• chomiji

Answer: Hold Your Peace/Piece and Speak Your Peace/Piece

Reader had a question about two venerable idioms concerning speaking out—or not. Is it proper to say “hold your peace," or is it “hold your piece"? What about “say your piece"—or “say your peace"? We’ll take a closer look with the help of old friends from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Let's get down to it….

devil, potc - devil

Answer: wonder vs. wander

Today we’re looking at a pair of words that are easily confused – after all, there’s only one letter different between them.  [user profile] tigerlilly asked us “When do you use ‘wonder’ vs ‘wander,’ like in ‘let the mind wander?’ What is a good way to remember, esp. for non-native English speakers?” Let’s jump right in, with some help from the characters of Doctor Strange.

I wonder as I wander... or is it the other way around?
pink ribbon
  • chiroho

Commonly confused words: amoral and immoral

In this week's commonly confused words, we will look at the difference between amoral and immoral. Participating in our examples will be the cast of Person of Interest.

The first word I'll look at is immoral, which means 'not consistent with moral law or standards' or 'ethically wrong'. The word dates from the mid 1600s and is combination of 'in', meaning not, and 'moral'. Interestingly, when used as a legal term, immoral simply means 'contrary to common good or reasonable order'. Someone who is immoral, then, is not following established laws and standards. This could be anything from being involved in an affair to breaking laws because they aren't convenient. An example of using immoral is:

Even though Joss liked John as a person, as a police officer she couldn't help but find his wanton disregard of the law extraordinarily immoral at times.

Amoral, on the other hand, means 'lacking a moral sense' or being 'unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something'. So a person who is amoral might not be able to tell whether something that they have done is right or wrong, or simply may not care. Again being a combination, of 'a-' meaning not or without and 'moral', amoral is a far more recent word. First used in the 1880s, and possibly created by Robert Louis Stephenson simply as a differentiation from immoral, an example of using amoral is:

While Harold held himself to a very strict code, he considered John's approach more amoral -- he would do what was needed to protect the client.

As you can see from my examples, which both refer to the same character, not only is there a difference the meaning of amoral and immoral, but there is a difference in tone as well. Calling someone immoral is a judgement on their behaviour, but the word amoral is more impartial or neutral. Someone who is immoral violates norms, while someone amoral has no understanding of them. So when using these words, think about both the meaning and also the tone or association that you want to use. After all, if someone thinks your usage of amoral is immoral, they certainly aren't thinking very highly of you.

Amoral definition: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/amoral, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=amoral
Immoral definition: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/immoral, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=immoral

  • chomiji

Commonly Confused Words: Poison / Venom / Toxin

As Lewis Carroll's Alice observed, if you drink from a bottle marked "poison," it is almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later. But what about venom or a toxin? Today we'll take a look at these three terms and figure out what makes them different from one another.

(With the help of the cast of "Star Trek: The Original Series")

guitar gods

Commonly confused words - ground vs. floor

Welcome back, grammar fans! [community profile] fandom_grammar has a lighter schedule during these summer months, but fear not, we still have interesting grammar issues to discuss! Today we’ll be talking about a couple of words that are very commonly used in place of each other. Ground and floor aren’t exactly the same thing, and we’ll get into their differences with some help from the characters of Sherlock.

Are you sure you don’t mean the ground floor?

Editorial - The Riot Act

When I was a very young grammarian, my mother would proclaim her readiness to read the riot act if her children got too rowdy, or too lazy, and I remember my baby-nerd delight when I found out that the Riot Act was once a genuine regulation. Ella Morton's 2014 article in Slate gives an overview that's the subject of our Fandom Grammar editorial today.

Reading About the Riot Act