June 29, 2015

Preventive or Preventative?


The choice between preventive and preventative has spawned some pretty silly battles in the language wars. You can use either. But preventive is the safer choice. Here's the full story.

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'Baited' Breath
Posted by June on June 29, 2015


A recent Google search for the term “baited breath” turned up 431,000 hits, including this headline at CNBC. Fascinating. This means one of two things: Either the people who wrote this term didn’t know how to spell it or a whole bunch of people have been eating night crawlers.

OK, that may be a wee bit unfair. Perhaps we shouldn’t be harsh on people for not knowing a word that, outside of one rare expression, hardly even exists: “bated” (unless you live in the world depicted in the movie “Idiocracy,” in which case we’ve moved on to a whole different subject).

But if you note the similarity to the word “abate,” meaning to put an end to something, you’re off on the right foot.

To say that you waited with bated breath means that the anticipation was so intense that you stopped breathing. Stopped, like in abated. That’s the root of the term.

The fact that this expression is so often paired with the verb “wait” -- he waited with bated -- makes it even easier to get it wrong by just repeating the vowel pattern to get "baited." Do a Google search for “sneak peak” and you’ll see what I mean.

So just remember, bated breath is stopped breath because you’ve abated it. That’s why, with “baited breath,” something always smells fishy.

June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

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  • 'Baited' Breath

    Carina But if everyone uses baited, doesn't at some point that become correct (like that/which being used interchangeably)? http://carinaruns.blogspot.com

  • Pin the Terminal Punctuation Mark on the Sentence

    Hayani }}}} Not knowing the dnieiitfon of a word is not “bad grammar.” Misspelling words (e.g., “it’s” for “its”) is not “bad grammar.” Not mastering the fine points of punctuation is not “bad grammar.” Grammar comprises syntax, structure, and semantics.You keep using that word I do not think it means what you think it means.Misspelling words (e.g., “it’s” for “its”) is not “bad grammar.”Ummm, that's not misspelling words it's not comprehending the proper structure of a sentence i.e., the grammar. It's is a pronoun-verb contraction, and cannot possibly be structurally confused with its , a simple possessive pronoun. If you misuse one for the other, then your structure is WRONG, and your grammar is incorrect.I try not to be a grammar Nazi , it's often considered bad form, but I don't hesitate to use it when confronted by some nitwit GN who has grammar and spelling errors in their own comments.But it's primarily this social convention that creates the issue of not correcting people, not a failure to spot a lot of them.}}} I make my living in the world of words. Why am I not surprised?}}}} I know my way around several stylebooks and usage guides. Nevertheless, I get mightily annoyed by sanctimonious screeds like the one in HBRI, on the other hand, get annoyed by sanctimonious screeds like ones from so-called language professionals who think precision in expression isn't relevant. This includes when they don't even grasp the difference between misspelling a word and corrupting the basic structural underpinning of what they are attempting to say. Just because people can make up for your sloppiness of thought and expression does not mean the sloppiness is unimportant and not deleterious to proper expression or communication. You should aim to be precise and carefully choose your words and expressions to carry the full meaning you wish to convey. Settling for good enough is an occasional business requirement, not a life goal.Precision in usage is relevant. I'll let the tale of the murderously hungry Panda make the more advanced case: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003469597806

  • Apostrophes in Plurals

    Bambang I just noticed that WordPress is aciamattuolly curling my apostrophes the wrong way when I type Jesus' or just s. Apparently, WordPress would prefer we type Jesus's or Chris's instead of Jesus' or Chris'. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003469756678

  • Drive Safe vs Drive Safely: Another Flat Adverbs Question

    Ernie Great information. I always thought Safely was the proper grammar, but now that I know about "flat adverbs" I feel a bit better about Drive Safe even though I still think Drive Safely is the most proper and effective way to use the term.

  • Neologisms and When to Use Them

    June Joseph: You can hear the preferred pronunciation by entering the word at m-w.com and clicking the speaker icon next to the word. It sounds more like "it talics" here than "eye talics." But I've always used the "eye" sound.