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Month: February 2018

“Constitute” and Its Established Cousins

“Constitute” and Its Established Cousins

This post lists and defines a small family of words derived from a Latin verb meaning “set” that share the element -stitute.

Statuere, stemming from the Latin verb stare, meaning “stand,” alludes to establishment or causing to stand. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s also the forebear of statute and statue, but words that include -stitute are also descended from statuere.

To constitute (literally, “set with”) is to compose, form, or make up, or to enact or establish. Constitution is the act of doing so, and a constitution is a body of laws and principles for an entity such as an organization or a government, or the document setting them forth. That term also refers to the makeup of an entity, including an individual, or to a custom or law or to the mode of organization for a society or a state. The adjective constitutional applies to all senses, and in that form the word also serves as a noun referring to a walk one takes for fitness.

Destitute (“set away”) means “lacking,” usually in the context of personal wealth; the state of lack is called destitution.

To institute (“set in”) is to establish, inaugurate, or organize, and an institute is an entity organized for a purpose, such as instruction, or promotion of a cause. Institution is the act of establishment, and an institution is a facility or organization, or a significant component or practice.

Restitute (“reset”) is a rare verb meaning “give back” or “restore,” but the noun form, meaning “act of making good or restoring” (usually in a financial context), is common. The legal term
“restitutio in integrum” (“total reinstatement”) refers to restoration to a previous state, and a restitutionist is one who believes in religious doctrine based on ultimate restoration to a pristine state.

To prostitute (“stand before”) is to offer oneself, sexually or otherwise, for monetary gain; the act or practice is prostitution.

Substitute (“set under”) means “put in place of another,” and as a noun or adjective refers to someone or something that serves in place of another.” The act of doing so is substitution.

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3 Types of Errors Involving the Correlative Conjunction “Either”

3 Types of Errors Involving the Correlative Conjunction “Either”

When either and or are employed in a sentence to frame two alternatives, the correlative conjunction either is often misplaced, usually rendering the sentence more or less comprehensible but potentially introducing confusion. For each of the examples below, a discussion explains the problem, and a revision provides a solution.

1. She’s either criticized for being too fat or too thin.

In this type of sentence, placing either before a verb that precedes two alternatives implies that the verb applies only to the first alternative and that a corresponding verb will appear before the second one, but that does not occur. To render such a sentence correctly, relocate the correlative conjunction to follow the verb, so that both alternatives can share it: “She’s criticized for being either too fat or too thin.”

2. Teachers would either be paid extra to supervise the sessions, or nonteaching staff would be employed.”

This sentence does not pertain to two choices involving teachers, so the conjunction must precede, rather than follow, the subject so that it applies to the first alternative and or introduces the second one: “Either teachers would be paid extra to supervise the sessions, or nonteaching staff would be employed.”

3. We have seen many firms in which the manager reported either to the general counsel or a business leader.

In this case, the sentence would be correct only if a complementary to preceded the phrase “a business leader.” Otherwise, transpose either and to so that the alternative phrases can share the single instance of to: “We have seen many firms in which the manager reported to either the general counsel or a business leader.”

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3 Types of Hyphenation Errors with Numbers

3 Types of Hyphenation Errors with Numbers

Writers are easily confused by, or are negligent about, proper use of hyphenation with phrases with numbers, whether the numbers are represented in spelled-out or numeral form. The following sentences represent various types of erroneous use of hyphenation; a discussion after each one points out the problem, and a revision resolves it.

1. In April 2016, the Houston area was soaked by a once-in-10,000 years rainfall event.

This sentence, which refers to a rainfall event of the type that occurs once in 10,000 years, includes a phrasal adjective representing that frequency, and year is part of the phrase, so it must be connected to the rest of it: “In April 2016, the Houston area was soaked by a once-in-10,000-years rainfall event.” Alternatively, the statement can be relaxed (and rendered less cluttered and easier to read) by converting the phrasal adjective to a modifying phrase that follows “rainfall event”: “In April 2016, the Houston area was soaked by a rainfall event of the kind that occurs perhaps once in 10,000 years.”

2. In last year’s survey, 43 percent of 40-49 year-olds reported using the bank’s app.

Here, as often, an attempt at suspensive hyphenation, in which one or more words is elided when two equivalent terms can share a supporting word or phrase common to them, has gone awry. The full version of the descriptive phrase is “40-year-olds to 49-year-olds,” and the omission of the first instance of “year-olds” should result in the following rendering: “In last year’s survey, 43 percent of 40- to 49-year-olds reported using the bank’s app.” (If a publications style dictates spelled-out numbers, the correct treatment is “In last year’s survey, 43 percent of forty- to forty-nine-year-olds reported using the bank’s app.”)

3. We expect to complete the project within the next five-to-ten years.

The number range in this sentence is incorrectly styled due to a writer’s mistaken belief that because a range is involved, one or more hyphens belong in there somewhere. What is required, technically, is an en dash (–) rather than a hyphen (-)—but only if the numbers are treated as numerals: “We expect to complete the project within the next 5–10 years.” (Some publications, including many newspapers, dispense with the en dash and use a hyphen in such cases, but most books and magazines employ it; usage online and in other print media varies.) When the numbers are spelled out, no connective symbols are required: “We expect to complete the project within the next five to ten years.”

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Original post: 3 Types of Hyphenation Errors with Numbers

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60 Words for Types of Restaurants

60 Words for Types of Restaurants

This post lists dozens of words, many adopted from foreign languages that describe a specific type of restaurant. (Restaurant itself stems from a Latin verb meaning “restore.”)

1. bar: an establishment where liquor and sometimes food are served
2. bar and grill: an establishment that features a bar but also serves food
3. barroom: see bar
4. beanery: slang for an informal restaurant
5. bistro (French, “proprietor of a tavern”): a small, informal restaurant, bar, or nightclub
6. boîte (French, “box”): see nightclub
7. brasserie (French, “brewery”): an informal restaurant, often one serving French food
8. buffet (French, “counter”): a self-serve restaurant; also, in British English, a small informal restaurant at a railway station
9. cabaret (French; ultimately from Latin camera, “chamber”): a restaurant that serves liquor and features live entertainment; also, the entertainment at such an establishment
10. café (French, “coffee”): a small, informal restaurant
11. cafeteria (American Spanish, “coffeehouse”): see luncheonette; also, an informal, self-serve restaurant
12. caff (British English slang for café): see café
13. canteen: a snack bar or small cafeteria; also, a bar or store at a military post, an informal social club, a flask for carrying liquids, or a chest for carrying or storing bottles or utensils
14. chophouse: slang for restaurant
15. coffee shop: a small, informal restaurant
16. coffee room: see coffeehouse
17. coffeehouse: an informal establishment that serves coffee and often refreshments
18. delicatessen (German, “delicacy”): an establishment where already-prepared food is sold and sometimes served; often abbreviated to deli
19. diner: an informal restaurant, originally one resembling a dining car on a train
20. drive-in: a restaurant, usually one serving fast food, that serves food ready to eat in one’s parked car or packaged to take home
21. eatery: see luncheonette
22. eating house: an informal restaurant, often one serving inexpensive and/or mediocre food
23. estaminet (French, “tavern”): see café
24. fast-food place: an informal establishment where prepared food is served quickly
25. food court: an area within a shopping mall with multiple fast-food restaurants
26. food truck: a truck or van that serves prepackaged food or food cooked in the vehicle
27. greasy spoon (American slang, from the notion of a place with unclean eating utensils): see “eating house”
28. grill: an informal restaurant
29. grillroom: see grill
30. hamburger stand: a small fast-food restaurant specializing in hamburgers
31. hash house: an inexpensive restaurant
32. hashery: see “hash house”
33. hot dog stand: a small fast-food restaurant specializing in hot dogs
34. inn: see tavern; also, sometimes one offering lodging
35. joint: slang for an informal restaurant or bar; also, slang for prison or a disreputable entertainment venue, and has multiple other unrelated meanings
36. lunch counter: see luncheonette; also, a counter inside a store at which food is served
37. lunch wagon: see diner
38. luncheonette: a small restaurant that offers lunch, often self-serve
39. lunchroom: see luncheonette; also, a room at a school for eating lunch sold there or brought from home
40. nightclub: an establishment serving food and drink and featuring live entertainment
41. nightspot: see nightclub
42–43. nitery (or niterie): see nightclub
44. pizzeria (Italian, “place where pizza is served,” from pizza, “bite”): a restaurant where pizzas and other Italian dishes are served
45. pothouse: see tavern; also, as “pot house,” a house where marijuana is grown and/or sold
46. pub (short for “public house”): see tavern
47. rathskeller (obsolete German, “council cellar,” from its origins as an establishment in the cellar of a town hall): a restaurant or tavern, usually one located in a basement
48. ristorante (Italian, “restaurant”): a restaurant serving Italian food
49. roadhouse: an establishment outside city limits that may serve food as well as liquor and features live or recorded music
50. saloon: see bar
51. supper club: see nightclub
52. snack bar: an establishment at which snacks are served at a counter
53. soda fountain: an establishment or area within a store for serving beverages, ice cream, and sometimes food
54. steakhouse: a restaurant specializing in beef dishes
55. taqueria (Spanish, “place where tacos are served”): an informal restaurant serving Mexican food
56. tavern: an establishment where liquor and sometimes food are served
57. tea shop (British English): see teahouse
58. teahouse: a restaurant where tea and refreshments are served
59. tearoom: see teahouse
60. trattoria (Italian, “establishment of a restaurateur,” from a word for “treat”): a small restaurant, usually one serving Italian food

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Grammar Quiz #22: Smothered Verbs

Grammar Quiz #22: Smothered Verbs

Each of the following sentences includes a smothered verb (i.e., a word that has been formed from a verb). Revise the sentences as necessary for conciseness:

1. The committee will hold a meeting this Wednesday evening at seven o’clock.

2. I will make a decision after studying the criteria you have given me.

3. We hope someone can provide an answer to this political question.

4. A school counselor’s job is to give advice to the students.

5. Please take into consideration the suggestion your father made.

Answers and Explanations

In order to improve sentences containing smothered verbs you simply need to replace them with the original verbs. Example: Her guardian has made provision for her in his will. You should replace “has made provision” with “provided.”

1.
Original: The committee will hold a meeting this Wednesday evening at seven o’clock.
Correct : The committee will meet this Wednesday evening at seven o’clock.

2.
Original: I will make a decision after studying the criteria you have given me.
Correct : I will decide after studying the criteria you have given me.

3.
Original: We hope someone can provide an answer to this political question.
Correct : We hope someone can answer this political question.

4.
Original: A school counselor’s job is to give advice to the students.
Correct : A school counselor’s job is to advise the students.

5.
Original: Please take into consideration the suggestion your father made.
Correct : Please consider the suggestion your father made.

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3 Examples of How Missing Words Cause Confusion

3 Examples of How Missing Words Cause Confusion

In each of the following sentences, the absence of a word or phrase is an obstacle to clarity. Discussion after each sentence explains the problem, and a revision provides the solution.

1. The naturally occurring electrolytes are significantly higher than other brands.

The comparison in this sentence is not between electrolytes and other brands; it is between electrolytes in a product marketed under one brand and electrolytes in a product marketed under other brands. This revision uses a pronoun and a preposition to communicate the true equivalency: “The naturally occurring electrolytes are significantly higher than those in other brands.”

2. The contraception app has become a popular alternative because it doesn’t involve taking any medicines, inserting devices, or hormone patches.

Three older contraceptive methods are listed in counterpoint to a newer one, but while the sentence structure requires a verb to precede the word or phrase for each method, “hormone patches” lacks one. This revision inserts a verb: “The contraception app has become a popular alternative because it doesn’t involve taking any medicines, inserting devices, or using hormone patches.”

3. Financial institutions are no longer required to implement the rule and retain the option of including mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.

This sentence is structured as if it consists of a single main clause, but logic requires that it be constructed of two independent clauses. It reads as if “implement the rule” and “retain the option . . .” are equivalent, but the complementary phrases are “are no longer required to implement the rule” and the entire portion of the sentence following the conjunction, so a noun or pronoun must be inserted after the conjunction (along with a comma before it) to form the second independent clause: “Financial institutions are no longer required to implement the rule, and they retain the option of including mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.”

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3 Types of Faulty In-Line Lists

3 Types of Faulty In-Line Lists

This post includes three examples of how sentences can go wrong because the writer has failed to support the sentence structure with the proper syntactical arrangement of words and phrases in relation to each other. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and one or more revisions demonstrate solutions.

1. The training materials should be communicated in a way that is clear, appropriate for the users, and highlights the key benefits of the change.

This type of sentence is flawed in that the writer mistakenly assumes that a verb serves more than one list item, and therefore leaves one or more items bereft of support. Here, “appropriate for the users” requires its own verb (“is appropriate for the users”) to complement “is clear,” and the phrase beginning with highlights must be attached by a conjunction to, rather than separated with a comma from, the sentence element with which it shares a verb (with the insertion of a corresponding preposition for the first element and a complementary pronoun for the final one): “The training materials should be communicated in a way that is clear to and appropriate for the users and that highlights the key benefits of the change.”

2. Operational risk incidents can result in significant losses to the company, the industry, and, ultimately, to investors.

This sentence has an error similar to that of the previous example, but in this case, a preposition, rather than a verb, is expected to handle a syntactical burden it is not qualified to carry—
“the industry,” just like “the company” and investors, must have its own preposition: “Operational risk incidents can result in significant losses to the company, to the industry, and, ultimately, to investors.” (Alternatively, all three elements can share the first instance of the preposition: “Operational risk incidents can result in significant losses to the company, the industry, and, ultimately, investors.”)

3. Traditional financial institutions have significantly enhanced their risk and compliance programs by increasing resources, clarifying roles and responsibilities, upgrading their governance frameworks, as well as maintaining higher levels of capital.

Here, a list is treated as if it consists of four items, but as constructed, the sentence has three items followed by a related item set off by the phrase “as well as”; because the last item is not part of the list, the item that does finish the list must be preceded by a conjunction: “Traditional financial institutions have significantly enhanced their risk and compliance programs by increasing resources, clarifying roles and responsibilities, and upgrading their governance frameworks, as well as maintaining higher levels of capital.”

Better yet, simply incorporate the final phrase, for which distinctive treatment has no justification, into the list: “Traditional financial institutions have significantly enhanced their risk and compliance programs by increasing resources, clarifying roles and responsibilities, upgrading their governance frameworks, and maintaining higher levels of capital.”

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3 Types of Extended Phrasal Adjectives

3 Types of Extended Phrasal Adjectives

Each of the following sentences includes a phrasal adjective (two or more words that modify a noun) consisting of several words, and each requires hyphenation missing from that phrase. Discussion after each example explains the problem, and revisions demonstrate solutions.

1. These remain front and center priorities for organizations.

When a phrase structured as “[blank] and [blank]” and serving to modify a noun precedes the noun, hyphenate the three words: “These remain front-and-center priorities for organizations.” However, no hyphenation is necessary when the phrase follows the noun: “These priorities remain front and center for organizations.”

2. This guide includes a special supplement on the first of its kind regulation requiring certification and screening programs.

The same holds true for any more extensive phrase providing more details about a noun that follows the phrase—hyphenate the phrase into a unified chain: “This guide includes a special supplement on the first-of-its-kind regulation requiring certification and screening programs.” Again, omit hyphens when the phrase follows the noun: “This guide includes a special supplement on the regulation, the first of its kind, requiring certification and screening programs.”

3. It was a wrong place, wrong time situation for me.

When a phrase that represents or alludes to a standing expression precedes a noun, as in the abridgment of the sentiment “[One] was in the wrong place at the wrong time” in the example above, string the phrase together with hyphens, deleting any punctuation internal to the phrase: “It was a wrong-place-wrong-time situation for me.” Once again, omit hyphens (and retain applicable punctuation) when the phrase follows the noun: “The situation was a case of wrong place, wrong time for me.”

Enclosing the phrase in quotation marks is an alternative (“It was a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ situation for me”), but this strategy should be reserved for phrasal adjectives of unwieldy length that, because they are part of a direct quote, cannot be relocated after the noun in a revised sentence.

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3 Types of Compound-Word Errors

3 Types of Compound-Word Errors

Compound words can easily confuse writers. Compound nouns, for example, are variously styled closed (for example, horseshoe), hyphenated (light-year), and open (“income tax”). But correctly formatting a noun isn’t the only challenge when it comes to determining whether one word or two is appropriate. This post discusses three classes of errors in usage regarding compounds.

First, adverbs such as altogether and prepositions like nevertheless and notwithstanding are often styled “all together,” “not withstanding,” and “never the less,” but although use of these phrases is at least plausible (for example, “When they were all together, we found that they were more likely to agree”), when they serve as adverbs and prepositions, it is never correct to treat them as separate words. (Yes, all and together are both adverbs, but “all together” is a sequence of two adverbs, one intensifying the other, not a single adverb.)

On the other hand, the following phrases are never correct as one word: alot, alright, eachother, moreso, and nevermind (except, in the latter case, as the title of a certain album). (Alright is in the dictionary, and I’ve used it in this post, but those appearances are merely acknowledgments of its existence, not endorsements.) Everyday, meanwhile, is correct only as an adjective (as in the phrase “everyday savings”), not standing on its own (the correct treatment is “You’ll find savings every day”).

Then there is a large class of words that, like everyday, are correctly closed in one grammatical form and open in another. For example, when one writes that one plans to work out, the verb phrase is treated correctly. But when describing what one plans to do, one refers to “doing a workout.” This is true of numerous verb-preposition phrases such as “log in,” “break down,” and “mark up” that become closed compounds when they serve as nouns. Note, however, that there are exceptions, including come-on, in which the compound is hyphenated as shown. (Such exceptions generally persist because of the aversion to having two consecutive vowels in a compound word.)

Navigating such vagaries of the English language is annoying, but we are fortunate to have at our disposal dictionaries and other helpful resources.

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Grammar Quiz #21: Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses

Grammar Quiz #21: Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses

A nonrestrictive clause is a subordinate clause that may be left out of a sentence without significantly altering the meaning expressed by the main clause. In a restrictive clause, on the other hand, the information is related to a word in the main clause. Nonrestrictive clauses are set off by commas; restrictive clauses are not. Add commas where needed in the following sentences.

1. Edward Johnson who has been accepted by several colleges will go to Harvard this fall.

2. We are looking for someone who went to Harvard.

3. I see you are wearing the jacket that Mother bought you for Christmas last year.

4. Mr. Hawkins who is an avid antique car enthusiast bought a 1929 Ford coupe.

5. People who are uncomfortable in crowds shouldn’t go to the movie theater.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: Edward Johnson who has been accepted by several colleges will go to Harvard this fall.
Correct : Edward Johnson, who has been accepted by several colleges, will go to Harvard this fall.

The nonrestrictive clause “who has been accepted by several colleges” needs commas. The important information is that Edward Johnson will go to Harvard. His being accepted elsewhere doesn’t affect this information.

2.
Original: We are looking for someone who went to Harvard.
Correct : We are looking for someone who went to Harvard.

This is a restrictive clause, so no commas are needed. The “who went to Harvard” tells what kind of “someone” is wanted.

3.
Original: I see you are wearing the jacket that Mother bought you for Christmas last year.
Correct : I see you are wearing the jacket that Mother bought you for Christmas last year.

The clause “that Mother bought you for Christmas last year” is a restrictive clause identifying which particular jacket is being worn. No commas are needed.

4.
Original: Mr. Hawkins who is an avid antique car enthusiast bought a 1929 Ford coupe.
Correct : Mr. Hawkins, who is an avid antique car enthusiast, bought a 1929 Ford coupe.

The clause “who is an avid antique car enthusiast” is nonrestrictive. Commas are needed to set it off. The fact that Mr. Hawkins is an antique car enthusiast is secondary and dispensable information. Anyone with the money could buy a 1929 Ford coupe.

5.
Original: People who are uncomfortable in crowds shouldn’t go to the movie theater.
Correct : People who are uncomfortable in crowds shouldn’t go to the movie theater.

The restrictive clause “who are uncomfortable in crowds” doesn’t need commas. It identifies the people who shouldn’t go to the movie theater.

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Original post: Grammar Quiz #21: Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses

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