Word of the Day – August 14, 2012

bugbear (noun)

BUHG bair

a needless fear; originally, a hobgoblin that devoured naughty children

Oddly enough, the same Americans who do not hesitate to confuse, misuse, duplicate, and miscegenate words remain absurdly conventional about grammar, especially in print. On second thoughts, there is nothing odd about it, for it is part of the same uncertain desire to show off knowledge, fostered in this case by the etiquette of the “Write It Right” books and editorial style sheets. Yet when everybody “knows enough” not to split an infinitive, or makes some similar bugbear equivalent to a knowledge of the mother tongue, it is perhaps time to reconsider what the schools and the books should teach as good English.
Jacques Barzun     January 1946

… from More Words That Make A Difference

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