Columns » Words




From a Canadian sports page: “With the offence sputtering it was once again up to the defence to keep a surprisingly spunky Tiger Cat team from gaining the upper hand.” The Canadians, the British and the Australians use the -ce ending for these words. Americans write offense and defense. The British and the Australians also write pretence instead of pretense.

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage suggests that the American system is superior, at least in one regard. “The –ce spellings commit British and Australian writers to inconsistencies such as defence/defensive, offence/offensive and pretence/pretension, which Americans are spared. Canadians labor with both systems, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, using the –ce spelling for defence/offence and –se for pretense. The spellings defense, offense and pretense are not only more straightforward, but just as old as the spellings with –ce.”

“Revelers are chased by a pack of fighting bulls on the third day of the running of the bulls during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, northern Spain, on Monday.”

A reader asks: “Is a pack of bulls anything like a herd of wolves? A school of elephants? A flock of lions? A pride of sheep?” Or an outfield of flycatchers?

A popular Arkansas Times columnist (not that there are any unpopular Times columnists) unfortunately stepped into the bear trap recently. “We occasionally encounter someone who is downright scared of dogs. Dogs definitely alert on this fear and view it as a threat, which is why their natural instinct is to growl and bear their teeth.” Dog teeth are scary enough as is.

“ ‘If you think I’ll ignore nuttiness like that, then you’ve got another thing coming,’ he said.”

A reader says, “I always thought it was ‘If you think … , then you’ve got another think coming.’ But I googled the phrase, and people seem all over the map on this.” If so, a great many people are lost. The expression is definitely “another think coming.” I didn’t know it was being corrupted. Think makes sense; thing does not. What would the coming thing be? A cake? A wildcat? Peace on earth?

Add a comment