In the titles for two previous posts to “The Write Life,” I inadvertently spelled the word “sentence” as “sentance.” These typos caused a visitor to my site to send me an e-mail conveying a somewhat cryptic, somewhat tongue in cheek alert about them.
Whatever the intentions of that visitor, his e-mail served to remind me about how typos can trip up self-promotional efforts on the parts of freelance editors/proofreaders like me. It is said that you should not hire an editor/proofreader whose website contains numerous spelling errors. I agree with that device, and take pains to ensure my site and blogs are typo-free.
So if you are a freelancer editor/proofreader, make sure your site and self-promotional material is error-free. Otherwise you will be getting e-mails like the one that landed in my inbox recently, and what is more, risk losing potential clients.
Oh, and about those posts with the typos in them? I went and fixed them right away.
I was surprised to discover that “renege” is considered by some to be a racist word. I even read on one website about how one person was told not to use the word after using it at a meeting. 1
But is “renege” really a racist word?
“Renege” is defined as:
“1. To fail to carry out a promise or commitment: reneged on the contract at the last minute.
2. … To fail to follow suit in cards when able and required by the rules to do so.” 2
How is “renege” a racist word if it only means the above? True, since the word is pronounced “re-NIG” it sounds like a racist epithet to the untrained ear. Perhaps it is also considered inappropriate not to say it lest it conveys the wrong impression (which might be what happened to the person at the meeting mentioned above). I concede it also could be abused if someone was trying to subtly slip in a racist remark when talking to someone about African Americans. Nevertheless, the answer to the question “Is renege a racist word?” is most definitely “No, it is not.”
In the 1986 cop buddy movie Running Scared, Chicago drug lord Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits) offers a bribe to Chicago PD detectives Ray Hughes (Gregory Hines) and Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal). The bribe is enough to pay off the mortgage on a bar they had bought in Key West, to which the duo plan to retire and operate. “You will get the bar free and clear,” Julio says to them at one point.
But is the phrase “free and clear” redundant? Let us examine the meanings of both words.
The meaning of “free” is defined as:
“1. enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery …
2. pertaining to or reserved for those who enjoy personal liberty …
3. existing under, characterized by, or possessing civil and political liberties that are, as a rule, constitutionally guaranteed by representative government …
4. enjoying political autonomy, as a people or country not under foreign rule; independent.
5. exempt from external authority, interference, restriction, etc., as a person or one’s will, thought, choice, action, etc.; independent; unrestricted.” 1
The meaning of “clear” is defined as:
“1. free from darkness, obscurity, or cloudiness …
2. transparent; pellucid …
3. without discoloration, defect, or blemish …
4. of a pure, even color …
5. easily seen; sharply defined …”
Since one of the meanings of “free” is “exempt from external authority, interference, restriction, etc., as a person or one’s will, thought, choice, action, etc.” and one of the meanings of “clear” is “without discoloration, defect, or blemish”, then what Julio was telling Ray and Danny is that they can get their bar free of any strings attached to bank mortgages, which means they will be clear of any financial burdens that might make running their bar arduous. This in turn means “free and clear” is not a redundant phrase, since the two words contain no grammatical overlap.
I almost used the phrase “…repercussions and consequences…” while writing out my feedback on a short story submitted to Every Day Fiction yesterday. An intuition came over me that I might be indulging in grammatical overkill, so I went and looked up both words.
“Repercussions” is the plural “repercussion,” which means:
“1. … a result or consequence, esp one that is somewhat removed from the action or event which precipitated it: the repercussions of the war are still keenly felt
2. a recoil after impact; a rebound
3. a reflection, esp of sound; echo or reverberation
4. music the reappearance of a fugal subject and answer after an episode” 1
“Consequences” is the plural for “consequence,” which means:
“1. a result or effect of some previous occurrence
2. an unpleasant result (esp in the phrase take the consequences )
3. significance or importance: it’s of no consequence ; a man of consequence
a. a conclusion reached by reasoning
b. the conclusion of an argument
c. the relations between the conclusion and the premises of a valid argument
5. the relation between an effect and its cause
6. in consequence as a result” 2
Since one of the meanings of “repercussion” is “ a result or consequence,” and one of the meanings of “consequence” is “a result or effect of some previous occurrence”, I felt the meanings of the two words overlapped enough that it would be grammatical overkill to use the phrase “…repercussions and consequences,” and so just went with “repercussions.”
Can you use the words “unrequited” and “unreturned” in the same sentence (i.e. “You always unrequited and unreturned my love”)? Let us see what both words mean.
“Not returned or reciprocated
-Not avenged or retaliated
-Not repaid or satisfied” 1
“Not reciprocated or responded to” 2
If we use the both words like in the hypothetical example above, we have a redundant grammar error due to the meaning of both words overlapping. However, if the above example is being spoken by a character in a short story or novel who does not know proper grammar rules, then it is fine to use both words together.
Using “unrequited” in something like “His insult went unrequited by Jake” might be sound grammatically, since one of the meanings of “unrequited” is “Not avenged or retaliated,” but it seems stilted in my opinion. It would be better to stick with “unrequited” when dealing with the matter of unrequited love, and use something else, like “Jake turned the other cheek at Todd’s insult” when it comes to conveying “not avenged or retaliated” to readers if you are writing fiction, and something like “The attack was allowed to go unavenged” if you are either writing an expositional passage in fiction, or are writing non-fiction.
I was surprised to find the phrase “advance warning” listed in an article on About.com listed called “200 Common Redundancies.” 1 I have not ever considered “advance warning” to be grammatical overkill because I have always felt “advance warning” correctly conveyed the meaning: “to warn well in advance of danger.”
Puzzled by “advance warning” being listed as a redundant grammar error, I went and looked up the meaning of both words to try and determine what overlap they possessed.
The Free Online Dictionary lists the following meanings for “advance”:
“To cause to move forward
-To put forward; propose or suggest
-To aid the growth or progress of
-To raise in rank; promote
-To cause to occur sooner
-To raise in amount or rate; increase
-To pay (money or interest) before due
-To supply or lend, especially on credit
-To serve as an advance person for (a trip to be made by a politician or a dignitary)
-To lift (archaic)” 2
Now let us see what “warning” means:
“An intimation, threat, or sign of impending danger or evil
– Advice to beware
-Counsel to desist from a specified undesirable course of action
-A cautionary or deterrent example.
– Something, such as a signal, that warns” 3
As you can see, “advance” and “warning” have very different meanings to them. They are so different I must disagree with it being listed as a phrase that contains a redundant grammar error, because the two words can be used to form the phrase “advance warning” without any grammatical overlap.