diagnosis, prognosis

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS  A physician’s diagnosis of an illness is his identification of it through his examination of the patient. The prognosis is the physician’s considered guess about the course of the illness. Incidentally, the condition is diagnosed, not the patient. A physician who thinks he diagnoses his patient should have a good look at […]

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founder, flounder

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS To flounder is to struggle awkwardly, to stumble helplessly, to flop about like a flounder out of water. If a horse founders, it may collapse from overwork, or get stuck in a bog. If a ship founders, it sinks. Don’t say, “The ship foundered and sank.” That’s redundant. If the ship foundered, […]

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double negative

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS If you don’t want no trouble From things you write or say Drop the negative double. Don’t never use it, no way. That Shakespeare, as was his wont, Said “no”  two ways won’t help you. Now, when you say double don’t It means you really do.    

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occur, take place

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS Things occur when you least expect them, but take place by arrangement. Still, you can never be sure what might occur at a carefully arranged luncheon.

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stringed, strung

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A violin is a stringed instrument, which means merely that it has strings. You might say a violin is strung if you’re talking about it having been fitted with strings, as must be done, sooner or later, if you are to have a stringed instrument. If the strings are wound too tight, […]

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naturalist, naturist

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A naturalist studies animals or plants or natural history. If a naturist studies nature, he does so in the raw, for naturist is simply another word for nudist. Some nudists prefer the word naturist, because it doesn’t sound quite so socially naked. You might call it a euphemistic cover-up.

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candid, candidate

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS In ancient Rome, politicians seeking election to office wore white togas to symbolize the purity of their motives. They were expected, of course, to be candid, that is, frank, open and sincere, for which the Latin was candidus, literally, “shining white.” The word for those politicians was candidatus, which is Latin for […]

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enquiry, inquiry

  By ANDREA PARKE The same meaning for both? Not so, the true pedant says. Enquiry: Your neighbor tells you he is taking a two-weeks vacation abroad and will visit ten or two famous cities. Your jovial enquiry is: “Do you really expect to see anything on that schedule, or will you just bring back […]

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regard, regards

By HAROLD LITTLEDALE It’s “Give my regards to Broadway” but “in regard (no s) to your letter of the 15th…” To regard is to look closely at someone or something. Regards are expressions of good feelings. My best regards to those who hold this critical distinction in the highest regard.

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rank, rancid

By LAWRENCE FELLOWS A cigar or a piece of cheese may be rank if it smells strong enough. The same goes for butter in some countries. For people in India, Ethiopia and some other places, butter is melted, skimmed, evaporated, strained, spiced and aged, and the stronger the smell and taste the better — up […]

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