‘Ibidem’ and ‘idem’

Ibidem and idem are both Latin words, are both usually printed in italic and are both often found in reading lists, references and bibliographies. They don’t mean the same thing and they should be used in the correct context. Their respective abbreviations are similar and are therefore easy to get muddled up.

two-booksIbidem

Ibidem means ‘in the same place’ but is normally used to mean ‘in the same source’ (such as a book or chapter). It is employed to avoid repeating a reference and it is often abbreviated to ibid. or ib.

Idem

Idem means ‘the same’ but is normally used to mean ‘the same person’. It is used to avoid repeating an author’s name when works by that author are cited in succession and it is sometimes abbreviated to id.

Unless you are an academic or a keen reader of non-fiction, you might not come across ibidem and idem very often. My tip if you do have to use them is to try to associate ibidem with sources that are often books and idem with a person’s identity.


Sources:

  • Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, 4th edition
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Pixabay (image)
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‘White’ and ‘wight’

I’m jumping on the Halloween bandwagon with this week’s homophones: white and wight. I sometimes read people have been to the ‘Isle of White’ or would like to discuss the actions of the ‘Wight Walkers’ in Game of Thrones.

ghostsWhite

  • the colour (such as that of milk or snow)*
  • pale or light in colour
  • a person or people with pale or light-coloured skin
  • counter-revolutionary

Wight

  • a living being (in archaic usage)
  • a ghost, spirit or other supernatural being
  • a specific shipping forecast area covering part of the English Channel (‘Wight’)

My tip: a wight could be a ghost.

*I’m aware scientists may disagree with referring to white as a colour but it’s acceptable to do so in general usage.


Sources:

‘Mail’ and ‘male’

This week marks a return to homophones. I find that male is occasionally used when mail would be appropriate. I have borrowed one of the definitions below because I don’t think I can explain it more succinctly.

Post boxMail

  • letters and parcels etc. sent by post
  • to send something by post
  • flexible armour made of metal rings, links or plates

Male

  • ‘of or denoting the sex that produces gametes, especially spermatozoa, with which a female may be fertilized or inseminated to produce offspring’ (Oxford Dictionaries)
  • a male person, plant or animal

Mail is also sometimes used as a short form of email. Unfortunately, I don’t have a simple tip to help anyone who might struggle to use mail and male correctly; if you have a suggestion for a memory aid, please share it below!


Sources:

  • Collins English Dictionary
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online

Porraceous

LeeksThis week’s interesting word is porraceous. I will buy an imaginary drink for anyone who knows what it means without looking it up – and a bonus imaginary packet of crisps if you have used it in everyday conversation.

Porraceous means ‘resembling a leek’. It is typically used to mean that something is leek-green in colour. (In many cases the something is vomit.)

It is early 17th century in origin, and stems from the Latin word porrāceus (itself from porrum meaning ‘leek’ and āceus meaning ‘of the nature of’).

“Martians, according to general sci-fi ethnobotany, are always small, hydrocephalic, intelligent, and seem a sort of porraceous green.”

– Alexander Theroux, The Secondary Colors, 1996

Isn’t the English language brilliant?


Sources:

  • Oxford Dictionaries Online
  • Oxford English Dictionary Online

Obstreperous

Seagull

The living embodiment of obstreperousness?

Obstreperous is one of my mum’s favourite words (I am presuming this because of the frequency with which she uses it). She often, however, uses the humorous form obstropolous which most sources list as a regional variation, but its use seems fairly widespread.

Obstreperous means noisy, difficult to control, unruly, bad-tempered or argumentative. (It is often suggested that stroppy came into usage as a slightly altered abbreviation of obstreperous.)

It was first used in the late 16th century and stems from the Latin word obstreperus ‘clamorous’ which is itself from obstrepere ‘to make a noise against’ or ‘oppose noisily’.

You can use obstreperously as an adverb and obstreperousness as a noun.

“Thou abominable obstreperous Scoundrel, why dost thou clamour at us, that do thee no wrong?”

– Plutus: or, The world’s idol. A comedy, translated by Lewis Theobald, 1715


Sources:

‘Colleague’ and ‘college’

I sometimes see college used when the writer means colleague. I think this is usually due to a typing error or uncertainty about how to spell colleague. Unfortunately, this is a spelling error that a spellchecker won’t be able to help with.

ColleaguesColleague

  • a person one works with

College

  • an educational institution
  • an organised body within a particular profession

My tip: say the word out loud. You probably wouldn’t spell league as lege.

Anfractuous

RocksThis week’s interesting word is anfractuous. It is rare to see it in use, but I think it has a good sound and is fairly evocative.

Anfractuous means winding, sinuous, circuitous or spiral. It can also mean rugged or craggy and fractious or irritable.

Its origin is thought to be late 16th century, from the Latin word anfractus which means ‘a bending’. The meaning of rugged or craggy stems from the French word anfractueux.

“Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.”

– T. S. Eliot, Ara vos prec, 1920


Sources:

  • The Oxford English Dictionary Online
  • Oxford Dictionaries Online

‘Peasant’ and ‘pheasant’

Two weeks ago I published a post on the homophones nigh and nye. A nye is a flock or brood of pheasants, which leads me to this week’s sometimes confused words: peasant and pheasant. I presume this is often a spelling error rather than real confusion on the part of the writer (especially as peasant and pheasant are not homophones).

Peasant:

  • a poor agricultural worker of low social status or class
  • an ignorant, rude, uncouth, unsophisticated or uncultured personPheasant2

Pheasant:

  • a long-tailed game bird originally native to Asia

My tip: a peasant is a person.

Eucatastrophe

This week’s interesting word is said to have been coined by J.R.R. Tolkien, one of my favourite authors.

Woods and fieldsA eucatastrophe is a sudden, favourable resolution of events – or a happy ending. Tolkien described it as “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears” (1944). There is some debate over the relationship between eucatastrophe and deus ex machina, but the eucatastrophe is a fundamentally optimistic narrative device.

Eucatastrophe was formed by combining eu (a Greek prefix meaning ‘good’) and catastrophe (a change that produces the conclusion of a dramatic work).


Source:

The Oxford English Dictionary (online)

 

Ise and ize endings

One of the first and basic questions I ask when taking on a new project is whether my client has used -ise or -ize word endings. One of the most important aspects of proofreading is ensuring consistency – I’m not just looking for “right” or “wrong” spellings.

SpellingThe use of -ise and -ize word endings is generally a matter of choice, except for some words where a certain spelling is compulsory. For example, advertise, devise, improvise, prise and surprise must all be spelled with -ise. (If you spelled prise with -ize you would be using a different word!)

The compulsory -ise spelling is usually for words that are derived from French. A legitimate choice arises for some words because -ize corresponds to the Greek infinitive ending which made its way into English via Latin and French sources. In French, the spelling was adapted to -ise and many English writers followed the French lead. It is important then to note that, while -ize is the preferred ending in American English, the use of -ize is not an Americanism nor is it restricted only to American writers. The -ize ending has been a feature of English since the 16th century.

English users therefore have the choice of whether to use -ise or -ize endings. If you are working to a particular style, you will often find that a preferred form has already been designated. For example, Oxford University Press traditionally uses -ize spellings.

The most important points here are as follows:

  • Not all words have the legitimate choice between -ise and -ize endings. If you aren’t sure, a good dictionary will help.
  • For all other words, it doesn’t really matter which form you choose. However, it does matter that you are consistent about using your preferred form (and that you tell your editorial professional which form you chose!).

Sources:

  • Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, ed. Jeremy Butterfield
  • New Hart’s Rules, 2nd Edition