Changing meaning and function
Last month I mentioned how ‘nerd’ had changed meaning. According to Jeremy Butterfield (Damp Squid: the English language laid bare), about 15 per cent of new words are created by language having a makeover.
Sometimes the meaning changes:
- Nice – previous meanings of coy, shy, reluctant, wanton, foolish and precise (The ‘precise’ meaning still exists in phrases such as ‘a nice distinction’.)
- Mouse – from animals to computers (1965)
- Browser – from someone who browses to computers
At other times, we use words in a different grammatical function. ‘Verbing’ is a form of this conversion. Examples include:
- to interface
- to google
- to benchmark
- to Instagram
- to author
Dose and dosage
Question: What is the difference between dose and dosage?
Answer: These terms are often used interchangeably, but if you wish to distinguish between them use ‘dose’ to refer to a specified amount of medication taken at one time and ‘dosage’ to mean the administration of medicine in doses.
Dose: one tablet
Dosage: one tablet three times a day
Read more at: http://www.medlinguistics.com/didyouknow.asp#
Question: A government website talked about the ‘Four P’s of Marketing’. As this is a plural, no apostrophe should be used. Is that right?
Answer: You’re right. There is no need for an apostrophe in ‘Four Ps’ because it is just a plural and the meaning is clear.
We occasionally use an apostrophe with single letters if they could cause confusion. For example:
- A’s were the highest mark. (cf. As were the highest mark)
- Mind your p’s and q’s.
- Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
Question: Is an apostrophe used in the following sentence because ‘attitudes’ is implied after ‘population’s’?
One group’s attitudes may not reflect the larger population’s.
Answer: Yes, ‘attitudes’ is implied in that sentence.
You can often re-word such sentences to avoid this awkward apostrophe usage. For example:
One group’s attitudes may not reflect those of the larger population.
ARTICLES ABOUT WRITING
How spelling mistakes and bad email etiquette can help you get ahead
An entertaining article by Kevin Roose, writer at New York Magazine.
Would you reply as casually as this to an email from Facebook founder Zuckerberg?
‘Thanks 🙂 would be happy to meet – I’ll let you know when I make it up to the Bay Area.’
Smashwords style guide
This free guide offers simple step-by-step instructions to create, format and publish an ebook.
Memorable punctuation in literature
‘Marley was dead: to begin with.’ (Dickens). Kathryn Schulz looks at five memorable punctuation usages in literature. Has any punctuation usage stayed in your mind after you’ve read a book?
‘Like’ is used more today than previously
Research by Cambridge University shows that children say ‘like’ five times more than their grandparents and that language is becoming more informal.
WORD OF THE MONTH
Definition: an insect that lands at random on the printed page, depositing an apostrophe wherever it lands.
Discovered in 2002 by British journalist Ian Mayes
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
‘And how is clarity to be achieved? Mainly by taking trouble and by writing to serve people rather than to impress them.’
Frank Lucas, British scholar and writer