Grammar Usage

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Grammar usage and abusage are more opinion than rule, but important to pay attention to. Abusage, incidentally, while a word in Webster's, is also what my college etymology professor called a back formation. That is, the original word in Old French was abus, or consume. The suffix "age" was added only when the word got to English, and only in the last several hundred years.

A similar grammar usage story in reverse focuses on enthusiastic and enthuse. The original word in Greek was enthousiasmos, meaning inspired by the gods. Only in English did the adjective begin to be used as a verb. The power of the English language lies in this flexibility of word function--along with its lack of inflection and open vocabulary. So while my purist professor was technically accurate, he was misguided to dismiss the newer forms of words.

Grammar Usage and Use

That being said, paying attention to grammar usage is important, no less in the professional world than in the street. A typical mistake many people make without thinking about it involves not paying attention to the meaning of words. Now, look at that sentence and the repetition in it. A typical mistake is defined as one many people make. A mistake is defined as a blunder, that is, something done inadvertently, without thinking about it. Not paying attention to something means that you're not thinking about it. The sentence revised might read: A typical mistake is to misuse words.

It is, sadly, typical. "Our goal and raison d'être in this volume," a book I once edited began. Goal and reason for being are remarkably similar. To continue on the same theme, we have "Hildreth's is one of the only remaining early department stores still in existence." Topping that is the phrase "the few scant pieces of surviving evidence," which contains both redundancy and tautology. Did you catch that? Both words mean repetition.


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