A Desk-Book of Errors in English/R

Contents: IntroductionA B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


rabbit, rarebit: The correct form of this term is rabbit. A Welsh rabbit is toasted or melted cheese well-seasoned and served on toast. This term, probably of slang origin, is analogous to Munster plums designating Irish potatoes, and Glasgow magistrate, designating a salt herring.

rag. Compare chew the rag.

raise: As a verb this is often misapplied to the bringing up of human beings. One rears cattle, raises chickens, but brings up children. Rear, meaning "to nurture and train," may also be used of children.

You may raise a fund for rent because the rent has been raised; but in speaking of this it were better to say "has been increased." The colloquial use of raise for an increase in salary should also be avoided.

raise, raze: Discriminate carefully between these homophones. To raise is to cause to rise, elevate; but to raze is to level with the ground, as a building.

rare: In the United States rare applied to meat is used to designate meat that is not well done; in England, the term is used to designate meat that is not fresh.

rarely or ever: Often incorrectly used for "rarely if ever": the word seldom is preferable.

rather: Superfluous with adjectives ending in -ish, when this implies rather; as, "rather warmish," "rather coldish." Charles Lamb jestingly made the error apparent in closing a letter with "yours ratherish unwell." But with adjectives where -ish expresses quality only, not degree, rather is admissible, and may make a neat distinction; as, "rather foolish."

rattle: In the sense of "to throw suddenly into confusion" this word is a colloquialism which has much currency. Disconcert is a preferable term though not nearly so expressive.

read. Compare peruse.

real used for very is an undesirable colloquialism. Avoid such locutions as "real glad"; "real smart"; "real pleased." Very is the correct word to use.

realized should not be used for "obtained."

receipt. Compare recipe.

recipe refers to the thing—the combined ingredients—directed to be taken, and receipt refers to what is taken, i. e., the identical thing prescribed. The two words have thus come to acquire the same meaning, though, strictly, the doctor gives the recipe (thing to be taken) or formula, and the patient acknowledges the receipt (of the thing given).

reciprocal. Compare mutual.

recollect is not the same as remember. You only recollect after making the effort to do so; you remember because you have never forgotten, therefore without effort. You remember the rent is due, but recollect the date of your friend's birth.

recommend: As a noun used instead of recommendation, this word is a colloquialism the use of which should be discouraged.

recourse, resource: Two words often confounded. Recourse means a resort to, as for help or protection; the adoption of a means to an end. A resource is that which one resorts to, as in case of need; the source of aid or support; an expedient. In the plural, resources are one's means, funds, or property of any kind, as distinguished from one's liabilities.

reduce, lessen: To reduce is to bring to a specified form or inferior condition; to lessen is to diminish. Do not say "to reduce cases in which the death penalty may be inflicted"; say, rather, "to lessen the number of cases, etc."

regardless is an adjective meaning "exercising no regard; heedless," and should never be used as in the common vulgarism "got up regardless" which is incomplete, and which to be correct should be rendered "got up regardless of expense."

relation, relative, kinsman: The distinction between these words is not commonly known. A relation or relative is one to whom another may be related by ties of blood or by law. Thus, a brother is a relation or relative by ties of blood; and a brother-in-law is a relation or relative by law. A kin-man, as the formation of the word shows, is a "man's kin"; that is, one of his own blood, as a brother or cousin.

relic, relict: These words, though once interchangeable are no longer so; relict in the sense of relic now being obsolete. A relic is a fragment that remains after the loss or decay of the rest. A relict is either a widow or a widower. In this sense the term, common in law, is archaic or humorous in general use.

relieve. Compare alleviate.

remainder. Compare balance.

remains should not be used for "corpse" or "body."

remit: In commercial usage this word implies the discharge of an account by payment sent; and it should not generally be used as a synonym for send. To remit is "to send or place back." Thus, to forgive, release, withdraw a demand for—any of which actions may replace the recipient of the favor in his former position—is properly spoken of as remit. It is in this sense only that remit is permissible for charge of an obligation, though by payment, as this procedure places the parties in the same state as that in which they were before the obligation was incurred.

rendering. Compare rendition.

rendition: Although this word has the meaning of "artistic interpretation or reproduction, as of the spirit of a composer," the word rendering is preferably employed in referring to a delineation or interpretation in art and the drama. Describe an artistic version or a literary translation as a rendering, and an amount rendered or produced, as a yield of cocoons, as a rendition. The former specially signifies the act, the latter the thing produced by the act, though there is of course a blending point of the two which is none other than the whole.

replace: The use of this word with the sense of "succeed" has been subjected to criticism, usage decrees that to replace is to "take or fill the place of; supersede in any manner." To succeed is to "come next in order especially in a manner prescribed by law."

reply. Compare answer.

reputation. Compare character.

requirement, requisite, requisition: Whereas a requisite is that which can not be dispensed with, a requirement is rather that which is insisted on, if desired conditions are to be fulfilled. Fresh air is a requisite of life; the apology you ask is a hard requirement. My requirements are few; my requisites but clothing, food and air. When a requirement partakes of the nature of a legal or authoritative or even popular demand, it then becomes a requisition; as, a requisition for accounts; to be in requisition.

resemble. Compare favor.

reside, residence: Somewhat stately words, not to be indiscriminately used for live, house or home. In the legal sense, as affecting, for instance, the right to vote, a man's residence may be in a cheap lodging-house; but commonly the word would be understood to designate a building of some pretensions. "Where does he live?" is ordinarily better than "Where does he reside?" and to call a plain little cottage "my residence" is a bit of petty affectation.

resource. Compare recourse.

respectfully is often confounded by the thoughtless with respectively. While the former means "in a respectful manner" the latter signifies "singly, in the order designated, or as singly considered." Respectively must also be distinguished from severally, the meaning of which is "separately, or each for himself or itself." For example, "The three men severally undertook to do the share of work allotted to them respectively, that is, A, B, C, each promised for himself to do work in the following proportions—A, one-sixth, B, one-third, and C, one-half of the whole."

restive: Objection has been made to the use of this word in the sense of restless, as commonly applied to a horse, on the ground that it formerly meant "stubborn, balky, refusing to go." On this subject Fitzedward Hall ("False Philology," p. 97) says: "The ordinary sense of the word has always been 'unruly,' 'intractable,' 'refractory.' Proofs are subjoined from Lord Brooks, Dr. Featly, Fuller, Milton, Jeremy Collins, Samuel Richardson, Burke, Coleridge, Mr. De Quincey and Landor. As concerns a horse, however, if he resists an attempt to keep him quiet, he shows himself restive."

reticule, ridicule: Two words widely different in meaning but liable to confusion when spoken hurriedly. A reticule is a bag-like receptacle used by ladies for carrying such articles as embroidery, needlework, etc.; ridicule is speech or behavior intended to convey contempt and excite laughter; wit, as of the pen or pencil, that provokes contemptuous laughter.

reverend, reverent: These words are sometimes confounded. The one is objective and descriptive of the feeling with which a person is regarded; the other is subjective and descriptive of the feeling within a person. In explanation of the difference, Dean Alford offers the following instance: "Dean Swift might be Very Reverend by common courtesy, but he was certainly not very reverent in his conduct or in his writings."

Reverend, abbreviated Rev. as a title, should, like Honorable, be preceded by the definite article, the phrase being adjectival; as, "The Reverend Thomas Jones"; or, if the first name is not used, "The Reverend Mr. Jones"; but Rev. Jones," used widely in the United States, is harsh if not rude. The title or distinction of a husband is not correctly applied to the wife. Never say The Rev. Mrs[.] Smith or Mrs. General Brown, etc.

reverse should not be confounded with converse. Reverse is the opposite or antithesis of something; minus is the reverse of plus. The "converse" is "the opposite reciprocal proposition," reached by transposition of the terms of the proposition, the subject becoming predicate and the predicate subject. The converse of the proposition, "If two sides of a triangle be equal, the angles opposite to those sides are equal," is, "If two angles of a triangle be equal, the sides opposite to those angles are equal."

revolts: The use of this word as a transitive verb, although supported by high authority, is not favored. "This revolts me" is far better expressed by "This is revolting to me."

ride, drive: One rides in a saddle or drives in a carriage; a distinction drawn by English people but condemned as "mere pedantry without a pretense of philological authority" by Gould ("Good English," p. 84). Compare drive.

rigged out. Compare togged out.

right: In the adverbial sense of in a great degree, is archaic or colloquial, except in some titles, as Right Reverend. Say of a thing that it is utterly (not right) nonsensical. Again, the use of this adverb in the sense of precisely and without delay is not approved by many purists, who suggest that some more suitable term be chosen. "Stand right there," for "Stand precisely where you are" or "stand just at that spot" is not approved ; so is it also with "Do this right away" for "do this instantly."

right as a noun should not be used for "just cause to expect" or the verb "deserve." Thus, instead of "You have a right to suffer" say "You deserve (or have just cause to expect) to suffer."

right away, right off: Common and undesirable colloquialisms for "at once," "instantly."

right back, to be: An unwarranted colloquialism for "to be here (or there) again in a moment."

right man in the right place, the: It is claimed by some persons that it is impossible for the right man to be in the wrong place, or the wrong man in the right place—the result being in either case that right, or the thing desired, would not prevail. But the reverse, the exact thing not desired or the wrong, may be that which ensues—Why? Possibly because the man who was the very man to bring the transaction to a successful issue was wrongly placed, or because the thing desired, which could easily have been achieved with a certain man or type of man to do it was attempted by a less efficient man—good perhaps for some things but not for that particular work. The poor fellows who rode so gallantly to death at Balaklava were the right fellows for the work in hand, but at that fatal moment were forced into a wrong place. The phrase expresses a felt meaning and is good, as is acknowledged when, in terms of pride and satisfaction, we refer to "the man behind the gun."

rights and privileges: To be used with discrimination. A privilege is "something peculiar to one or some as distinguished from others; a prerogative"; so that the term is to be employed relatively. "The rights and privileges of the people," as often used absolutely in political platforms, demagogical speeches, and radical newspapers, is incorrect, since the people in this sense can have no privileges, i. e., "things peculiar to individuals." Milton's use is correct when he says "We do not mean to destroy all the people's rights and privileges, since he is speaking of the people relatively, as distinguished from the magisstrates and the king.—Standard Dictionary.

rise: Some lexicographers claim a distinction in the pronunciation of the word rise as a noun and rise as a verb, making the noun rhyme with "rice" and the verb rhyme with "prize," but common usage sanctions only one pronunciation, that rhyming with "prize."

roast: A slang term used occasionally by journalists and members of the theatrical profession as an equivalent for "banter" or "ridicule," as in a press notice.

rooster: A word often incorrectly restricted in its meaning. This is due in a measure to usage as recorded by lexicographers. If a roost is a perch upon which fowls rest at night, then a rooster is any fowl which perches on a roost, be it cock or hen. But the domestic fowl is not the only bird that roosts, therefore any bird that does so, be it what it may, is as much a rooster as the male or female domestic fowl.

rope in, to: A colloquialism for "to cause to participate in" or in a bad sense "to swindle." In the latter sense it is used especially when the intention is to induce a person to invest in a scheme that is known beforehand to be of questionable worth.

rubber should not be used as a synonym for "crane"; nor rubber-necking for "craning the neck." These terms are slang which have been derived from rubber-neck, a playful expression said to be current among the children of Nova Scotia and used by them on April 1st instead of the more common "April fool."

rubber-neck: Slang for one who cranes his neck so as to see things that are none of his concern.

rubbers: As a rule an article of clothing should not be referred to in terms of the material of which it consists. Overshoes, for instance, should be so styled, and not called either rubbers or gums.

rugged, hardy: Rugged in the sense of robust, as in health, is an undesirable Americanism for it means primarily "superficially rough, broken irregularly; as rugged cliffs." Hardy means inured as to toil, exposure, or want.