As a lifelong blooper spotter and collector, I’m accustomed to encountering the most bizarre and amusing language gaffes and manglings. But even I was taken aback recently when I saw a sign taped to the cash register of one of my favorite neighborhood cafes: “We respectfully ask for a collaborating ID when paying by credit card.” The correct word, of course, should have been “corroborating.”
This reminded me that it’s time for me to give you another list of words that are commonly confused.
• “Blogging can better help you hone in on your online marketing.” The verb “hone” means sharpen. When people say “hone in on,” they mean “home in on.”
• “Limited amount of $20 seats.” For discrete items that can be counted, “number” is correct. “Amount” is reserved for a bulk quantity, e.g., of tobacco or steel. Another way to remember the distinction: “Amount” is singular; “number” is plural.
• “Marianne Hopko, a sergeant with the county sheriff’s office, apprised the scene.” The verb “appraise” means evaluate. “Apprise” means inform.
• “But the principle cause for concern today is the paralysis of the credit markets.” The adjective meaning foremost is “principal.” The noun “principle” means a basic truth, rule, or law.
• “If we lived in a more orderly society the purveyors of such errant nonsense would be hauled off to the nearest public square.” Strictly speaking, “errant” doesn’t mean erroneous. It means roving or straying. In the phrase (or cliche) “arrant nonsense,” the nonsense is thorough, complete.
• Finally, a prestigious job title was characterized in a newspaper article as having “cache.” The word wanted was “cachet.” A “cache” is a hiding place or secret stash of valuables.[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book recently published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]