Yes, we’re doing this again!

I hate to do this yet again, but here we go:

Grammar Police

A cannon is a large gun, used in battles and on ships roughly between the Middle Ages and the American Civil War. Canon is a group of laws, customs and traditions. It comes from the “canon law” of the Catholic Church, but nowadays it usually refers to the accepted facts and mythology of a TV show, movie or video game, such as the “Star Trek canon”.

Dual means consisting of two parts, things or people, as in “she plays the dual roles of CEO and mother”. Duel, on the other hand, was originally a contest between two people using deadly weapons, as in “Alexander Hamilton challenged Aaron Burr to a duel”. These days, “duel” usually has a less lethal meaning, as in “the game was a duel between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady”.

To insure something is to take out a legal financial instrument against loss or damage. You probably insure your car, for example. To ensure something is to make sure that it gets done, as in to “ensure that the insurance check is in the mail”.

A principal is the person in charge of an American school, or the person most responsible for something (as in “she is the book’s principal author”), or a financial term for a sum of money aside from interest or profit, as in “part of your monthly payment goes to interest, and part goes to principal”. On the other hand, principle means a belief or tenet (“he stuck to his principles”) or a rule or law in science (“the principle of capillary attraction”).

Only a monarch or sovereign may reign. If you give someone total access to something, you’ve given them free rein, not “free reign”. Make a monarch mad, and he or she might put your head in a vise (a device used to hold two things together), not a vice (a bad habit, like “smoking is a vice”). The monarch might banish you to a cubicle (a small office, typically created by partitions), but not a cubical, an adjective meaning “cube shaped”. Oh, and if the sovereign did put your head in a vice, you might find it hard to breathe (a verb meaning “to take in air”); breath is a noun meaning “the air taken in and expelled by the body”, as in “he has bad breath”.

Also, just so you know, capital is a sum of money, typically used for investment purposes, or the seat of government, as in “the capital of North Carolina is Raleigh”. However, the actual building where the legislature meets is called the capitol. If you knew that already, I should give you a compliment. Perhaps you might also know which wine is the best complement for beef? Perhaps you can link me to a web site (a place) that provides a cite (documentation) that I can read with my sight (vision).

Did you go to college? If so, you might have participated in protests against things that bothered your conscience (your sense of right and wrong). It’s also possible that you drank so much the night before that you weren’t conscious (awake) when the protest happened. The protest might have been approved by the student council (a group that consults or advises), who might have approved it under the counsel (advice) of the school’s attorneys. Perhaps an eminent (famous) attorney would decide that the imminent (about to take place) protest was covered under the immanet (inherent) rights of free speech in the Constitution. He might decide that the protest is not illicit (illegal) and that would elicit (bring out) cheers from the protesters.

Advice is a noun which means “a recommendation or guidance given to you by a friend, co-worker or family member”. Advise is a verb meaning “the act of giving advice”, such as “as your attorney, I’d advise you to read this post thoroughly”. And let me advise you that heroin is an illegal drug, not the female hero of a story, which is heroine. And that heroine might be blonde, but she can’t be blond, as only dudes can be blond.

And if, by some strange chance, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain happens to read this article, please, please please, please know that providence is a word which means “God’s care”, as in “it’s only by God’s providence that he survived 54 days on a life raft in the middle of the ocean”. If you want to talk about the origin or history of an item (especially if it’s a work of art or an artisan food), the word you want is provenance. I love you and your show, Tony, but if I hear you ask about the “providence of this cheese” one more time I’m going to scream. Oh, and Tony… the Greek sandwich so popular in the USA is called a yee-ro (or, to be 100% accurate to the Greek, a yee-ros). Jai-ro is a shortened version of gyroscope, a navigation device.

And finally, here are a few favorites I’ve mentioned several times on this site that some folks just aren’t getting:

lose – to misplace something, as in “did you lose your keys?”
loose – the opposite of tight, as in “the part fell off because the screw was loose.”

your – belonging to you, as in “your keys”.
you’re – a contraction of “you are” as in, “you’re tired”.

their – belonging to them, as in “their child”.
there – a place, as in “their child is over there”.
they’re – a contraction of “they are”, as in “they’re beating their child.”

toe the line – from naval lore, when sailors were lined up on deck with their toes on a line. “Tow the line” doesn’t mean anything.

for all intents and purposes – for all practical purposes or in every practical sense. “For all intensive purposes” doesn’t mean anything.

suppose – to guess about something, as in “I suppose no one will read this post”.
supposed to – to be obligated to do something, as in “I’m supposed to write a blog post”. Saying “I’m suppose to write a blog post” is wrong.

than – A comparison, as in “I’d rather have pizza than a burger”.
then – At a time, as in “I ate pizza, and then went to bed”.

per se – this is a Latin phrase which literally means “through itself”, as in “one pizza isn’t bad for you per se, but eating it every day is not good for you”. “Per say” doesn’t mean anything.

Voilà – a French word meaning “there it is”. “Wolla!” doesn’t mean anything, and you look stupid when you type it that way.

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