A Desk-Book of Errors in English/D

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A Desk-Book of Errors in English by Frank Horace Vizetelly
Contents: IntroductionA B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


daisy: A slang intensive, and as an equivalent for "fine" or "charming," applied to persons and things, sometimes carelessly as "a daisy time," for "a pleasant time." In speaking of a woman, "Ain't she a daisy" is a vulgar way of saying "Isn't she charming."

damage should never be used for "cost" or "charge." Damage is injury or harm as to character, person, or estate; cost and charge involve or imply expenditure of money.

dance, to lead one a: A colloquialism for "to divert one from a desired course, and thus create delay in its accomplishment." There is but little in the expression to recommend it.

dander is a vulgarism for "anger" and as such should not be used.

dangerous: Avoid the vulgar use of this term in the sense of "dangerously ill." A man near death may be dangerously ill, but he can not be dangerous.

dare, durst or dared, daring: "You daresn't" "he durstn't" are frequently used—the former always incorrectly, the latter generally so; for in nine cases out of ten, where the expression is used, the speaker desires to signify the present and not the past. The form is inelegant, but under certain conditions may be grammatically correct. You dare not; he dares not (daresn't): this for the present. In the past only, he durst not (or durstn't).

dead, deceased: Discriminate between these words. One may refer correctly to a dead man or a dead horse, but the word deceased is applied correctly only to human beings.

dead slow: A colloquialism for "lacking in spirit or liveliness, dull or tedious;" applied indiscriminately to persons or things.

deal: Used sometimes loosely for serve. Do not say "Deal the potatoes;" here serve is preferable.

debase. Compare demean.

decease should never be used as a verb.

deceive: Deception implies the production of a false impression. It is necessary, therefore, to distinguish between the accomplishment of this object and the bare attempt. Yet one frequently hears the expression "he is deceiving me," when it is clear that (as the attempt is unsuccessful) the idea intended to be conveyed is "he is attempting to deceive me."

decided, decisive: These terms are not exactly synonymous. A decided fact is one that is unmistakable and beyond dispute; a decisive fact is one that terminates a discussion. A decided victory is not necessarily a battle decisive of a campaign.

deduction is frequently confounded with induction. The in- mounts up from facts to law and is the process of inferring general conclusions from particular cases; the de- descends from law to facts and is that which is deduced from premises or principles. Induction is termed analysis; deduction, synthesis. deface, disfigure: Discriminate between these words. Persons deface things, for to deface implies a deliberate act of destruction; but disfiguration may take place to person or thing by the operation of either. Thus, an inscription or bond is defaced, but facial beauty is disfigured by smallpox or the weight of care.

delicious, delightful: These terms should be used with discrimination. Delicious is correctly applied to pleasures of the senses; delightful to that which charms, gratifies, or gives pleasure. A dish may be delicious, but not delightful; an entertainment may be delightful, but is certainly not delicious.

delusion, illusion: Discriminate carefully between these terms. A delusion is a mental error arising from false views or an unbalanced state of mind; an illusion is an unreal image which is presented to the senses. A mirage is an optical illusion.

demean signifies "to behave" and does not mean debase or degrade. A man demeans (i. e., comports) himself as a gentleman; but even if he should demean himself as a churl, the verb would not imply a lowering of his dignity or debasement; his debasement would result alone from the conduct he pursued.

denominate. Compare nominate.

depositary, depository: Discriminated in the best usage, depositary denoting a person with whom, and depository a place in which anything is deposited for safe-keeping.

depravation, depravity: These terms are not synonymous. Depravation is the act or process of depraving or corrupting; depravity is the condition of being depraved.

desert. Compare abandon.

desert, dessert: Discriminate carefully between these words. A desert is a barren waste; an uncultivated and uninhabited wilderness; a dessert is a service, as of fruits or sweetmeats, at the close of a dinner.

despatch: This word may be spelt correctly either "despatch" or "dispatch," notwithstanding the fact that some writers condemn the word "dispatch."

develop is to "unfold" or "bring to light by degrees" and should not be used for "expose" which means to "reveal or lay bare," without regard to manner.

device, devise: Discriminate carefully between these words. A device is something designed, invented, or constructed for a special purpose or for promoting an end, and may be used in either a good or bad sense. A devise is a gift of lands by a last will and testament. Compare bequest.

die: A word often misapplied especially by persons accustomed to use inane superlatives as "She died with laughing"; "I thought she'd have died." Die, as a hyperbole, means, "to have a great desire for," and this sense is an undesirable perversion.

difference: Careful note should be made of the appropriate prepositions. The Standard Dictionary says: "Difference between the old and the new; differences among men; a difference in character; of action, of style; (less frequently) a difference (controversy) with a person; a difference of one thing from (incorrectly to) another."

different from: Different to, though common in England, is not sustained by good authority. The best literary usage is uniformly from, following the analogy of the verb differ; one thing differs from or is different from another.

differ from, differ with: One thing may differ from another, or one person may differ from another, as in physique; but one person may differ with another in opinion.

dippy: An extreme vulgarism for "mentally unbalanced."

direct should not be used where address is intended. Do not say "Direct your letters to me at Cook's;" say, rather, "Address your letters," etc.

directly, which means "in a direct or straight course or manner," and so "without medium," has not unnaturally been extended to signify "without medium or intervention of time; immediately." American critics have objected to this use, but in England it is popular.

disappoint: Since disappoint implies frustration or defeat, one cannot be agreeably disappointed; rather agreeably surprised.

discharge. Compare assume.

discreet, discrete: Both words are derived from the Latin discretus, pp. of discerno, dis + cerno, separate, and formerly discreet was also spelt discrete, and even had the meaning of "separate, distinct," which sense now belongs exclusively to discrete. Discreet is used with the signification of "evincing discernment, judicious, prudent."

discern, discriminate: The latter word is often treated as synonymous with distinguish, and there is etymological reason for this, as both words mean to separate, but to discern is to "distinguish by the difference or differences; differentiate." "What we discern we see apart from all other objects; what we discriminate we judge apart, or recognize by some special mark or manifest difference. We discriminate by real differences; we distinguish by outward signs."

disfigure. Compare deface.

disremember: Avoid this term as provincial and archaic, and use forget instead.

dissociate is preferable to disassociate; for associate is from the Latin ad, to, + socius, united, whereas dissociate is from the Latin dis-, used with separative force, and socius. Disassociate is therefore nothing more or less than uniting to and at the same time severing from. The word, then, though used, is illogically formed and should be avoided.

distinguish. See discriminate.

divers, diverse: By inattentive persons not infrequently interchanged. Divers implies severalty; diverse, difference. Hence we say; "The Evangelists narrate events in divers manners," but "The views of the two parties were quite diverse."

do: Often used unnecessarily. Do not say, "I shall succeed as others have done before me." Here "done" is pleonastic. But do may be used where it is purely auxiliary to a missing verb, as "I shall succeed as others do" (succeed).

dock is not a synonym for wharf although it is often used as such. The dock is water, the wharf is the abutting land or landing.

Dock is by many persons used to mean a wharf or pier; thus: "He fell off the dock and was drowned .... A man might fall into a dock; but to say that he fell off a dock is no better than to say that he fell off a hole."— R. G. White, Words and Their Uses, ch. 5. p. 107.

donate: Incorrectly used as simply meaning give. As meaning to bestow as a gift or donation, it has been vehemently objected to by some critics, but the word has certainly acquired a place in popular use, and is no more rendered unnecessary by the previous existence of give than donation is by the previous existence of gift. Donate should be used of the bestowal of important, ceremonious, or official gifts only.—Standard Dictionary.

done: Avoid using the past participle of verbs instead of the imperfect. Do not say, "You done it," or "you seen it," when you mean "you did it," or "you saw it." Nor use the past tense for the perfect participle, as in, "If you had came" when you mean "If you had come."

don't is a contraction of do not, and in this sense is permissible; but as signifying does not, the proper contraction for which is doesn't, its use is inaccurate. In writing, the uncontracted forms are much to be preferred, though in conventional speech the abbreviations are accepted.

don't believe, don't think: "I don't believe I'll go"; "I don't think it will rain"; solecisms now in almost universal use. Say, rather, "I believe I will not go"; "I think it will not rain."

don't make no error. See error.

dopey: A vulgar substitute for "sleepy; dull; thick-headed."

dose, doze: Discriminate carefully between these words. That which a physician prescribes is a dose; that which a sleepy patient may fall into is a doze.

do tell! An exclamation of surprise the equivalent of which is "Is it possible!"—an inane provincialism to be avoided.

doubt. See whether.

doubt but that: In this phrase but is superfluous as it does not add anything to the sense.

dozen: Exercise care in writing or uttering this word. If a number precedes, then dozen forms the correct plural: if not, the plural is formed by adding an s. Say "six dozen sheep," but "many dozens of cattle."

draft, draught: Exercise care in using these words. A draft is an order drawn by one person or firm on another for the payment of money to a third; a draught is a current of air passing through a channel or entering by an aperture. These words are pronounced alike and modern American practise favors the spelling of draft for both.

drive: Critics have seen fit to cavil at the distinction between drive and ride, objecting that the coachman drives the lady, and asking whether traveling by train or trolley-car is a ride or drive. The popular idea is that one rides in a public conveyance but drives when in a private carriage. As a matter of convenience, however, the old-time distinction so far as it concerns riding on horseback and driving in a carriage is good, and in no way encroaches on the question of travel submitted. Horse-back cise and a carriage drive are essentially exercises for pleasure and so not to be confounded with travel; but if there were no distinguishing expression for the two, we should have to add a qualifying term to "ride," to indicate the form of recreation enjoyed. Again, on the legal principle of Qui facit per alium facit per se (He who does a thing by another does it himself), the lady who commissions her coachman to drive, is herself the author of his driving, and drives.

drunk: In modern usage of the verb this word is confined to the past participle. It is therefore not now proper to say "They drunk his health," say, rather, "They drank his health." Do not say "I have drank" when you mean "I have drunk."

dry up! A vulgar imperative for "be quiet" or "stop talking" and as such not used in refined circles.

dubersome: Of a vacillating nature, doubtful: an absurd corruption of dubious to be avoided.

due, owing: Words now often used interchangeably. Due should be limited in its use to that which has to be paid, the word owing being indicative of the source of the existing condition. An obligation may be discharged as being due to a man's estate or his character. A man's wealth is owing to inheritance, good fortune, toil or thrift.

Dutch: Often misapplied to the Germans from a mistaken idea of the spelling of the German word Deutsch. The Dutch are Hollanders, and the Germans are "Deutsch" in Germany.