A Desk-Book of Errors in English/V


vain, vein: Words of similar pronunciation whose spelling is sometimes confused by the careless. Vein is the Latin vena, blood-vessel, from veho, carry, and is therefore totally distinct from vain, which is from the Latin vanus, empty.

valuable is occasionally misused for valued. Valuable is said correctly only of things that have monetary value or derive worth as from their character or quality. One may have valued friends and valuable art- treasures, but not valuable friends nor valued art-treasures.

venal, venial: Discriminate carefully between these words. One who is venal is ready to sell his influence or efforts for some consideration from sordid motives; he is mercenary. But one who is venial has committed only a slight or trivial fault. A man who has sold his vote for preferment is a venal politician; a starving man who has stolen a loaf of bread for his family has been guilty of a venial offense.

ventilate should not be used for "expose" or "explain."

veracity, truth: Do not confound these words. Truth is applied to persons and facts; veracity only to persons and to statements made by them. One should not speak of the veracity of anything that has occurred. A man of integrity may have a reputation for veracity; if so, there is no doubt that he told the truth or that the account he gave was true.

verbal nouns, especially such as could be replaced by a noun pure and simple, etymologically coordinate, should be preceded by a possessive in sentences of this character: "The cause of Henry ('s) dying was appendicitis." Dying is here equivalent to death; and we should (if we substituted the pronoun) certainly say "the cause of his dying" rather than "the cause of him dying."

verse: The chief meaning of this word is a single line of poetry; sometimes it is used as a synonym for stanza. Some grammarians advocate the use of verse instead of stanza, and the familiar character of the word seems to argue in favor of this use.

very: Excepting where a participle is used solely as an adjective, it is now thought to be more grammatical to interpose an adverb between the participle and this word. Thus, "very greatly dissatisfied" is preferred to "very dissatisfied," whereas "very tired" is accepted as correct. Compare real.

vest: In the sense of waistcoat, this word, which is in better usage a synonym for undervest, is not used by precise speakers.

vice. Compare crime.

vicinity should not be used for neighborhood."

visit: A term sometimes misused. Do not say "The actor has just visited, with much abuse, the

head of the critic," when you mean that he abused him roundly. This is an erroneous application of the word, which is confounded with the Scriptural usage "to send judgment from heaven upon" as punishment.

vocation. Compare avocation.


wa'n't: A contraction of was not, or improperly of were not; as, "He wa'n't (or they wa'n't) at home": a common vulgarism.

want and need are not synonymous terms, although both denote a lack. Want, however, refers more properly to a personal conception of shortcoming or shortage, whereas need denotes the matter of fact. Thus a delinquent son may need castigation, while he distinctly does not want it. Want, therefore, signifies a wdsh to supply what is lacking. But the word want is sometimes less strong than need, for a covetous man wants (i. e., desires) many things he does not need (or things for which he has an absolute necessity). "I need assistance or I shall drown." Again, "I want a position, but do not need it, because I can continue as I am without it; but when resources fail I shall need it."

want of: An undesirable colloquialism. Do not say "What does he want of a yacht?" say, rather. want with, or "What need has he of a yacht?"