Sunday, July 6, 2014
Here are more words that I find frequently misused.
Decimate and Devastate. To “devastate” is to destroy, totally or almost totally. To “decimate” is to destroy a significant portion—literally, one-tenth. To say that a lawyer’s argument decimated the opponent’s position usually is incorrect. The write probably means to say that the lawyer’s argument devastated the opponent’s position.
E.g. and I.e. “E.g.” means “for example”—“exempli gratia,” in Latin. “I.e.” means “that is”—“id est,” in Latin. The abbreviations are not interchangeable. Except in footnotes, the better practice is to spell out “for example” and “that is.”
Imply and Infer. To “imply” is to suggest, usually as a logical consequence. To “infer” is to deduce from evidence.
Here are some examples from Grammar Girl:
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. — Carl Sagan
I would not wish to imply that most industrial accidents are due to intemperance. But, certainly, temperance has never failed to reduce their number. — William Lyon Mackenzie King
From a drop of water a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other. — Arthur Conan Doyle
We infer the spirit of the nation in great measure from the language, which is a sort of monument, to which each forcible individual in a course of many hundred years has contributed a stone. — Ralph Waldo Emerson