Darren Bell posts the occasional Candorville strip of the main character, Lemont, (who is a writer) correcting someone’s grammar. I have long held the opinion about the difference between “continual” and “continuous” expressed in this comic. It’s nice to see my opinion confirmed.
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The comic strip Candorville features a fellow, who, like me, is a writer and somewhat of a grammar curmudgeon. This strip touches on one of my hobby horses. You, dear readers (all three of you), are my readership, not my audience. An audience hears, a readership reads. If you want to write to be easily understood, use the best word, not any old word that comes to mind.
(See the previous post, about ambiguity) In that last panel, is he referring to her question, or to what should be on his gravestone?
Malaprops are incorrect words (or non-words) that sound similar to the intended word, often to humorous effect. They are named after a certain Mrs. Malaprop, a character in a Dickens novel (but I read recently she’s in something by Richard Brinsley Sheridan written in the late 1700’s. I’m too lazy to research it.) Here’s a more up-to-date example of this linguistic comedy:
Malaprop, referring to the humorous error, is called a malapropism by some, and this leads me to mention a more insidious error, one that occurs too often among educated folks, (who are more likely to read this blog than people who make malaprops). The error I refer to is pretentiousism. Pretentiousisms are grammatically correct words that are longer, harder to understand, or more obscure than plain, clear writing or speaking. I’ve mentioned pretentiousism in the past; you can search this blog for it.
Don’t add unnecessary syllables or Latinisms to your writing. Don’t say “utilize” when “use” will do. Don’t say “obfuscate” when “confuse” will do. Don’t say “malapropism” when “malaprop” will do.
Here are a few more malaprops, from the pen of the talented Darrin Bell, who writes Candorville:
Some words end in “s” that aren’t plurals. I’m not referring to well-known suffixes such as -ness, either. Neither do I refer to words that end in the ess sound, such as porpoise, or familiar s-ending words with well-known plurals such as glass, grass, pass, and gas.
Some words used to end in -s that we removed the ess sound from to make them sound singular. The most famous, perhaps, is pease, now singularized to pea and a new plural, peas.
I’ll let the comic explain about the rest:
I have seen “physic” in print (it’s now obsolete), and “gymnastic” as an adjective. But the point of this Candorville comic from Oct 12, 2013 is correct: fields of study (-ics) such as physics and mathematics are singulars, and they should get singular verbs.