Tuesday, June 3, 2014

THE GIDDY GRAMMARIAN: “Let’s Get Naked Together”

by Lisbeth Eng

“The system will be undergoing maintenance and will be down from 12:01 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. We appreciate your cooperation and thank you for baring with us.”

Thus spoke the IT department in its email to all employees. Hmm…the tech guys want us to remove our clothes with them? If you haven’t already figured it out, this ex­emplifies a common confusion between like-sounding words in our exasperating English language. “Bare,” both a verb and an adjective, refers to the state of being unclothed. Bear, besides classifying a large, furry mammal, has several mean­ings, one of which is possessing the power to sustain without flinching or breaking down, a power necessary to withstand the unbearable trauma of five hours without computer access.

Speaking of which, don’t confuse access and assess. The first refers to right of entry while the latter appraisal or judgment. “After we access the secret files, we can assess the capabilities of the enemy.”

There exists an almost endless stream of commonly mixed-up words. Here are but a few examples:

Pique/Peek/Peak – “Wallace could not restrain the fit of pique that arose when he discovered that Charlene had peeked into his medicine cabinet. There she had found the altitude-sickness medication, prescribed after he had reached the peak of Everest.”

Effect/Affect – As a verb, “effect” means to bring about (e.g. effect a change). As a noun, “effect” frequently refers to that which results from something else. “The effect of Rev. Boring’s sermons was to put the entire con­gregation to sleep.” In the plural, it refers to personal property. “The coroner released the effects of the deceased to his family.” “Affect” is most often used as a verb meaning to have influence on. “The drought affected the crop yield for all the farmers in the region.” The word is also used as a psychological noun, meaning emotion or mood. “The patient’s lack of affect made diagnosis difficult.”

Lay/Lie – “Lay” takes a direct object and means to put or place something down. The past tense, past participle and present participle are laid, laid and laying. “He laid the book on the table.” “Hens are known for laying eggs.” “Lie” is an intransitive verb (takes no direct object) meaning to be at or to assume a horizontal position. Its past tense, past participle and present participle are lay, lain and lying. “Alice awoke with a start. She had lain in bed for a full twelve hours.” If Alice had laid in bed, she would have to have laid something…perhaps eggs?♥

Lisbeth Eng works as a Compliance Officer in the financial industry by day and writes historical romance by night. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English, and speaks a smattering of German, Italian and French. Please visit her at www.lisbetheng.com.


  1. I want to print up this list, Lis. I get all of these mixed up all the time and have to really watch for them on edits. Thanks! Great article. :-)

  2. Thanks, Isabo. I have to double-check too, sometimes.