Sunday, September 30, 2012

Do I spell it offence or offense?

There are a variety of words that seem to be spelled really similarly--with maybe just one letter different, and it often causes confusion when you're trying to figure out which is the correct spelling.  When I was teaching English in Mexico, students often asked me if they were spelling words like "colour" incorrectly because they would spell it "color."  It was a great teachable moment to point out the difference between British and American spellings.  The good news is that "offense" and and "offence" have the same explanation.  Offense is the preferred American spelling, and offence seems to be preferred everywhere else.

However, you may be wondering if words like practise and practice or advise and advice are also like the offense/offence situation.  In this case, they are not.  Practise and advise are verbs, and practice and advice are nouns, so you'll have to make sure you use them appropriately if you're wondering which spelling to use.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Does it annoy you when you hear someone say "different than"?

I was taught that "different from" is the correct usage when comparing two things, so I did indeed feel annoyed when I would hear people say "different than".  But today, I'm stealing information from one of my favourite web sites, The Oxford Dictionary online.  Here's what they have to say about the matter:

Different from, than, or to?

Is there any difference between the expressions different from, different than, and different to? Is one of the three ‘more correct’ than the others?
In practice, different from is by far the most common of the three, in both British and American English:
We want to demonstrate that this government is different from previous governments. (British English)
This part is totally different from anything else that he's done. (American English)
Different than is mainly used in American English:
Teenagers certainly want to look different than their parents.
Different to is much more common in British English than American English:
In this respect the Royal Academy is no different to any other major museum.
Some people criticize different than as incorrect but there’s no real justification for this view. There’s little difference in sense between the three expressions, and all of them are used by respected writers.

My take on it is that because I love and prefer the Oxford English Dictionary, even if it doesn't contain Canadian spellings, I'll go with their point of view on this grammatical question.  I guess the cat is out of the bag regarding my biases, but that's the beauty of Canadian English because both British and American spellings and usage are considered to be correct, so we have the freedom to choose :o)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Baby Animals

I was on such a great roll for a while with my blog posts, but I am back to being sporadic.  I'm sure if you had been on the edge of your seat for the last post in my series on redundancies, you would have long fallen off.  I'm fairly certain this did not happen to anyone, not because I believe that gravity went haywire, but because I don't think anyone was that excited about the end of the redundancy series.  Maybe I underestimate myself.

Anyway, my last pet peeve when it comes to redundancies is when people say, "There were baby bunnies at the pet store", or "My cat just bad baby kittens."  This bugs me to no end because the words bunny and kitten are the words to call the babies of rabbits and cats, respectively.  They never refer to adult varieties of these animals; you could never say "There were adult bunnies at the pet store", or "My cat just had adult kittens".  Statements like that are just semantically incorrect.  I also hear it a lot with baby chicks, rather than just chicks as the babies of chickens or other birds.  It's one thing if you don't know the name for the babies, so you might say "baby horse" or "baby rabbit", but a baby bunny just makes no sense to me.

I should admit that it's often little kids that use these types of phrases, but because they're kids, I don't expect them to know better.  What I do expect is their parents not to mind if I have the urgent need to correct them! ;o)