The Language Perfectionist: A Caucus of Confusables

It’s time once again to set the record straight on pairs of words that are commonly confused. Here are examples from print and online sources:

  • “The number had been cut before the premier of the film.”

A gala event is a premiere. The adjective meaning first is premier.

  • “Mr. Heiberger said his new company would provide brokers with a network of consultants – from a concierge service for brokers and their clients to legal services and social-networking advise.”

The noun, intended here, is advice; the verb is advise.

  • “This particular corner, where Canal Street meets West Street and the Hudson River, is one of the more honorific and important intersections in New York City.”

An honorific is a title of respect or a salutation, such as Mister or Doctor. The word presumably wanted in this context (though perhaps with some exaggeration) is honored.

  • “The 19th-century philosopher John Stuart Mill… barely survived a ‘tiger father’ who enforced a regimen of ruthless discipline and learning that would make [author Amy] Chua blanche.”

The verb blanch means to turn pale; Blanche is a woman’s name.

[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 that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]