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Pet Peeve: Misuse of Words

On Thursday, TadMack at Finding Wonderland issued a few Most Egregious Misuse awards.  She focused on punctuation errors.  I myself hate finding extra apostrophes places, and often find myself wanting to take a red pen to signs.

It’s not just punctuation that is the problem, however.  Misuse of words is rampant, as well.  I recall once in high school a classmate of mine called something a “gregarious error.”  She was the subject of much mockery.  You see, it’s always better to use the word that best communicates your meaning.  Sometimes you want a less common word for this, because its meaning is more specific than that of other words.  (See how I avoided putting an extra apostrophe in “its”?  It would have been very embarrassing if I hadn’t.)

In some cases, however, I think people use odd words just to sound more educated, or because they are bored with their usual vocabulary.  This is not okay, if they don’t know the meaning of the words.

For example:
While catching up on my kidlit newsletters I came upon an article about a new line of children’s nonfiction books.  In this article, the publisher of these books was quoted as saying their illustrations “provide an infinitesimal range of perspectives.”

Let’s take a look at “infinitesimal,” shall we?

From m-w.com:
 Main Entry: 2infinitesimal
Function: adjective
1 : taking on values arbitrarily close to but greater than zero
2 : immeasurably or incalculably small <an infinitesimal difference>

I don’t think one would want to publish non-fiction that provided only an infinitesimal range of perspectives.  It would be very limiting, wouldn’t it?

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