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Richard Marsh

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English Like It Is: Right, Wrong and Changing Usage
by Richard Marsh   

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Books by Richard Marsh
· Over the Wall to the Trinity Ball and other poems
· Earn Fire
· Utmost Magpie
· A Blirt to the End and Other Stories
· Once a Hero
                >> View all

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Publisher:  Mazgeen Press ISBN-10:  0915330040 Type: 


Copyright:  Oct 1 2001, Sept. 1, 2009 ISBN-13:  9780915330041

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Richard Marsh
Mazgeen Press

Persistent and occasional errors and changing usage (like "English Like It Is") as exemplified in more than 360 entries. Nearly 2000 citations in illustration are taken from the four British Sunday "quality" papers, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer and The Independent on Sunday, and The Irish Times, between 1994 and the present. Eighty-nine books and other publications are also quoted for comparison, and 54 usage guides and dictionaries are cited as authorities. Where American usage differs from UK usage, note is taken of the variations.

Second edition, 2012 update


Note: the Hanged/Hung section contains a graphic description of execution. The Taboo section contains examples of how the papers deal with 4-letter words.

Adopted, Adoptive
Adverse, Averse
Affect, Effect
After, Afterwards
Age (Stone, Bronze, Iron)
Aggravate, Exacerbate
Albeit, “All Be They”
All Right, Alright
Alternate, Alternative
Alternative, Option
Although, Though
Amid, Amidst
Among, Amongst, Between
Amount, Number
Anyone / Someone ... He / They
Archaic Expressions
Archetype, Prototype, Epitome, Acme, Quintessence
Around, Round
As, Like (prepositions)
As (conjunction), Like (preposition)
As If, As Though, Like
As Well As
Augur, Auger
Avert, Avoid, Evade
Bare, Bear, Born, Borne
Beg the Question
Bloc, Block
But (as preposition)
California , etc. (US state adjectives)
Canonisation, Sainthood
Capacious, Commodious, Copious
Centre Around
Cleft Sentence (see Singular / Plural Nouns and Pronouns: “What (All That) Is / Are Needed Is / Are ...”
Clichés (Round Up the Usual)
Comparative, Superlative
Compare To, Compare With
Composite Subject
Comprise, Consist, Compose
Connote, Denote
Consider, Regard, Fancy
Contraction (of the language)
Convince, Persuade, Dissuade
Correspond To, Correspond With
Credulity, Credibility
Dangling Subject or Object Modifier
Decapitate, Sever, Dismember
Deconsecrate, Desecrate
Defer, Demur
Defuse, Diffuse
Description as Title
Different From, Different To, Different Than
Disabled, Handicapped
Disinterested, Uninterested, Indifferent
Disperse, Dissipate
Disrespectful Expressions
Double Past; Double Present Perfect: “I would have liked to have done” – see Perfect Infinitive With Present Perfect
Doubtful, Dubious, Doubtless
Due To, Owing To, Because Of
Each, Every, Either (Historical note)
Each Other, One Another
Effective, Effectively, Efficient, Effectual, Ineffectual, Efficacious, Efficacy, “Ethicacy”
Eke (out)
Else (Anyone, Anywhere)
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Euro and Cent
Except (as conjunction)
Factious, Fractious
False Scent
Farther, Further
Few, Fewer, Little, Less
First(ly), Second(ly), etc.
Fit, Fitted
Flaunt, Flout
Foreign Terms
Fortuitous, Fortunate, Adventitious
Founder, Flounder
Groups of People – Singular or Plural
Groups of Things – Singular or Plural
Gunshots, Gunfire, “Bullet-Fire”
Hallmark, Earmark, Trademark, Benchmark
Hang/Hanged/Hanged – Hang/Hung/Hung
Heave, Hove, “Hoved”, “Hoving”
Hence, Henceforth, Thence, Thenceforth, Whence
Historic, Historical
Hither, Hitherto, Thither, Thitherto, Whither
Homogeneous, Homogenous
Hone, Home
Hopefully (and other sentence adverbs)
Horde, Hoard
Hover, Loom
However (conjunction, adverb)
Ignoratio elenchi (See Rebut, Refute)
Imply, Infer
Important, Importantly
Injure, Wound
Internment, Interment
Ireland, Britain, British Isles, UK
Irish Bulls
“I would have liked to have done” – see Perfect Infinitive With Present Perfect
Judgemental Words
Just Because ... (It / This) Doesn’t Mean
(These / Those) Kind / Type
Last, Past
Lay, Lie
Like, Such As
Likewise, Nevertheless
Litigation, Prosecution
Loath, Loathe, Loth
Massage / Message (Medium is the)
May Have / Might Have
Memento, “Momento”
Memorabilia, “Immemorabilia”
Migrate, Emigrate
Million, Billion, Trillion
Misfeasance, Nonfeasance
Mitigate, Militate
Myth, Mythic, Mythical, Mythological, Legend, Legendary
Nauseous, Nauseated, Nauseating, Squeamish, Queasy
Neither … Nor (two or more things)
Number (A / The)
Number Agreement
Subject - Verb
Each, Every(one)
Either, Neither: Singular Pronoun
More Than One
One In Ten
Per Cent and Percentage
One (impersonal pronoun)
One of Those Who ... Is / Are
Only (dismissive)
Pan, Pan Out, Panhandle
Parallel Construction
As ... as
Between ... and
Both ... and
Either ... or / Neither ... nor
From ... to
Miscellaneous Parallel Constructions
Not only ... but (also)
Only (dangling modifier)
Perfect Infinitive with Present Perfect (“I would have liked to have done”)
Prefer ... Than
Preposition at End of Sentence
Prepositions - Miscellaneous
Prevaricate, Procrastinate, Equivocate, Fabricate
Preventive, Preventative
Full Stop
Miscellaneous Punctuation
Race, Racial, Racism, Racist, Racialism, Racialist
Rather (“had rather” or “would rather”)
Rather Than
Raze (to the ground)
Reason ... Is Because
Reason Why
Rebuff, Ignore
Rebut, Refute, Ignoratio Elenchi
Redundant (Pleonasm, Tautology)
Regenerative, Generative
Retroactive, Retrospective
“Say” Synonyms
Shall, Will
Shined, Shone
Shrunk, Shrunken
Singular / Plural Nouns and Pronouns
Singular Nouns with Plural Forms
Bacterium, Bacteria
Datum, Data
Medium, Media
“What (all that) is/are needed is/are ...” (Cleft Sentence)
Smith, Smithy
Sort (for “sort out”)
Sped, Speeded
Spirals – Downward, Deepening, Negative
Split Infinitive
Split Verb
Star / Sun Signs
Strait, Straight
Sturdy Indefensibles
Mandative Subjunctive (“ask that it be”)
If ... Was / Were Conditional
Wish ... Was / Were
“If/whether ... be” and “be he/she/it/they”
Taboo Words
“Talismen”, “Shamen”, “Walkmen”
There Is, There Are
Tight-lipped, Close(d)-mouthed
Tom Swifties
Torturous, Tortuous
Trade(s) Union(s)
Try And, Try To
Uncharted, Unchartered
Use, Usage
Verbs from Nouns
-Ward, -Wards
Weave, Weaved, Wove
When - conjunction, relative adverb, quasi-relative adverb
Who and Whom
Wreak, Wrought
Miscellaneous Errors           
Beg the question

“O shameless beggar, that craveth no less than the whole controversy to be given to him!” (William Fulke, “Heskins parleament repealed” - 1579)

“Begging the question” has nothing to do with a question in the usual sense of the word. I beg the question if I assume you accept as fact the basis of my statement without asking if you do. All authorities are clear on this: “to assume without proof” (OED2); “to use as a basis of proof something that itself needs proving” (DTW); “requesting an opponent to grant what the opponent seeks a proof of” (OCP).
Beg the question is usually used incorrectly for “raise/pose/prompt/leave the question” or “demand an answer to the question”. It is so seldom used correctly that the proper meaning is in danger of being lost. The confusion seems to be caused by the feeling that a question left unanswered is begging for a reply.
Guideline: mentally change “begs the question (of) whether” to “assumes you accept that”. If this makes nonsense of the statement, “begs” is incorrectly used for “raises”, etc.
Also, the use of a question mark or the indefinite article – “begs a question” – should alert the writer or editor that “beg” should be “raise”.


The cost of the 13 cars was apparently a modest £95,000. Which begs the question: why bother buying them? (STim 17/4/94 p. 3.12)

Her question, the one never before asked, was: how do dogs conduct themselves if left uncoaxed and undisturbed in normal circumstances? This of course begs the question: what are normal circumstances? (IoS 22/5/94 Review p. 32)
“Raises the question.” But it begs the question (of) whether modern dogs’ circumstances are ever natural.

Questions are definitely begged. What do pre-cancerous growths, for example, have to say about cancerous ones? And what about cancers outside the colon? (Obs 15/10/00 Magazine p. 35)
“Are raised” or “demand answers”.

“Yes, we have had problems with this before,” said the waiter, begging the question of why the hell it was still on the list. (STel 1/10/00 Magazine p. 53)

He has been described in awe as “Oliver Sacks as agony aunt”. Which begs the question, who would want Oliver Sacks as an agony aunt? Mind you, Leader’s last book, Why do women write more letters than they post? , also prompted a few questions, the first being, “do they?” (IoS 13/2/00 Culture p. 13)
“Begs” should be “raises”. “Prompted ... they?” could be “begged the question of whether they do”.

Crackdown on market researchers who beg questions and bend answers [head] ... a number of [Confederation of British Industry] members complained of a “leading question” in the survey which encouraged respondents to say they were in favour of the euro in principle. (IoS 9/9/01 p. 1.6)
Yielding to the temptation to appear clever, the sub-editor responsible for the head has equated the posing of a leading question with begging the question.

“... taking half the brain out of an animal while keeping it alive.” Which begs the question, as does all of White’s work: why would anybody want to do that? “For two reasons. ...” (STel 16/7/00 Magazine p. 21)

Not, you understand, because he craved status, but rather to do something worthwhile “again” (which begs so many questions). (STim 12/9/04 p. 1.30)
“Which begs the question” is the correct form to subtly imply that he had never done anything worthwhile.

“Wife? You want wife?” Huge almond eyes begged the question. (Obs 30/1/05 Escape p. 5)
Context suggests that “begged” without “the question” is meant here.

Comments by Ms Royal and other socialists imply that the right is using her [older] brother’s role in the Greenpeace bombing to smear her. However, this begs the fact that her own [younger] brother made the allegation. (ITim 3/10/06 p. 1.3)
“Ignores the fact.” The Right should be capitalised for clarity.

It all begs one key question: why? (STim 21/10/07 Magazine p. 41)


[James Joyce’s] Ulysses is indeed guilty of obscenity, “properly defined”, he asserts. ... “Properly defined” begs the question. People’s ideas of obscenity vary enormously, which means there can be no accurate definition. [in a review of James Joyce and Censorship by Paul Vanderham] (STim 1/2/98, p. 8.1)
This is a rare example, in a classic structure, of the proper use of “beg the question”. In the reviewer’s opinion, obscenity cannot be properly defined, so stating that Joyce is guilty of obscenity “properly defined” demands that the reader accept that it can be properly defined, without the author’s having established that it can be, or having asked the reader if he agrees that it can be.

All of which begs the question about whether such roles, even if they boost women’s salaries, really constitute progress for actresses in the long run. (STim 1/5/94 p. 9.17)
This is the correct use, but “question (of) whether”. It is not a question about anything.

And yet several questions beg to be asked ... (IoS 19/12/99 p. 1.18)
This is what most people nowadays seem to think “beg the question” means.

The palm for outrageous question-begging goes to the Who Made God “argument”. ... “The designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.” ... but why on earth should we assume this? (IoS 26/11/06 ABC p. 23)

... the fact that Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, while both Ron Howard and Mel Gibson have the shiny gold statuette on their mantelpieces, illustrates how Oscar gets it wrong as often as not. (ITim 27/1/07 Weekend Review p. 6)
Although the term is not used here, this statement begs the question of whether – assumes everyone agrees that – Hitchcock was a more deserving director than Howard or Gibson.

... and prompting the question: what’s wrong with a soap and flannel? (Obs 19/9/04 OM p. 55)

Professional Reviews

Consult Marsh First
What a cornucopia we have here: so many ticklish questions addressed. Marsh brings a refreshing mix of authority and flexibility. We may all have Fowler on our shelves, but we also know that the Windsors themselves no longer speak the king's English. This new work does not suffer from the specious egalitarianism of, say, Bergen Evans. Now that I have a copy of Marsh, I expect to begin any usage question with him.

James MacKillop
Syracuse, NY USA

Un libro tipo “diccionario” muy útil para conocer mejor el inglés
It is a great book. My mother tongue is not English so this book is doubly useful for me.
A mí me ha ayudado mucho para conocer, entender y corregir los errores más comunes que hay en el uso del inglés. Thanks so much, Marsh. []

Beatriz Montero
Tenerife, Spain
Author of The Staircase, Mister Ramón and Mrs Ramona, The Secrets of Storytelling and many other books, and co-author of Two Worlds / Dos mundos: Bilingual Stories from India and Spain / Cuentos bilingües de India y España

Right, wrong, or changing, our language is fun!
Alphabetical listing of words often confused with each other or bungled independently make this book easy to use, and even easier in ebook form where “clicking” to the desired text brings instant gratification. Examples are given of both trending usage and traditional correct usage, so the reader can decide whether to speak (or write) English “like” it is or English “as” it should be.

Mary Grace Ketner
San Antonio, Texas USA

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Reader Reviews for "English Like It Is: Right, Wrong and Changing Usage"

Reviewed by Richard Marsh 9/2/2009
I haven't come across the misuse of "parameter" in the British and Irish papers. Richard
Reviewed by Valerie F. de Daulles 11/28/2001
Sounds very interesting. And I'll just bet you go to town on the word "parameter."

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