Page:A Desk-Book of Errors in English.djvu/234

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A Desk-Book of

first,' 'the two last,' etc., rather than 'the first two,' 'the last two,' etc. This, I say, should generally be the order of the words. Yet there are some cases in which it seems preferable to say, 'the first two,' 'the first three,' etc." Compare first.


ugly, which signifies the reverse of beautiful or want of comeliness (actual or figurative) is colloquially extended in the United States to uncomeliness of character or personal demeanor; as an ugly fellow; an ugly beast; anger makes him ugly. In polite speech this usage is not sanctioned. Say "irritable," "vicious," "quarrelsome," as the disposition inclines or indicates.

un-: For the sake of lucidity the use of a negative prefix with a negative antecedent should be discouraged. Avoid such expressions as "He spoke in no unmistakable terms" which means, of course, "mistakable terms" the direct opposite of the speaker's intention. "Not an unkempt one among them" means that all were well kempt.

unbeknown: A vulgar provincialism used chiefly in the form unbeknownst.

uncommon: Used for uncommonly: a vulgarism meaning "to an unusual degree or extremely." Do not say "Her eyes are uncommon beautiful"; say, rather, "... uncommonly beautiful."