomes formally acceptable as a synonym for acting, its persistence as a variant is probably inevitable.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


Share


9 Responses to “Answers to More Questions About Usage”

  • Jan Tallent

    thanks so much for all of your great tips. I refer to them quite often in my proofreading assignments and file them all in my mail folders for future reference. I especially found this helpful:

    Towards is British English, though many Americans use it, especially in conversation. Toward is preferable in formal US English.

    This does come up quite a bit.

    thanks again!

    Your devoted fan,

    Jan T.

  • Anne

    Let me suggest that the answer to this question — “What is the difference between remuneration and emolument?” — is:

    It doesn’t matter. For clarity and simplicity, you shouldn’t be using either!

  • Mary

    I like “emolument.” Perhaps because of the sound of the word and the way it sounds like “emollient,” it bears for me the connotation of a slightly sleazy component of a transaction that may be questionable to begin with. If a person needs an inducement to engage in something dodgy, you can offer them an emolument, something even dodgier, to close the deal. But that meaning may not be contained in the word, just the construction I put on it.

    Regarding “cool” vs. “cold,” I remember, from what Garrison Keillor called the “folk music scare” of the late 1960s, a song called “All My Trials.” It contained the line, “The river of Jordan is chilly and cold…” — redundant, perhaps, but evocative all the same.

    Thanks, as always, Mark!

  • thebluebird11

    @Mary: Agreed on the word emolument. Sounds oily/greasy, like emulsion or emollient, as you said!

    Regarding cool/cold (drinks), I’m not sure what issue the person had with this. Was s/he implying that “cool” is sort of generic for anything at a temperature lower than ambient, versus “cold” being the exact term for a carbonated (aerated??) beverage? I know that when I was in Israel many years ago (1976, to be exact), we used to joke that on the radio, Coca-Cola’s tag line (in Hebrew, of course) was “cold as ice.” In fact, most of the time when we bought Cokes, which were waaaaay more expensive (but better) than generic Israeli soda (pop? soft drinks?), they were warm, and curiously, there was like never any ice around. So we used to say, “Coca-Cola, cold as an oven,” and it would crack us up. That’s kids’ humor for ya. Anyway, I am originally from NYC but have lived in FL for 25 years, and I have always called it soda. That, to me, is the generic for any brand or flavor of carbonated beverage. A cold drink to me is any drink that is cold; could be water, iced tea, even beer.

  • Scott Mellon

    I was in England once at a conference, walking around town with an American colleague. An elderly English lady, clearly having some difficulty, confronted us and asked for emoluments. Or so we thought. It went back and forth for quite a while, and eventually she asked us to just go to the corner store and ask for some emoluments. So we did that and were handed a package of Molly Mints.

  • kls

    Misplaced modifiers

    The Oxygen TV network’s show “Snapped” inflicts barrages of misplaced modifiers on viewers. Every episode provides bemusement and amusement with statements such as:

    * “Born in 1975, family trauma was nothing new for . . .” (I didn’t note the name because I was wincing and thinking that family trauma wasn’t born in 1975.)

    * “While [some name here] sits talking to police investigators about her parent’s death in a police department interrogation room . . .”

    Do you think “Snapped” should be embarrassed? Do you think good editing and a metaphor-placing class or two are called for, or do you prefer the laughs generated by the bloopers?

  • D.A.W.

    Quoting:
    In my country, bottled, aerated drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are called “cold drinks” universally. But a sizable community calls them “cool drinks.”

    “Cold drink” is just an idiomatic expression in English, and trying to make that profoundly logical is not a reasonable thing at all.

    Proceeding anyway: A “cold drink” is actually “cool”, really. A genuinely cold drink, based on water, would be frozen solid into ice, and so it would be undrinkable.
    Hence, the people who say “cool drinks” are being logical, but they are not using the idiomatic English of the large English-speaking countries: the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and South Africa, and maybe most of the smaller ones, too.

    Recall that nearly all beverages intended for human consumption are based on water: tea, coffee, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, 7 Up, Sprite, beer, wine, seltzer water, etc.

    “Soda water” is a resonable name because that is water that has carbon dioxide dissolved in it. Thus, all of the soda drinks are NOT aerated because they do not have air in them, but rather carbon dioxide.

  • D.A.W.

    In North America, the word ““emolument” is an archaic word that is very rarely used anymore. It does appear in Article I, Section 9, of the U.S. Consitution, but since the Constitution was written over 220 years ago, it does contain a (very) few archaic words.

    The use of the word “remuneration” is nearly as rare now.
    These two words have been overtaken and replaced by “compensation”, “payment”, and “salary” in common usage.

    I agree with Anne: don’t use either emolument or remuneration.
    Leave those to lawyers and especially constitutional lawyers.

  • D.A.W.

    Quoting: “Born in 1975, family trauma was nothing new for . . .” (I didn’t note the name because I was wincing and thinking that family trauma wasn’t born in 1975.).

    Besides the obvious wretchedness of the sentence above:
    Note the sentence as I read it at first: the whole concept and phrase of “family trauma” was not “born” until years and years after 1975! Nobody talked or wrote like that until much later on. It is often wrong to use present-day JARGON for things or ideas that happened 35, 40, 50, more, years ago.

Leave a comment: