Friday Follies #46 – a mixed bag o’ messes

Welcome dear readers, and Happy Canada Day! The Grammar Cop considered taking the day off, but feels compelled to share this bothersome bag of boo-boos with you.

At an admittedly dodgy website, Upstart Magazine / Celebrity News, I spotted the following in a caption under Gwen Stefani’s photo: “Gwen humiliated publically…”  Doesn’t it make you wince? It should be publicly.

Following is a list of commonly confused words. By no means is it exhaustive; it’s just that I’ve seen all of these lately, so they’re uppermost in my mind.

loath/loathe: One is loath (unwilling) to wash the dishes. I loathe (hate) washing the dishes. (See dictionary for difference in pronunciation.)

advice/advise: I gave him advice regarding the dishes. I will advise him to wash his dirty dishes. (See dictionary for difference in pronunciation.)

affect/effect: The rain will affect the tennis match. The tennis match was postponed due to the effect of the rain. Note: occasionally, “effect” can be a verb: The committee members hope to effect a positive outcome in the controversy. It means “bring about.” (Also, just to muddy the waters further, “affect” can sometimes be a noun, as in: She showed no emotion; her affect was flat.)  (See dictionary for further information and differences in pronunciation.)

breath/breathe: You should take a deep breath before swimming underwater. It’s impossible to breathe underwater. (See dictionary for difference in pronunciation.)

reign/rein: This pair is a particular bugaboo of mine; I’ve often mentioned it here in Friday Follies. The pronunciation is the same in both words, so that’s no help as a clue to usage. Perhaps this explanation will help. It is from

Common Saying: To give someone free reign
This is a spelling error that leads to a misunderstanding – though the meanings remain the same fundamentally. Many people presume this phrase to mean that a person given free reign, has the “royal” power to do anything they want. In fact, the correct phrase is “free rein” and it comes from the days before cars when horses were used as our main mode of transport. When navigating a steep or winding path, one would relax the reins so that the horse could pick the safest path as he was more likely to do a better job than the rider.”

So to reiterate: The correct phrase is FREE REIN. (Are you listening, “The Suburban”?)

I loathe seeing all these mixups repeatedly. I hope everyone takes my advice, and I now give you free rein to keep these confusing pairs straight.


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