Word Geek

I’m a bit of a word geek.  I got it from my mom, who loved the English language, and probably could have been an English Teacher, if she had wanted to.  We often played word games when I was growing up, and the most fun ones were full of puns and intentionally twisting words into new meanings.  In her honor, I try not to become a word snob, but I do have the habit of noticing incorrect usage in conversation or in writing.  I’m still amused by misplaced apostrophes and commas, and yes, I do enjoy Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

When I was younger, I used to think that it was my responsibility to point out to everyone where they were wrong, but eventually I realized that just derailed the conversation and made me out to be someone hard to work with.  So now, I usually just keep it to myself, note the correction in my head and try to focus on the point that the other person is trying to make.

Now, I’m not going to get caught up in the finer points of sit/set, lie/lay, or even there/their/they’re.  But some mistakes just seem to be popping up a lot lately, and then they get stuck in my head and bug me until I share them with someone, so this time I’ll share them here.

Then / Than

“I like chocolate ice cream better then vanilla.”  ACK!  You mean you like chocolate ice cream better than vanilla.  Then, you might want to buy some.  Than, with an A is used for comparison (better THAN, more THAN, etc.).  Then, with an E is time related (First this THEN that) or causal (Because of this THEN that).  Maybe it’s just a typo…the letters are fairly close on the keyboard, and Spell Check will do you no good here, but for some reason this just stands out to me and I see it all the time.

Flush Out / Flesh Out

I have to really stop myself from snickering when I hear someone say that they want to “flush out the project plan”.  Sure, I’d like to get rid of the project too; I have too many already.  But I think what you meant was that you want to FLESH out the plan, but you may want to FLUSH out the bad taste in your mouth.  The easy way to remember this is what the two words normally mean…FLESH is part of your body that attaches to your bones…to flesh out an idea is to give body to the skeletal outline you are starting with.  Whereas FLUSH means to purge or do away with, like flushing the toilet…you want the stuff to go away.

OK, that’s enough for now.  Carry on smartly, as my dad would say.

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