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Category Archives: Errors

Marten or martin?

This Troublesome Pair is another animal one, so it kind of goes with mink or minke and maybe even mandrel or mandrill. So, what is the difference between a marten and a martin? Well, one of them’s an animal and one of them’s a bird …

The marten is the animal – it’s the weaselly mammal that lives in the coniferous and northern deciduous forests of Europe, Asia and North America. I call them weaselly; they aren’t weasels, but they are related to weasels, mink and ferrets, as well as wolverines and badgers (I didn’t know a wolverine was a real thing. I feel a wolf or wolverine post coming on now!).  In the UK, we have pine martens in Scotland and there’s a European pine marten too, as well as a Japanese variety.

The martin, then, is the bird. The name is used for a subset of the swallow family, which are found all around the world, apart from on Antarctica. There’s a very detailed Wikipedia article about how exactly the swallows are divided up into river martins and everything else – we probably know house martins and sand martins best, but there’s a lot of them around. Apparently, house and purple martins have developed a habit of only nesting around houses and in special nesting boxes, so hardly ever nest truly in the wild any more.

So, no pine martins or house martens, please!

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2017 in Errors, Language use

 

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Mink or minke?

This Troublesome Pair was suggested to me by my friend Julia quite a while ago – thank you! I’m always open to suggestions! Oh, and do you like the new picture for these posts – now I have managed to capture all my new editions in all their glory?

So, two animal words (and I feel some more coming on, now I’ve thought of these).

A mink is a semi-aquatic carnivore which is a bit like a stoat, and is unfortunately bred for its fur. It has Eurasian and North American variants, and the word is used to describe the fur, too. I’m sad now, thinking about poor fur-farmed animals. Moving on, no arguing about the plural, because it can be mink OR minks! Shocking!

A minke is a type of whale – a rorqual whale in fact. It’s grey on top and white underneath, and apparently the name only originates from the 1930s. A rorqual whale is a baleen whale which has pleated skin on its underneath, and the group includes fin, blue and humpback whales. A baleen whale is one of the ones with the whalebone sieve in its mouth to filter food. I’m going to stop there …

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2017 in Errors, Language use

 

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More Control Key keyboard shortcuts Ctrl-J and more

hands typing I have previously written about the wonders of Control-F and how this keyboard shortcut  finds text in almost everything (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, web pages, WordPress back-end, etc., etc., etc). Then I discussed other Control- or Ctrl+ keyboard shortcuts that you can use to copy and paste, embolden, italicise and underline, find, goto and replace, undo, redo and open, new, print and save. But I’ve recently had some questions about the remaining Control Key commands, so let’s round up what they do.

Why do we use keyboard shortcuts?

Keyboard shortcuts are used to save wear and tear on the wrists, to interact with a computer in other ways than just using two hands and a mouse, to save time, and, maybe, to show off your amazing computer skills.

What are the rest of the keyboard shortcuts using the Control key, then?

Ctrl-D – open the Font dialogue box using Control Key + D

Ctrl-E – centres the text in which the cursor is situated (this acts a toggle, so will un-centre centred text)

Ctrl-J – makes the text in which the cursor is situated become fully justified (again, this is a toggle, so the text will return to left justification (in a left-to-right alphabet document) if it’s already fully justified)

Ctrl-K – opens the Hyperlink dialogue box – make sure you have the text that you want to create a link for highlighted before pressing Control + k

Ctrl-L – makes the text in which the cursor in situated become left-justified (a toggle, so if it’s already only left-justified, pressing this will return the text to its full justification)

Ctrl-M – increases the indent on the left (much like the Tab key)

Ctrl-Q – removes indenting, so if you haven’t got any, it will seem this doesn’t do anything

Ctrl-R – makes the text in which the cursor is located become right-justified (a toggle, so pressing this in text that is already right-justified will change it to left-justified)

Ctrl-T – moves just the bottom indent slider across one tab at a time to create a hanging indent

Ctrl-W – closes the document, giving you the option to save

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Did you know ALL of these shortcuts? They’ll save you some mouse clicks and some are a lot quicker and more useful than the other methods you can use to get the same results. Which are your favourites?

Related posts on this blog:

How to find text almost anywhere

Changing from lower case to upper case

Using the Control key shortcuts (the ones that aren’t here)

Find all of the short cuts here

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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Disc or disk?

Disc or disk?

I will have to re-do this picture soon. I now have a new “New Oxford Style Manual”, a new “Concise Oxford English Dictionary” and a new “AP Stylebook” AND my new “Chicago Manual of Style” should be arriving tomorrow. Time for a new photo then, I think.

Anyway, it’s Troublesome Pairs time and I had to check this one just in case the other day when I was doing a transcription – really, we don’t use these words very often now that computers don’t use floppy disks any more, and although vinyl records are a ‘thing’ again, they tend to be referred to as ‘vinyls’ rather than ‘discs’. Oops, I’ve given the game away already, haven’t I!

So, just to spell it all out for future reference …

A disc is a flat round thing (also used metaphorically, for example for the Sun, which is obviously really a sphere) and is the spelling used for the kind of disc that is a record. I think a disc only has to be flatter than it’s round to be a disc, because you get discs of cartilage in your spine which can slip.

A disk is the computer kind of item. It contains a disc on which data can be magnetically or optically stored (the latter including CD-ROMs).

And just to confuse, in the UK you can spell both with a k, and then you have to work out which it is from the context.

The talk of the first kind of disc got me thinking about cylinders. These have straight sides and an oval or circular cross-section, so in effect a disc is a kind of cylinder as long as it has some kind of three dimensional existence.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs

 

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irrupt or erupt?

irrupt or erupt?

 

This one was suggested by my husband, a keen birdwatcher (see below for why that’s relevant) and adder of troublesome pairs to my list.

Erupt is perhaps the better-known of the two. To erupt is to forcefully throw out rocks, lava, gas and ash, if you’re a volcano. The next meaning is to break out suddenly, usually used of something like a fight, and similarly, you can erupt into laughter, meaning it happens suddenly and forcefully. Finally, a spot or rash erupts when it appears suddenly on the skin, and a tooth erupts through a gum when it grows in your mouth and becomes visible.

To irrupt, also a verb, means to burst into somewhere, to enter suddenly or even forcibly. The kind of thing people do when they break down a door. Interestingly, I’ve seen people being described as “erupting” in this sense, but let’s use irrupt here if we can, to preserve those two senses, yes? The second (and husband-relevant) meaning is to migrate into an area in large – that’s abnormally large – numbers, and it’s especially used of birds. So when an awful lot of waxwings descended on some trees with berries in a Birmingham car park, that was them irrupting. Or an irruption.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2017 in Errors, Language use

 

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Surfeit or surplus?

Surfeit or surplus?

This Troublesome Pair was suggested to me by my husband. He’s good at coming up with these; I’m not sure how many have been suggested  by him over the years. Both of these words mean an excess, but one just means “more” while the other means “too much!” There are some interesting archaic terms, too. For example, I always ‘knew’ that “King John died of a surfeit of lampreys” but I didn’t know exactly what that word meant, thinking it was standing for just “too much of” rather than a more specific meaning.*

A surplus is the amount that’s left over when you’ve met all your requirements. So if you have a bag of broad beans to cover every week for the next year and you will carry on with your next harvest once those are used up, anything over 52 bags is your surplus. In accounting terms, it means the positive difference between income/assets and expenditure over a period, so if I earn £100 from selling broad beans but spend £30 on bags to sell them in, my surplus is £70. And in even more specific accounting terms, it means the amount by which a company’s assets are worth more than the face value of its stock.

So a surplus doesn’t really carry the idea of TOO MUCH, whereas a surfeit is the “too much” one. It just really means an excess, but it isn’t really used in a positive sense (unless you’ve found examples – do share if you have). And in archaic terms, it was an illness that was caused by excessive drinking or eating – so King John’s “surfeit” wasn’t an excess of lampreys but the illness brought on by having eaten the excess of lampreys. If we go back to our broad beans, although it’s subjective, I’d say that having, for example, 104 bags of broad beans when you only need 52 would count as having a surfeit.

I do love these small distinctions. Interestingly, surfeit and surplus both come from Latin via Middle English (thank you, OED), so it’s not one of those cases where we have one Germanic and one Latinate word for the same thing.

And the obsession with vegetable produce? Blame the people who presumably have allotments and keep leaving courgettes out on walls and the pavement for people to take and runners to trip over / jump.

*Edited to add: Oh, deary me. I have been informed by reader Ian Johnston that “It was Henry I that died from a surfeit of lampreys, John fined the City of Gloucester for failing to deliver him a lamprey pie at Christmas; a dearth not a surfeit of lampreys”. Thank you to Ian for pointing that out and I stand corrected!

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all! The index is finally UP TO DATE so go and have a look and tell me which is your favourite so far!

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2017 in Errors, Language use

 

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Sere, seer or sear?

Sere, seer or sear?

 

This Troublesome Trio was suggested to me by the ever-helpful Linda from Linda Proofreads – thank you! Those among you with good memories will recall that she’s suggested pairs before – they can’t be infinite but I certainly haven’t thought of them all yet.

So three words with very different meanings that are spelled differently but are all pronounced the same.

Sere is an adjective (and a literary one at that) which means “withered” and can also be spelled sear, and I always thought it meant dry and kind of nobly so, so that shows it’s always worth looking things up in a variety of sources before you confidently bung down what you think something means from your vast experience, etc. It’s also a fairly new word (only around 120 years old) for a series of animal or plant communities which have been formed from succession, for example the endless lavender plants that my garden produces, one from the other but still in the same area.

A seer is a person who can see visions of the future, a prophet or the like. Seer can also be used in a very old-fashioned way to describe someone who sees a specific thing, but I would shy away from using it in that sense, to be honest. It’s also an Asian unit of weight. Who knew?

To sear (a verb) means to burn or even scorch something with an intense and sudden heat, and is often used to describe browning meat or other foods at a high temperature. As an extension into a metaphor, something can be seared into your memory of mind, fixed there, the vision of something which you can’t now “unsee”, for example. A searing pain is a strong and sudden burning sensation.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Errors, Language use

 

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