And speaking of distinguished men, the avuncular Walter Cronkite has observed, “for those who speak and write formally–presumably setting the standards of proper usage–there must be exercised the utmost care to prevent debasement of the language through too hasty acceptance of the vernacular.” Amen to that!
With these thoughts in mind, we will undertake to persuade you to think as we do about the words and phrases presented here.
- comprised of (NEVER)
To the careful writer, the expression comprised of is gibberish. Comprise means “include.” Thus, comprised of makes no more sense than included of.
The whole comprises the parts: “The alphabet comprises twenty-six letters.”
Compose means “make up.” The parts compose the whole: “Twenty-six letters compose (make up) the alphabet,” or, in the passive voice, “The alphabet is composed of twenty-six letters.” Whenever you want to use comprise, ask yourself whether include would work. If so, you’re okay; if not, choose a synonym. Whenever you’re tempted to say or write comprised of, resist.
- Irregardless (NEVER)
“The incident and others like it told across the city… have a common theme – that irregardless of the benefit to children… his own political miscalculations… have greatly contributed to his present difficulties.” That sentence, which we have mercifully condensed from fifty-four words, appeared in the vaunted pages of the New York Times–yet it contains the word irregardless.
Irrespective of what you have heard, irregardless is actually a word, and it’s been around since at least the beginning of the twentieth century. But irregardless is a redundant blend of irrespective and regardless, and the result is a nonstandard double negative. Regardless is the correct word.
Caveat scriptor (writer beware): Of all the misuses that slither through the English Languages, irregardless will get you in the hottest of water.
- nauseous (NEVER)
One of the many anomalies of our language is that a word can have two meanings that seem to conflict with each other. These are called contronymns, and one or the other meaning usually disappears sooner or later. Such is the case with nauseous. Traditionally, nauseous is an adjective meaning “disgusting.” Thus, if you say, “I feel nauseous,” you may be conveying an unfavorable impression of yourself to a listener who accepts the traditional meaning of nauseous.
A second meaning of nauseous is “afflicted with nausea.” This meaning seems to be gaining ground and is, according to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, used more often than the first.
Although we would like for the traditional meaning to be preserved, we are realistic enough to understand that when change is inevitable, the best course is to relax and watch it happen. The traditional meaning of nauseous is the one that seems likely to fade away.
Therefore, we recommend, with some regret, that you do not use nauseous at all. If you want to say “afflicted with nausea,” use nauseated. If you want to describe something or someone as disgusting, try nauseating, sickening, revolting, or repulsive.
- those kind (NEVER)
The use of those (or these) kind is another error that pervades the speech and, on occasion, the writing of even educated people. Those and these are plural and should modify plural nouns. The correct expression is that (or this) kind or those (or these) kinds.
- try and (NEVER)
“Try and take your club back a little more to the inside,” the golf pro tells the duffer who has just sliced a ball into the next ZIP code.
The use of try and for try to is common in everyday speech and increasingly common in writing. And is a conjunction, but it is not used as a conjunction in the example. It does not join two actions, “try” and “take.” Instead, it substitutes for to as the beginning of what should be an infinitive, to take. In grammatical terms, the infinitive functions as a noun, the object of the transitive verb try. (Try what? Try to take…)
As far as we know, the practice of using and instead of to as an infinitive starter occurs only when the infinitive follows the verb try.
We think it is slovenly in speech and indefensible in writing.
SLEEPING DOGS DON’T LAY: Practical advice for the grammatically challenged; Richard Lederer and Richard Dowis; Martin’s Press, New York ,U.S.A. (1999)