Research: MLP’s continual quest flouted

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Your Mrs. Language Person’s continual quest for good grammar is often — if not continuously — flouted (but not flaunted, at least by none other than she). Said quest, Dear Reader, is not continuous; nay, the piteously Snitty Old Biddy doth need her rest betwixt (enough of the archaic, you say? Oh, fine then.) those useless attempts to prevent the utter annihilation of her precious English.

What a cumbersome sentence.

Her quest is continual, you see, but not continuous, because that quest is interrupted. It is flouted, but not flaunted, because it is unostentatious and ignored.

Huh?

Allow your MLP — whose admonitions give “overkill” a new meaning — to be clear about this and other commonly mistaken substitutions:

Continual means chronically repeated, but with breaks between. Continuous means without interruption. MLP’s columns are continual (interrupted by other columns); sunrises are continuous (repeating daily).

Comprise (not “comprised of,” please!) means to contain or consist of. “Priscilla, Jim, and Sholeh (please note the Oxford comma) comprise a group of word-nerds.” Their group is not comprised of anything; they comprise the group. However …

Composed of (to constitute, to make a whole) is likely what people mean. That staff is composed of five ignoramuses.

Flaunt (display ostentatiously), flout (disregard). How MLP cringes upon hearing of another renegade who “flaunts the rules.” Imagine those flaunted rules with twinkling lights, surrounded by a feather boa perhaps. One flouts the rules. One flaunts a diamond watch.

Kudos (no, that’s not plural) is Greek for “praise,” and in singular form. You might give MLP kudos, Dear Readers, but kudos are never due her. There is no such thing as “a kudo.” There is only kudos.

Sneaked (not snuck): The past tense of sneak is sneaked. Even more generous dictionaries dislike “snuck,” calling it “informal.”

Close, or proximity (closeness). Not close proximity, which is redundant. Can something be in far proximity? Of course not. Which brings to mind another cringer: “nearby.” Near and by (in this context) both mean close to. Just stick with “by the road” or “the house is near.” Juxtaposing them results in a smash-up, lest MLP’s end be near(by).

More important(ly), most important(ly). First, which do you mean? If it is “most” it takes the top spot. If it is “more” it is a gradient above a previously made point; did you have one? More to the point, “ly” is unnecessary. It’s more or most important. Most important (shudder), in writing it can generally be omitted anyway. If it is more or most important, the point will make itself. These simply sound awkward.

Notoriety means fame, but not the good kind. Think “notorious” — infamous, scandalous. It’s quite funny, if not libelous, when this oft-misused word describes someone who’s become famous for a neutral or positive reason. If Senator X gains notoriety, she’s unlikely to be re-elected. One hopes.

Literally (factually, exactly as stated). Your MLP literally feels sick repeating this: Literally does not mean figuratively (as if; metaphorically). If she literally hit the roof every time she hears it, her brain would be mush by now (well, as a matter of fact …). This may figuratively blow your mind, but if you tell MLP to literally go fly a kite she’d have to buy one first.

Fortuitous does not mean lucky” or fortunate; it simply means “by chance.” If MLP gets hit by a bus, that’s fortuitous. If she wins the lottery and can quit writing columns, that would be fortunate. Come to think of it, a lottery win is both fortunate and highly fortuitous. Where’d she put that ticket?

•••

Mrs. Language Person and Sholeh Patrick are reluctant grammarians who write for the Hagadone News Network. Contact them at Sholeh@cdapress.com until they hit the lottery.

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