Complected vs. Complexioned

Reference books are great when you want to – you know – refer to something. But, as anyone who’s curled up on a rainy day with a dusty dictionary can tell you, sometimes they’re fun just to flip through.

This is especially true of usage guides.  I stumble across language issues I never even knew existed, like about how the Shakespeare reference “hoist with his own petard” is better written, according to Garner’s Modern American Usage, “hoist with his own petar.”

The problem with flipping through usage guides is that you can end up with just one opinion on a usage matter and confuse it for something more universal. But I find that Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage poses the least danger of that. This usage guide seems the most reluctant to prohibit usages its authors don’t like. So it’s a safe bet you’re not learning a prohibition that's not really a prohibition.

So on a recent gray day I picked it up for a casual flip-through and learned that, apparently, there’s a controversy over the words complexioned and complected. Sticklers say the first one is the only correct choice. MWDEW begs to differ.

“complected: Not an error, nor a dialectal term, nor an illiteracy, nor nonstandard – all of which it has been labeled – complected is simply an Americanism. …. Until the early 20th century it excited no  notice except from compilers of Americanisms and regional terms. Beginning with [“A Desk-Book of Errors in English” by Frank Vizetelly published in 1906], however, it began to raise hackles. … There seems to be no very substantial objection to the term, other than the considerable diffidence American usage writers feel about Americanisms. It is irregularly formed, to be sure, but so are many other words. It has been used by some of our better-known authors.”

So that fast I find out that some people say you should call someone “light-complexioned” and not “light-complected” and that those people are just talking smack.

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One Response to “Complected vs. Complexioned”

  1. I just looked up the true standard of English in America lol there is no standard for no more than10% of Americans speake proper English colleg or no colleg most are verbally retarded