Category: Confusables

Etymology (Not Entomology)

#7

Do you know the etymology of 'vegetarian'? Not entomology, that's the study of insects. Hmm, I'm not sure. Let's go ask an expert! ETYMOLOGIST (not entomologist) Hi guys, are you interested in the origin of a word? I'm an etymologist, not an entomologist--they study insects. Why does everyone keep saying that?! Hi, we-- WORDS NOT BUGS!

Most of those books behind the professor just explain the difference between etymology and entomology.

If you google “etymology not entomology” (with quotes) you’ll get over 3,000 results (try it, it’s fun!). Without quotes you’ll get over 170,000. Apparently these words will be forever linked, like pancakes and syrup, fries and ketchup, or bananas and peanut butter…I really need to eat before I post.

Oh, and to answer the question from the comic, “vegetarian” comes from the Latin word vegetus, meaning lively or vigorous. It does not come from vegetable as many people (understandably) assume.

Here’s the quiz question for this week: What’s the origin of etymology (not entomology)? Post your answer in the comments!

Update: Netflix Confuses “Etymologist” with “Entomologist”

Direct link for embedding: http://www.grammarcomic.com/files/grammar-block-007-etymology.jpg

Alternate and Alternative

#4

I'm alternate, and this is my friend alternative! Alternate means to take turns or change back and forth. Alternative means another choice. For instance, to keep things fresh we alternate girlfriends. They don't notice because we're easily confused! On Mondays he dates Jenny and I date Cin-- WHAT?! Is that true?! It's Jenny! We'd better come clean. Or as an alternative plan... I know you're in there!

Does their room look like it’s made out of chocolate? Mmmmm….

Edit: The comic refers to “al-ter-NAYt”, but the more confusing definition is for “al-ter-nit”:

You may recognize this mistake in a lot of DVD special features where they have multiple “alternate endings” instead of “alternative endings.” Using alternate to mean alternative has become extremely common, however.

Traditionally you could only have one alternative, but no one really follows that anymore. Alternate can also mean an understudy.

Edit to clarify:

Because the third definition of alternate is very close to the first of alternative, it’s easy to mistakenly use one of these adjectives in place of the other. Think of it this way: Something that is alternate substitutes for the original, while something that is alternative provides a choice without replacing the original. [source]

So you can have an alternate route if the first gets blocked, but if both are available the other is an alternative.

Alternate vs. Alternative Quiz

Fill in the blanks with either alternate or alternative (or a form of one). Post your answers in the comments!

  1. Main St. was flooded so I took an ______ route home.
  2. After George injured Bette Midler, Bette’s part was played by her ______.
  3. Crosswalks are easy to see because of the ______ colors.
  4. I really don’t want to see Shrek on ice, but it’s better than the ______.
Direct link for embedding: http://www.grammarcomic.com/files/grammar-block-004-alternate-alternative.jpg

Adverbsaries (bad vs. badly)

#2

Hey Chris, where's Eric? He just left. He was really mad. Why, what happened? Well we got into a big fight, and now I feel badly. 'I feel bad' is the opposite of 'I feel good.' 'I feel badly' means you're not very good at feeling.

This title is so bad I had to use it.

Note: dictionary.com’s usage note says “feel badly” is standard, but “feel bad” is better. Grammar Girl agrees.

Bad vs. Badly Quiz

Fill in the blank with bad or badly. Post your answers in the comments!

  1. Those muppets treated Jake so ____!
  2. You can’t skate down Devil’s Backbone because you skate ____.
  3. How ____ do you want to eat those noodles?
  4. You look really ____ ensconced in velvet.
Direct link for embedding: http://www.grammarcomic.com/files/grammar-block-002-adverbsaries.jpg