Tag Archives: jive

Your Halloween treat: five tricky word pairs

This English language of ours is devilishly tricky.

Jack o'lanternFor your Halloween reading pleasure, here are five especially ghoulish word pairs.

If you use these words properly, you’ll win the respect and admiration of careful writers everywhere. If you don’t, your readers — some of them, anyway — will shriek in terror.

A new tact: Tack is what a yachtsman does to align a boat with the wind. Changing tack, or taking a new tack, sets the boat moving in a new direction. Taking a new tact simply doesn’t make sense. I can’t say it any more tactfully than that.

Don’t jive with me: Jibe, another word that comes to us from the sea, means to bring things into agreement. If your position jibes with mine, then we’re cool. But if it jives with mine, then you’re just being phony.

A rift on an old theme: I recently read a blog post in which another blogger was said to be rifting on a particular topic. A riff is a rhythmic phrase in music. A rift is a crack in the ground. Maybe the rifting blogger was making, um, wise cracks.

Now hear this: When you like what somebody has said, and you want others in the audience to listen, the expression is hear, hear! If you write here, here, that won’t get you anywhere, anywhere.

Honing in: When your focus narrows, do you home in or hone in? Do you come closer to home, or do you hone (sharpen) your sights? For my money, it’s home in — although much to my surprise, one of my favorite dictionaries, Wordnik, disagrees. So if you like to write hone in, I promise to keep my shrieking to a minimum.

At this witching season, which other homonyms (or near homonyms) have you heard being used in ways that are ghoulish?

Adapted from an article in the SDI blog, 28 October 2010

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