Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And now for some pedantry. There are some things that just drive me barmy when people write them, and that I edit out ferociously when I encounter them as an editor. Here are a few that strike me at the moment.

Pedal vs peddle: 'Pedalling' is about riding a bike or making a bike-riding-type movement with your legs. 'Peddling' is about selling something: either an object or (more usual these days) an idea.

Palate vs palette: A 'palate' is your tasting apparatus. A 'palette' is an artist's board or tray for mixing paint, or a display of colours or tonal variations.

Linchpin: No, it is not a 'lynchpin'.

Principal vs principle: 'Principle' is a rule or important fact. It is never used as an adjective. 'Principal' is the person in charge of or in a prominent role in an organisation (eg a school principal; a principal dancer), or an adjective meaning the most important.

Sneak peek: It's a terrible enough phrase by itself, but it's made infinitely worse when people spell it "sneak peak".

Uncharted territory: If the territory is 'uncharted', it means it is unknown because it doesn't appear on maps (charts). However, some people insist the territory is 'unchartered', which presumably means you cannot hire a bus, boat or plane to take you there.

Disinterested vs uninterested: 'Disinterested' means you are impartial or aloof. 'Uninterested' means you are not interested.

Aisle vs isle: Biscuits are found in the biscuit aisle of the supermarket. Sometimes, when I feel hungry, I wish there were a biscuit isle, full of tea-drinking castaways. But there isn't.

If you are looking for biscuits in something labelled an 'isle', and the temperature in the supermarket was a little on the hot side, it could very well drive you balmy.
I would like to charter a pedal boat and sale my palette over to take a sneak peak down this biscuit isle.
I think the "dis/uninterested" confusion arises because the prefixes (prefices?) mean the same thing (or do they...) but it's the meaning of the word "interested" that's different in each one.

Some people think "in the public interest" means "because the public are interested in Nicole's phone conversations." I think a lawyer for the Herald Sun actually tried this one on in court once (but I might have imagined it).
Yes, I think you're right about the "dis" prefix often having a negating meaning - consider "dissimilar" or "dislike".
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter