Columns » Words

Words, Nov. 18



Let your conscious be your guide

"Layaway is back in a big way;

Revival helping cost-conscience avoid credit cards"

"A pit bulldog Saturday attacked a mother and her two sons, sending all three to an area hospital with injuries. Jane Doe, 30, and her son, John, 9, were being treated for cuts on their heads, arms and hands at Northwest Medical Center-Springdale. ... Jane Doe, whose injuries included two cuts on her right eyelid and muscle damage in her right arm, said Justin was playing outside when he was attacked. She ran outside to help."

Did the dog have a knife? I don't know that I've ever seen bites referred to as cuts. Cut as a verb means "to penetrate with or as if with a sharp-edged instrument or object." As a noun, cut is "the result of cutting, as an incision, wound, passage, or channel."

Injuries can be applied to both cuts and bites, I suppose, and wounds certainly can. But why use a vaguer term when there's one that fits precisely?

"Of the 80 people who turned up, a scattered few phased out near — but not too near — the stage with the rest of the crowd either wide-eyed or nodding off at the tables."

Phased out in this sense is not in my dictionary. The writer tells me it's similar to spaced out: "You know, eyes glazed over." Spaced-out is in the dictionary. It dates back to the late 1960s and it means "dazed or stupefied because of the influence of narcotic drugs," and "dreamily or eerily out of touch with reality or seemingly so."

He means a lot at our football team:

"I'm just very proud of the way he played. He's a really, really talented, extremely gifted player who means a lot of our football team." To is what's needed here, but lately people seem to believe that one preposition is as good as another.

Add a comment