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Words, July 22

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Close, but not quite:

"He spent his formidable years in Paris in the 1920s." And then grew namby-pamby with age, I suppose. An all-too-familiar story.

"A new electoral panorama has been drawn." Paradigm, probably.

"Organizers soon tried to vanquish the reporters back into the 'media room' before guests returned downstairs for the awards ceremony." Banish, most likely. Not that there aren't people who'd like to vanquish reporters, once and for all.

Lewis MacMillan writes, "In point of fact was a favorite locution of Shelby Foote, the Civil War historian. I have always taken it as just a fancy way of saying in fact or as a matter of fact but have never been quite sure."

Be sure. Be terribly sure. Garner's Modern American Usage says of in point of fact, "This phrase is verbose for in fact or actually." We're all guilty of verbosity, on occasion, even Shelby Foote. Garner's also notes that while phrases such as in point of fact and fact of the matter should generally be avoided in writing, they're unobjectionable in speech.

Hard questions. Too hard:

Janet Hill asks, "Is one presented a medal or award, or is he presented with a medal or award?" I suspect you can get by with either one, as with graduated and graduated from. Ken Parker wants to know "When, how and why did photographs become images?" They're all pictures to me.

N.G. Allen writes, "Defining second cousin and cousin once removed might be a good entry in your words column." And it might not. But since you ask, N.G., the key point is whether you and your cousin share a set of grandparents. If you do, you're first cousins. If your closest common ancestors are great-grandparents, you're second cousins. Removed means being a generation apart. If your mother and Flotillah are first cousins, you and Flo are first cousins once removed. My mother told me once that we had a relative who was somebody's double cousin. I thought that excessive.

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