Rhymes With Fuchsia

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conan's Corner: The Principal of the Thing

A joke book I had when I was a kid included this one:

Teacher: You're always complaining about school, Billy. Why do you dislike it so much?
Billy: It's not the school, really, it's just the principal of the thing.

Those were the days when third graders were expected to get that joke. In this degenerate age, alas, many adults who should know better, such as newspaper copy editors and human-resources directors, can't tell a principal from a principle or a hoard from a horde. I was once hired as a principle technical writer.

The one that used to drive Conan the craziest was affect versus effect. These days people who fear messing this one up just use impact as both a noun and a verb. The latter usage makes Conan cringe (I told you he was a fuddy-duddy), and he wishes people would realize that to affect is to influence, and an effect is a consequence or result. In fact, you could properly use influence as either a noun or a verb, but hardly anyone ever does.

A hoard is a stash; a horde is a throng. A knitter who announces on her blog that she's giving away her hoard of yarn shouldn't be surprised if a horde of stash vultures shows up at her house.

To exalt is to raise up (nearly always in a figurative sense); to exult is to rejoice. The salesman exulted when a promotion exalted him to the position of district manager.

Conan could go on (and on and on), but I've persuaded him instead to draw your attention to this nifty site, which covers all of the above and then some. Language geeks, exult! We may not be a horde, but we're not alone, either. We have blue pencils, and we know how to use them.

I sometimes break the at-least-one-picture-per-post rule, but just in case you patiently sat through that harangue hoping I'd get to something better, or at least less haranguing, here is yet another view of the lovely springtime and the stupid cat.


  • You make me afraid to post. ;-)

    By Blogger Carole Knits, at 7:43 AM  

  • I love Conan the Grammerian! And as for the cat . . ."I beleeeeeve I can fly!"

    By Blogger Roxie, at 9:07 AM  

  • I'm with Carole! I'm afraid to comment! But, when uncertain, I change the word or delete the thought. ;-)
    Kitty may be stupid, but sure looks happy! My cat is jealous. I imagine a throng as a thong put on backwards ;-)Words are also great toys IF played with properly.

    By Blogger Carol, at 9:22 AM  

  • Oy Conan, you are such a brute (say it like Arnold...:). I will blame my environment for my bad grammar, nobody talks like they should anymore! TV has homogenized us all, our accents, our speach, ugh. The one I always have to look up is farther/further. One of these days I'll remember which to use when. But some of these errors do catch my eye, especially in the paper, who is paying them???

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 10:44 AM  

  • So are you a reader of Language Log


    and other fun word-y sites? (I confess I was tempted to write "sights", just to see Conan roar!)

    I wonder if my library has Far from the Madding Gerund yet!

    By Blogger Alwen, at 10:44 AM  

  • Oh, and have you read the 'Grammar Bible'... in which I learned that 'nice' has a very different original meaning (that I find endlessly amusing).

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 10:45 AM  

  • Did that cat go up their again? She's really trying you're patients, isn't she?

    By Blogger Ruth, at 11:38 AM  

  • ::applause::

    By Blogger Chris H, at 12:44 PM  

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