Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Word about Words

Don’t let these commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases trip you up
By Mark Terence Chapman

Here are some more words and phrases that are commonly misused or misspelled. A conscientious writer should use these correctly. More importantly, using these words/phrases correctly will reduce the odds of your writing being rejected by an editor due to excessive errors. (Editors don’t want to waste time on pieces that require an inordinate amount of their time to clean up.) Even if you write only business reports and emails, you still wouldn’t want people chuckling over your misuse of the English language, would you?

Bookoo or Boocoo vs. Beaucoup

Wrong: We’re gonna get in boocoo trouble!
Right: We’re gonna get in beaucoup trouble!

Beaucoup is French for many, much, large, or significant (as in merci beaucoup: many thanks). Although the correct French pronunciation is bo-KOO, in English it’s often pronounced BOO-koo, leading to the incorrect phonetic spellings.

Intrical vs. Integral

Wrong: He’s an intrical part of this operation
Right: He’s an integral part of this operation.

Integral means consisting or composed of parts of a whole, or essential to the completeness of the whole. It can even refer the whole itself. Intrical is simply a misspelling and mispronunciation, and not an integral part of the English language.

Per say vs. Per se

Wrong: I don’t have an answer per say, but I do know how to find out.
Right: I don’t have an answer per se, but I do know how to find out.

Per se is Latin for “by itself,” and means “intrinsically,” “in and of itself,” or “with respect to its inherent nature.” Per say is simply a phonetic misspelling.

Clean up vs. Cleanup

Wrong: We need a clean up on aisle three.
Right: We need a cleanup on aisle three.

Cleanup is a noun that refers to the act of cleaning up. On the other hand, clean up is a verb phrase that means to wash or tidy up, purge of undesirables, finish, or make a large profit. So, you can straighten up a room, bat cleanup, or make a killing in the stock market.

Or either vs. Or else

Wrong: We can eat now, or either we can eat after the show.
Right: We can either eat now, or (else) we can eat after the show.

Or either is often heard in the southern U.S., but it’s exactly backwards. The choice is to either do this or do that. (Either we eat now, or we eat later.)

Astalavista vs. Hasta la vista

Wrong: Astalavista, baby!
Right: Hasta la vista, baby!

Hasta la vista (the h is silent) is Spanish for “until the seeing,” translated as “until we see each other again”—essentially, “See ya later.”

Shutdown vs. Shut down

Wrong: Always shutdown your computer during a lighting storm.
Right: Always shut down your computer during a lighting storm.

A shutdown (noun) refers to the cessation of an activity, such as shutting down a business, or a computer. The verb phrase to shut down means to close, stop, or hinder.

Smorgasborg vs. Smorgasbord

Wrong: I hear the new calling plan is a veritable smorgasborg of features.
Right: I hear the new calling plan is a veritable smorgasbord of features.

Unless your calling plan comes from the Star Trek universe, it’s a smorgasbord, which is an extensive variety or array, named for the Swedish word for a buffet of various hot and cold foods.

All be it vs. Albeit

Wrong: I’m here, all be it two hours late.
Right: I’m here, albeit two hours late.

Albeit is a conjunction that means “although” or “even if.” (It’s a 14th century contraction of “although be it.”) All be it is simply a phonetic misspelling.
If you’ve ever been confused about any of these words or phrases, tack this column to the wall by your desk. It’ll help you avoid similar errors in the future.

Mark Terence Chapman writes in various genres: He’s a poet, short story writer, novelist, humorist, and even a nonfiction writer tackling computer topics and nanotechnology. To find out more about Mr. Chapman, please visit his Web site at: or his blog at:

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