The War on Error

Archive for the ‘dictionary’ Category

Not an error but a great word that everyone should know: a zeugma (from the Greek: ζεῦγμα, zeûgma, meaning ‘yoke’) is a figure of speech describing the joining of two or more parts of a sentence with a single common verb or noun. A syllepsis is a particular type of zeugma in which the clauses are not parallel either in meaning or grammar. The governing word may change meaning with respect to the other words it modifies (eg I fell down the stairs and also in love).

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Despite correcting grammar and spelling for a living, I get in an awful jumble if asked to justify certain grammar rules out loud. When confronted by this piece of grammar vandalism at the doctor’s surgery yesterday I was mightily relieved I didn’t have to explain the difference between owing and due to anyone.

Looking it up this morning didn’t make things any clearer – apparently ‘owing to’ is prepositional (and means because of/on account of), while ‘due to’ is adjectival (and means attributable/caused by). Neither definition clarifies anything as far as I’m concerned. However, Collins, the big daddy of all dictionaries declares that while the use of ‘due to’ as a preposition was formerly considered incorrect, it is now deemed acceptable. Phew. Panic over.


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