Tag Archives: choosing the right word

Lose or Loose?

I’m sure you know the difference in meaning between these two words, but I see the wrong one written so frequently that I thought I might as well harangue you today:

LOSE means to misplace, be deprived of or cease to retain something. It rhymes with FUSE, MUSE and WOOS.

LOOSE is the opposite of tight. It rhymes with CABOOSE, GOOSE and JUICE. (Who said English spelling isn’t idiosyncratic?)

If you type one of these words, look at it carefully to be certain you have the word you want. That’s called proofreading; don’t just look to see that you spelled the word correctly. Determine that even though it is spelled right it is the word you need.


caboose (Photo credit: ravensong75)


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Who You Callin’ “Gentleman”?

English: Cover of The Country Gentleman magazi...

English: Cover of The Country Gentleman magazine, April 20, 1918 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Gentleman” is not a synonym for just any man or male. It specifically refers to a noble or at least an honorable man, not just any human with XY chromosomes. And yet a day rarely passes that I don’t hear this word misused:

“The driver was clocked at 80 mph in the residential neighborhood and finally came to a stop when he crashed into a brick wall. The gentleman exited the vehicle and was placed under arrest.”

“The gentleman exited the vehicle.”  (How about “The driver/man got out of the car”?)  Chances are someone who endangers people by driving recklessly is no gentleman.

Similarly, “lady” is also misused in a parallel way, although not as frequently.  There is a difference between “lady,” “woman” and “female.”  Words have connotations that directly affect your writing.

As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”  Aim for lightning.

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Filed under All things having to do with the English language