After a recent presentation someone approached me to tell me how glad she was that I used the word “orient” instead of the word “orientate.” The two are interchangeable but the latter really is unnecessarily clunky.
I remember reading an essay a couple of years ago in which Joseph Epstein lamented writers who substitute “intrigue” for “interest.” I’ve done this–and continue to do this–but not without thinking of Epstein.
Another trend I’ve noticed: People who use “notoriety” when they mean “fame.” Saddam Hussein is notorious; Britney Spears merely famous. (Actually given her recent exploits–her marriages, her reality TV show and the Madonna kiss–she may be notorious, too. But the fame came first.)
On a related note, Christopher Hitchens bemoans a magazine editor who wanted him to change the word “promethean” on the grounds that most readers wouldn’t know what it means. (Hat tip: Sheila O’Malley)
I said, “Maybe they won’t. I’ll cut it out if you give me another synonym for it. You give the words that would stand in for it and I’ll change it.” “There doesn’t seem to be one,” they said. “No, there isn’t, is there?” You either know what “Promethean” means or you don’t. If you do, it saves you about 50 words. And if you don’t, then you can look it up!
How about you? Spotted any violations of language laws lately?