I love words. No, really, I read the dictionary for fun, 'cause I just love words. I worked as a copy reader for awhile, and have been called the Editor From Hell....all because I love words and how they can be assembled. I don't claim to be the bestest writer ever, but I can assemble a coherent sentence using precise verbiage to convey exactly what I'm trying to communicate. This is probably part of why I still can't escape the "smart girl" image, despite my efforts to bury it under gratuitous cursing and excessive shoe shopping.
One horrible side effect of my love of words is an overwhelming frustration with the way they are so often misused. Periodically, I feel the need to assemble a list of the most common verbal/written whoopsies I stumble across, and both explain why something about the usage is wrong....and generally vent my spleen at the misuse. Over the weekend, I was slapped a couple times with my least favorite of these English errors, and so, here's today's list.
Taut v. taunt
I'm not sure why this is so hard. These are two entirely different words, pronounced two entirely different ways. Taut means "pulled tight" or "tense," like a bowstring or a muscle or a shirt a couple sizes too small; I have found that this word is often used with a connotation of sexiness. Taunt is what jackasses do to caged tigers, and wind up getting munched.
Flustered v. frustrated.
Okay, what peeves me here is the combination of the two words into some wack-tastic power word: "flustrated." Now, i can see how such a word could be useful; flustered meaning "harried" or "stressed" and frustrated meaning "had it up to here" or "at wit's end" - these would combine to form "stressed to the point of wit's end" or something. I get that, but the problem is most people who use this pseudo-word aren't willfully twisting the English language, they're mistaking this for an actual word. Which it is not. To me, flustered has hints of blushes and stammering and possibly embarrassment; frustrated, to me, carries an edge of lost temper, of impending meltdown, or possibly of just a huge crying fit. These are two different shades of meaning, and they each deserve their due.
Lose v. loose.
This is another one that boggle my mind. These words are pronounced significantly differently - one has a hard Z sound, the other a sibilant. On top of that, to lose means something's gone missing, or maybe you just didn't win; loose is baggy or maybe that you just fired your bow or slingshot or maybe just a string of invective. Either way, two totally different ideas. I know it can be confusing, but - please, internets! - try?
Desert v. dessert.
I see why this one could be confusing. Sort of. I just find it hilarious these are both misused. Part of me just laughs when I see "dinner & desert" on some business correspondence or other, where someone should really know better. Another part of me goes totally nutso.
IS TWO WORDS: A. LOT. If you really want to convey this with just one word, just say "lots" instead.
Its v. it's.
I get this one. It's tricky to keep track of the apostrophe usage for contractions and possessives. But it can be done. My trick? When I'm writing i-t-s, I always run through whether I'm saying it is or not - if I am, apostrophe, and if not....not.
3rd vs. 5th Wheel.
Okay, so this isn't precisely grammar or spelling, but this one drives me absolutely bonkers. 'Cause seriously, SOOOOOO many people talk about how they don't want to tag along and be a "third wheel." AAAAARGH!!! Let me spell it out: the purpose of this phrase is to exhibit how useless and superfluous something is. A third wheel is neither useless nor superfluous. A third wheel makes a trike. It's a fifth wheel that's superfluous. The phrase is "fifth wheel." I mean, come on, if a skeezy Elimidate knockoff can get it right, why does the general consciousness have such a freaking problem?!?
Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.