Did you know that in the last 10 years English literacy levels have declined in Australia but gone up in countries where English is not the main language? Whether it’s the educational system, government of today, laziness, the increased use of abbreviations when texting, or reliance on spell checks and auto corrects, we need to stop and think about what this means. It isn’t good.
To do my part in changing this, I am going to go through some common errors made by many. English is a tricky language though, so some errors we may be forgiven for making. Some.
(I use the Oxford Dictionary as my source).
1. Practice and practise
- Practice (noun) – “the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, the carrying out or exercise of a profession, and the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.”
- Practise (verb) – to “perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency in it.”
So, a lawyer has her own practice, but she practises law, the piano, or perhaps French.
- Practice is used either as a verb or a noun.
2. Lose and loose
- Lose (verb) – to “be deprived of or cease to have or retain (something), become unable to find (something or someone), fail to win, earn less (money) than one is spending or has spent, waste or fail to take advantage of (time or an opportunity).”
As in, you have lost something/someone/ money/ time/ an opportunity.
- Loose (in adjective form) – “not firmly or tightly fixed in place, detached or able to be detached, (of a garment) not fitting tightly or closely, not close, compact, or solid in structure or formation, relaxed, physically slack, promiscuous.”
As in, it’s not tight, it’s what can happen to your clothes if you lose weight, it’s how you feel sometimes.
I am going to lose this tennis match.
I am going to lose my chance to win her over if she sees Johnny Depp standing over there, by himself.
That is a loose interpretation of the decision.
My clothes are loose.
That girl is seriously loose.
The definition of ‘literally’ has absorbed that of ‘figuratively’ and is used to add emphasis or to exaggerate a statement. We all do it. Some of us know it is incorrect and continue to use it, and others are oblivious.
Literally means it really happened (“in a literal manner”). So when you say ‘I flew to the moon and back just to see you, literally’, you actually mean ‘I flew to the moon and back just to see you, figuratively speaking’ – unless you are an astronaut and did fly to the moon and back just to see me. But I’m not going to be an ass and point this out to you when we’re having a conversation, How I Met Your Mother style. I will just think it behind your back, naturally. I am nice.
Food for thought – with the language ever changing and evolving, if it has become common practice to use a word that isn’t its true and intended meaning, should the definition adapt to suit current usage?
I direct you to an interesting blog by Oxford Dictionaries about the arguably fluid definition of literally – http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/08/literally/.
4. Quotes go after the period – “Travel Thongs is so cool.”
5. Although the word ‘irregardless’ (being a mash of irrespective and regardless) has made its way into the Oxford Dictionary, it is generally considered to be a nonstandard word, meaning that it is commonly used but is not a proper word. And why isn’t it? Put simply, the prefix ir- (meaning ‘not’) and the suffix –less (meaning ‘without’) are both negative and cancel each other out, leaving you with ‘regard’, which I’m sure is not what you were after.
There is continuing debate over this one though, generally those with extreme views loudly voicing their opinions. My personal view is that it is not a word, but until there is an outcome I’m not sure whether to be an ass behind your back or not… I just advise you to use this one with extreme caution in front of Grammar Nazis.
There are many more common English errors so I will continue on this topic over time. As you can see, some are clearly wrong and others are still murky. The geek in me certainly finds this fascinating reading.
If you have a question, would like me to write about something in particular, or would like me to go into more detail, let me know. I wanted to spare you the details and get straight to the point, but happy to oblige!
Aren’t you happy that you found my blog? :)
Now let’s all go to Eezy Breezy Editing’s website and read this all over again, shall we?!