I call myself a professional word wrestler but every now and again, even I grapple with words and phrases that best me–or at least send me running to the coaches for my next move.
For some Friday fun, let’s look at a few Class A confusers and one highly annoying turn-of-phrase.
First, test yourself on these commonly misused words:
- Faint or feint? As in, “This job is not for the faint of heart” or “This job is not for the feint of heart.”
- Deep-seeded or deep-seated? As in, “His thirst for revenge is deep-seeded” or “His thirst for revenge is deep-seated.”
The first example was from a piece I wrote and the second, from a fellow writer, Kate Barker of Tea4Kate, who consulted our equally confused writers group.
1. Faint of heart. Paul Brians Common Errors in English Usage says this:
A feint, whether in chess or on the battlefield, is a maneuver designed to divert the opponent’s attention from the real center of attack. A feint is a daring move. Do not use this very specialized word in the expression “faint of heart” (or “faint at heart”), which implies timidity.
2. Deep-seated. This term was not so clear, even among writers. Both make sense but as Brians points out, “Tennis players may be seeded, but not feelings.”
Those who pine for the oral cultures of Ye Olden Dayes can rejoice as we enter an era where many people are unfamiliar with common expressions in print and know them only by hearsay.* The result is mistakes like “deep seeded.” The expression has nothing to do with a feeling being planted deep within one, but instead refers to its being seated firmly within one’s breast: “My aversion to anchovies is deep-seated.” Compounding their error, most people who misuse this phrase leave the hyphen out. Tennis players may be seeded, but not feelings.
And now, the Grammar Peeve:
“I am a character who…”
“For an individual such as myself…”
Ugh. Speak in first person already! Own your thoughts and words. Diluting your “I” statements with third person qualifiers is unnecessary and lessens impact. Ironically, it was a burly, mixed martial arts fighter who made these statements about his fighting prowess. Perhaps he was busier fighting than doing his grammar homework while in school. Still, it would serve him better to say:
“I am…,” and
“For me, …”
Simple and to the point. Confident in thought.