The Language Perfectionist: Return of the Confusables

It’s been a while since this column has presented a roundup of “confusables” — pairs of words that are commonly mistaken for one another. So here’s a new set, inspired, as always, by genuine media mistakes:

  • “Many who do admit that privacy regulations restricting the use of information about consumers have costs believe they are born entirely by firms.”

The costs aren’t born but rather borne, a past participle of bear, to carry or support.

  • “When the book was still in gallery form, I read the book to my son’s class….”

The intended word is not gallery but galley, an industry term for pre-publication copies of a book that are used for editing, proofreading, and reviewing.

  • “We dread the daily [Moscow] weather forecasts: 95, 97, 98, 100, 102, 104 (and that is no poetic license; I vouchsafe for the accuracy of these figures).”

The writer intended to say vouch; vouchsafe means deign, to condescend to grant a privilege. Here in America, we don’t have a lot of kings and queens, so not much vouchsafing is done.

  • “It’s incredulous to me that no reputable academic institution has completed the requisite trials if there is even a suggestion of a result in the case of cancer.”

This is a frequent mix-up. An event may be incredible; the person who doesn’t believe it is incredulous.

[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.]