Common Errors in English Usage by Paul Brians

Paul Brians is a Professor of English at the Washington State University. His website, "Common
Errors in English
," has been around for a while but I've only discovered it recently.

Paul has compiled a huge list of errors in (American) English usage, listed alphabetically. If you don't know the differences between apiece / a piece, in to / into, and whether / whether or not, his website is worth a visit: Link

An equally fascinating, albeit a little hidden, part of his website is the list of Non-Errors. These are usages people keep on telling you are wrong, but which are actually standard in English. For example:

You shouldn’t pronounce the “e” in “not my forte.”

Some people insist that it’s an error to pronounce the word “forte” in the expression “not my forte” as if French-derived “forte” were the same as the Italian musical term for “loud”: “for-tay.” But the original French expression is pas mon fort, which not only has no “e” on the end to pronounce—it has a silent “t” as well. It’s too bad that when we imported this phrase we mangled it so badly, but it’s too late to do anything about it now. If you go around saying what sounds like ”that’s not my fort,” people won’t understand what you mean.

However, those who use the phrase to mean “not to my taste” (“Wagnerian opera is not my forte”) are definitely mistaken. Your forte is what you’re good at, not just stuff you like.


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The one that really grates with me is the American unwillingness to differentiate insure from ensure.

You can insure against something happening, but it's better to ensure it doesn't happen in the first place.

OK, if they just want one word for it, fine, but it's spreading over here!
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Rob, you could argue about the -er thing from a French point of view, too. -er is pronounced "ay", not "er". -re is usually just pronounced as "r". So everyone probably thinks everyone else says it funny.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_spelling_differences#-re.2C_-er
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Jeez I should have read over my comment before I posted it! I was trying to give American english speakers a good name but my comment is full of typos! haha what can ya do
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Rosi
As for the way the English use english there are a few other things that I think Americans did to "correct" english (I know you were the first speakers but that doesnt mean you are always the most correct ;) ). How can -re at the end of a word possibly be pronounced as -er? That has never made sense to me. Using standard rules of english the could only be pronouced as it is written ("ray" or "ree"). Also, why do you love your u's so much? honour, colour. So pointless. Again contradicting your own pronounciation rules. But I do love a lot of the British slang (us using the word "bathroom" is rather pointless when the vast majority of bathrooms have no bath these days, no showers)
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