Saturday, April 30, 2011

You didn't ask, so don't enquire

Let's start with a quote:
"The State Bank of India says an enquiry into the latest incident has been held."
Does this sentence from the ever-deteriorating BBC news website look odd to you? It should do if you're English; more so if you're American.

Here's the thing. The verb "to enquire" has two variants, "enquire" and "inquire", as do the associated nouns "enquiry" and "inquiry". Americans tend to use "inquire" exclusively, but the British have found a useful distinction between the two.

Put simply, you hold an "inquiry" but you make an "enquiry". So an inquiry is an investigation, whereas an enquiry is just a request for information, hence Directory Enquiries but the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. It might not be a big distinction, but it's these little variations that make English so expressive. Similarly, "individual" and "indivisible" are effectively the same word, but we've managed to wring two distinct and useful meanings out of them.

Cruise lacks control
OK, I don't keep up with celebrity news and I'm not even sure how I came across this mangled metaphor, even belatedly. It seems that Tom Cruise planned to miss the Oscars because he and his wife Katie Holmes were upset by their pal Anne Hathaway impersonating Holmes on Saturday Night Live back in November. According to the website, they were "still reeling" in January. How can you spend six weeks reeling? I'd see a doctor if I were them. It's not as if Cruise suffers from vertigo.

As we've said before, if your words evoke an image, make sure it's the right one.

Pique district
Back at The Guardian, one of the infinite number of monkeys with the infinite number of typewriters has got a promotion to Media Monkey. Recently, he hammered out the following:
Mail Online's fiendishly addictive formula for soaraway success is such that even many right-on Guardianistas cannot resist a regular peak.
Few of us can resist a regular peak. That's what girlfriends, boyfriends or, if you're married, the internet are for. However, admitting in print that you use the internet is a little indiscreet. Admitting that you get your peaks from Mail Online is downright disturbing, especially if you work at The Guardian. A peek, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable.

Moral: if it looks like the right word and sounds like the right word, it still might not be the right word

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