Tuesday, April 17, 2007

From Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words 2 (Commonplace Book)

I continue my look through Bryson today. No one likes this about me, and I am not even a stickler about using words like this correctly; but I think it is fun, so there. I am a nerd.

"Comic, Comical." Comic is intended to be funny. Something that is comical is funny whether or not that was the intention.

"Compare to, compare with." The first should be used to liken things, the second to consider their similarities or differences.

"Compendium." No doubt because of the similarity in sound to comprehensive, the word is often taken to mean vast and all embracing; in fact "compendium" is a succinct summary of abridgment.

"Complacent, complaisant". The first means self-satisfied to the point of smugness. The second means affable and cheerfully obliging.

"Comprise." Comprise means to contain; a house may comprise seven rooms but seven rooms do not comprise a house.

"First conceived, initially conceived, originally conceived". All redundant. Something can be conceived only once.

"Condone" This word does not mean to approve or endorse. It means to pardon, forgive, or overlook. You can condone an action without supporting it.

"General consensus". Redundant.

"Consummate". An overused term of praise, consummate means unrivaled or nearly so, not just very good.

"Continual, continuous." Continual refers to things that happen repeatedly but not constantly. Continuous refers to an uninterrupted sequence.

"Convince, persuade". You convince someone he should believe, but persuade him to act. I have been using this one dramatically wrong for years in my writing.

"Culminate" does not mean outcome; it means high point.


Marc Caputo said...

"Presently" vs. "currently" - that's a public service. I could look it up, but you're here and the world needs to know - proper time for use? Difference?

Brendan Hogg said...

but I think it is fun, so there. I am a nerd.

You're not alone - Bryson is one of my favourite books for dipping into for pleasure (along with more obvious comedy fare like 1066 and All That and Douglas Adams/John Lloyd's Meaning of Liff). I'm very much enjoying these posts. (In fact, I'd never come across the idea of a commonplace book before finding your blog - it's a very interesting use of blogging.)

Jason Powell said...

Some time back I was in a comic book store browsing, and a somewhat overeager clerk asked me if I was looking for anything.

"No, just browsing," I said.

"Well, what kind of stuff do you like?"

"The most recent thing I've gotten into is the ABC line from Alan Moore, though that's pretty much done now, from what I understand."

So then he thinks for a moment, and says, "Oh, well, have you read 'Albion'?"

I said, "No, I haven't."

He then went to the rack and got it and said, "Well, it's this comic that his daughter is doing, but Alan Moore co-plotted it with her, it's about these old British superheroes, it's a six-issue miniseries," etc., etc. and a bunch of other stuff that I already knew because I have internet access.

And all I could think was, "Boy, I'm pretty sure I never said I didn't know what it IS -- just that I haven't read it."

Not the first time I've been in a situation where all I said was that I haven't actively read or watched something, and this was taken to mean I was completely ignorant of it, or -- even more of a distortion -- actively disdained it.

That annoys me.

sara d. reiss said...

this is only tangentally related but:

it's COULDN'T CARE LESS people. could NOT care less, as in you have reached the absolute end of your caring, there is no caring any less than you already are caring.

NOT "COULD CARE LESS" which means that there is room for you to care less so right now you are caring more than you probably mean you are caring.

and slate.com already covered it but please, people, only say "literally" if it LITERALLY HAPPENED. "I literally died" is only true if you dropped dead but therefore would not be able to tell me about how you literally died when he said that to you.

get it the frick right or I will beat you with an OED, the unabridged edition, until you are a paste.

those just piss me off to no end...

Ultimate Matt said...

This reminds me of George Carlin's routine about airline announcements:

"You may now get on the plane"

"Fuck you, I'm getting IN the plane... seems to be less windy in here."

liam said...

today a coworker freaked on the regional differences betweeen "on line" and "in line."

as in queuing.

Geoff Klock said...

Marc: I will have to look into that.

Brendan Hogg: you can steal the format, just link to me.

Jason: I don't know about that one. Sometimes I need people to convince me to get stuff.

RE: Sara: Sara is not kidding. There is a copy of the OED here, a physical copy, and it will reduce you to paste if thrown with enough force.

Ultimate Matt: Yeah... I seem to have opened a dangerous door here.

Liam: ditto.

Geoff Klock said...

its funny how stuff that drives me nuts other people don't care about and stuff that drives others nuts I do not notice, even though it is all the same kind of stuff. I wonder what it takes to have some particular thing get on your nerves.

Jason Powell said...

"Jason: I don't know about that one. Sometimes I need people to convince me to get stuff. "

Yes, it was more the fact that his opinion was unsolicited, but he seemed to take "I haven't read it" to mean "Please, tell me everything you know about it." (In another, more recent run-in, the guy saw me paging through the "E for Extinction" trade -- which I was paging through because of your blog, Geoff, I'll have you know -- and he was like, "Oh, you gotta get that! It's like, DARK X-MEN. It's awesome." I don't know what my point is.)