The Compulsive Copyeditor

February 15, 2012

I Am on a One-Woman Campaign . . .

Filed under: language degenerating — amba12 @ 4:20 pm

. . . to get the extra syllable out of the word “preventative.”

My contention is that if we don’t say “preventate” or “preventation,” we have no business saying “preventative.”

What is it about those extra syllables that makes people feel well padded against the rapiers of rivals and the cold winds of humble reality? Is using such a pomped-up word driven by the same sort of impulse as buying cheap stainless steel tableware tricked out to look like an 18th-century aristocrat’s silver, or framing a mail-order doctorate? Or is it that “preventive” just doesn’t sound thick enough to be . . . protectative?

What other words can you think of that this is done to?

February 6, 2012

Usage Find of the Day

Filed under: Usage Find of the Day — amba12 @ 1:03 pm

Don’t you just love it when a mistake—in this case, a conflation of two expressions—creates something better than the original? From an essay by a science writer:

Evolution has beaten us to the punch line.

That’s so good I wondered for a moment if it was intentional. If it had been in reference to human anatomy, I would’ve been sure of it.  From the context, however, I’m pretty sure it’s just a happy mistake.

Blog at