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C

Calculated for Likely. "The bad weather is calculated to produce sickness." Calculated implies calculation, design.

Can for May. "Can I go fishing?" "He can call on me if he wishes to."

Candidate for Aspirant. In American politics, one is not a candidate for an office until formally named (nominated) for it by a convention, or otherwise, as provided by law or custom. So when a man who is moving Heaven and Earth to procure the nomination protests that he is "not a candidate" he tells the truth in order to deceive.

Cannot for Can. "I cannot but go." Say, I can but go.

Capable. "Men are capable of being flattered." Say, susceptible to flattery. "Capable of being refuted." Vulnerable to refutation. Unlike capacity, capability is not passive, but active. We are capable of doing, not of having something done to us.

Capacity for Ability. "A great capacity for work." Capacity is receptive; ability, potential. A sponge has capacity for water; the hand, ability to squeeze it out.

Casket for Coffin. A needless euphemism affected by undertakers.

Casualties for Losses in Battle. The essence of casualty is accident, absence of design. Death and wounds in battle are produced otherwise, are expectable and expected, and, by the enemy, intentional.

Chance for Opportunity. "He had a good chance to succeed."

Chin Whiskers. The whisker grows on the cheek, not the chin.

Chivalrous. The word is popularly used in the Southern States only, and commonly has reference to men's manner toward women. Archaic, stilted and fantastic.

Citizen for Civilian. A soldier may be a citizen, but is not a civilian.

Claim for Affirm. "I claim that he is elected." To claim is to assert ownership.

Clever for Obliging. In this sense the word was once in general use in the United States, but is now seldom heard and life here is less insupportable.

Climb down. In climbing one ascends.

Coat for Coating. "A coat of paint, or varnish." If we coat something we produce a coating, not a coat.

Collateral Descendant. There can be none: a "collateral descendant" is not a descendant.

Colonel, Judge, Governor, etc., for Mister. Give a man a title only if it belongs to him, and only while it belongs to him.

Combine for Combination. The word, in this sense, has something of the meaning of conspiracy, but there is no justification for it as a noun, in any sense.

Commence for Begin. This is not actually incorrect, but--well, it is a matter of taste.

Commencement for Termination. A contribution to our noble tongue by its scholastic conservators, "commencement day" being their name for the last day of the collegiate year. It is ingeniously defended on the ground that on that day those on whom degrees are bestowed commence to hold them. Lovely!

Commit Suicide. Instead of "He committed suicide," say, He killed himself, or, He took his life. For married we do not say "committed matrimony." Unfortunately most of us do say, "got married," which is almost as bad. For lack of a suitable verb we just sometimes say committed this or that, as in the instance of bigamy, for the verb to bigam is a blessing that is still in store for us.

Compare with for Compare to. "He had the immodesty to compare himself with Shakespeare." Nothing necessarily immodest in that. Comparison with may be for observing a difference; comparison to affirms a similarity.

Complected. Anticipatory past participle of the verb "to complect." Let us wait for that.

Conclude for Decide. "I concluded to go to town." Having concluded a course of reasoning (implied) I decided to go to town. A decision is supposed to be made at the conclusion of a course of reasoning, but is not the conclusion itself. Conversely, the conclusion of a syllogism is not a decision, but an inference.

Connection. "In this connection I should like to say a word or two." In connection with this matter.

Conscious for Aware. "The King was conscious of the conspiracy." We are conscious of what we feel; aware of what we know.

Consent for Assent. "He consented to that opinion." To consent is to agree to a proposal; to assent is to agree with a proposition.

Conservative for Moderate. "A conservative estimate"; "a conservative forecast"; "a conservative statement," and so on. These and many other abuses of the word are of recent growth in the newspapers and "halls of legislation." Having been found to have several meanings, conservative seems to be thought to mean everything.

Continually and Continuously. It seems that these words should have the same meaning, but in their use by good writers there is a difference. What is done continually is not done all the time, but continuous action is without interruption. A loquacious fellow, who nevertheless finds time to eat and sleep, is continually talking; but a great river flows continuously.

Convoy for Escort. "A man-of-war acted as convoy to the flotilla." The flotilla is the convoy, the man-of-war the escort.

Couple for Two. For two things to be a couple they must be of one general kind, and their number unimportant to the statement made of them. It would be weak to say, "He gave me only one, although he took a couple for himself." Couple expresses indifference to the exact number, as does several. That is true, even in the phrase, a married couple, for the number is carried in the adjective and needs no emphasis.

Created for First Performed. Stage slang. "Burbage created the part of Hamlet." What was it that its author did to it?

Critically for Seriously. "He has long been critically ill." A patient is critically ill only at the crisis of his disease.

Criticise for Condemn, or Disparage. Criticism is not necessarily censorious; it may approve.

Cunning for Amusing. Usually said of a child, or pet. This is pure Americanese, as is its synonym, "cute."

Curious for Odd, or Singular. To be curious is to have an inquiring mind, or mood--curiosity.

Custom for Habit. Communities have customs; individuals, habits--commonly bad ones.


Ambrose Bierce

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