1. Substantive is properly pronounced SUB-stant-iv, with the accent on the first syllable, not sub-STANT-iv, with the accent on the second syllable. If you listen, you will hear even well-educated, sophisticated speakers commit this annoying error.
2. Homogeneous consists of five syllables: ho-mo-JEE-nee-us. This is the word we use to describe something composed of parts or elements of the same kind — for example, a homogeneous population. Homogenous (without the e) is also a word, but it has a different meaning and a different pronunciation. It is a biological term that means corresponding in structure because of a common origin. It is pronounced ho-MODGE-uh-nus. It is increasingly common to hear — and see — the word homogenous when the speaker or writer obviously means homogeneous. Perhaps the confusion can be traced to the word homogenize, which means to make homogeneous and which sounds more like homogenous than homogeneous. Is the language evolving so that the distinction between the two words may someday disappear? Maybe. But until then (long after I’m gone, I hope), careful writers and speakers must take care to spell homogeneous with that critical e and pronounce it with the required five syllables.
3. Those who insist on using the French term chaise longue should pronounce it correctly as shays-long, not as shays-lounge. Look at the second word: the u comes after the g, not before the n. Decades of misuse may someday lead to broad acceptance of the boorish shays-lounge, but we should conscientiously object at every opportunity. The best path, of course, is avoid the French term altogether. There’s nothing wrong with lounge chair or even (if you find French terms irresistible) chaise without the longue.
This trivial usage error barely warrants comment, but it crops up so frequently, and causes me so much irritation when it does, that I think it deserves a short post of its own. The correct expression for reinforcing or securing support for something is shore up, not sure up. This gross malapropism can be found regularly in the sports pages, which I suppose is not so surprising, but I am always shocked when I see it in presumably well-edited news articles on serious subjects. For example:
From the Washington Post: “Yes, a Petraeus pick would sure up questions regarding Romney’s expertise (or lack thereof) on matters of foreign policy and national security.” [The error here is compounded by incoherence: what the writer meant to say is that the pick would shore up Romney's expertise, not that it would shore up questions regarding Romney's expertise, which is the opposite of the writer's intended meaning. And the parenthetical or lack thereof makes the entire sentence unintelligible.]
From the Hartford Business Journal: “The FDIC’s consent order demands that the bank take several steps to sure up its financial position . . . “
Those who make their living as writers should do a better job of writing prose free of embarrassing mistakes.
I agree with Bryan Garner that the hackneyed expression sooner rather than later is redundant and should be avoided in favor of a simple soon. See Garner’s Modern American Usage, p. 759-60. But what I find truly annoying is the bastardized version sooner than later, which is not only redundant but also incoherent. Though it may be too late to eradicate this verbal weed, we should at least avoid propagating it ourselves, and we should condemn those who allow it to invade their speech or writing.
Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? — George Carlin (courtesy of Refdesk’s Thought of the Day).
I might as well get a few more off my chest:
- Divisive is pronounced di-VISE-iv, not di-VISS-iv.
- Formidable is best pronounced FOR-mid-a-bl, not for-MID-a-bl.
- Applicable is best pronounced APP-li-ca-bl, not a-PLICK-a-bl.
- Mischievous is pronounced MISS-cha-viss, not miss-CHEE-vee-us.
You may want to pick a fight with me over formidable or applicable, and I’m prepared to concede that regional differences may account for the proliferation of what I consider inferior pronunciations of those words. But I will yield no ground on divisive or mischievous, the mispronunciations of which I consider simply indefensible.
The preferred pronunciation is DOCK-truh-nl (with the accent on dock), not dock-TRY-nl (with the accent on try).
Yes, I know that dock-TRY-nl is the standard British pronunciation, that U.S. academics (especially law-school academics) like to emulate the Brits, and that the British pronunciation is included as an acceptable alternative in many American English dictionaries. But the Brits are notoriously weird (at least to American ears) in their pronunciation habits. Unless you’re willing to adopt their favored pronunciation of urinal as yer-EYE-nl, or of skeletal as skuh-LEE-tl, or of laboratory as la-BOR-a-tree, you should avoid taking their advice on how best to say doctrinal. And unless you want to sound like a pompous academic trying to impress an effete colleague, I recommend that you stick with the standard American pronunciation of words like doctrinal, urinal, skeletal, and laboratory.
It is idiomatically preferable, in my view, to include the in both parts of the correlative expression On the one hand/on the other hand. I know that many competent writers omit the first the, so that the expression reads On one hand/on the other hand. And I understand the argument in favor of omitting it: after all, we do not normally insert the in comparable expressions. We would not typically say, in describing the contents of two grocery bags, In the one bag/in the other bag.(Or maybe we would; I certainly would not object to that expression.) I also acknowledge that On one hand may be at least as popular (in American English, though not in British English) as On the one hand.
But I nonetheless believe, for several reasons, that On the one hand is the better choice:
1. It has history on its side. On the one hand is the traditional idiom. It sounds familiar and natural. Why omit the when it is doing no harm?
2. Authoritative dictionaries treat On the one hand as the standard expression, meaning “from the first perspective” or “from one point of view.” Look it up (under the entry for hand).
3. There is a comforting balance and rhythm to the expression that is sacrificed when the is omitted.
4. The expression is figurative, not literal. We’re not talking about actual hands the way we might about actual grocery bags, so resort to comparable expressions does not carry much weight.
5. On the one hand is likely to be less noticeable, less jarring, than On one hand. Every time I see On one hand, I feel the need to insert the after on (just as I cannot keep myself from adding a missing of after couple in the expression couple of). Why risk calling needless negative attention to your writing?