Saturday, June 09, 2007

Brought vs Bought - Again

I had an interesting conversation about the who Bought vs Brought confusion last night.
The two American girls I discussed it with were both very surprised to hear that the words are confused. It seems to be quite a divided issue. One guy I talked to said he used to use brought for bought, but now that he has been working on that has started to catch himself saying bought for brought!

So I thought I'd follow up with a couple of pieces of literature I've found on the topic.

This from Blooming English by (Kate Burridge, 2002) She seems to be convinced that the use of bought is becoming 'entrenched'. It seems she is an Australian, so much for the UK connection to bought...

An American (Michael A Covington) seems to say that people tend to use the words interchangeably blaming the fact that there is only one phoneme difference and any errors are unlikely to be noticed more than a simple slip of the tongue.

Personally I think Michael has probably got it right, we often accidentally mispronounce the words, and because our brain works the way it does, automatically translate the word to the correct one. People like me who grew up around mumblers naturally tend towards one pronunciation or the other.

BTW: Blooming English looks like quite an interesting book, if you are a keen on Linguistics. As a for taste, have a look at this blog post from "Semantically Challenged".

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

World Wide Words - Brought vs Bought

A couple of weeks ago, I was proud to have my name mentioned in Michael Quinion's World Wide Words newsletter (which by the way is a great thing to read if you are into linguistics).

I had written in response to an earlier article from the UK suggesting that people have are starting to use "bought" instead of "brought", from my experience in New Zealand the opposite seems to be true. We tend to use "brought" when we actually mean "bought"

Here is what got published:
12 May
Bought and brought The item about this shift in last week’s issue brought forth several comments. Michael Shannon wrote, “As I’ve mentioned before, here in Australia the reverse is true. All too often you’ll hear someone say they have ‘brought’ something at the shops instead of ‘bought’. I’ve been hearing this ever since I arrived in Australia back in 1989 so I can only assume that it was prevalent before then. It’s the most irritating mispronunciation I’ve ever heard.” James Brunskill confirmed its popularity in that part of the world: “In New Zealand, we almost exclusively use ‘brought’ — ‘I brought a new car today’.” Perhaps the author Sebastian Faulks, the writer of the item, has a lot of antipodean friends?

Well 5 minutes of fame was all I got, with this published in the latest newsletter:
19 May
Bought versus brought Firm rebuttals arrived from New Zealand in response to the comment from a reader last week that brought for bought was commonplace in that country. Richard Bentley wrote: “The misuse is not uncommon, but to suggest that it’s used ‘almost exclusively’ is quite incorrect in my experience.” Russell McMahon wrote to agree, “Although we have friends and acquaintances from a wide cross section of backgrounds, it’s not something that I or my wife hear very often here.” On the other hand, Christine Shuttleworth wrote on Monday to say she had just received a message from friends in New Zealand: “Just wanted to let you know, that we brought a house across the road from us on Sunday”. She felt this must have been a major operation.

Of course I was exaggerating saying 'here in New Zealand we almost exclusively use brought', actually in my email I had qualified it a little by saying "In my experience we seem to have done the opposite thing in New Zealand. We almost exclusively use 'brought'." Clutching at straws I know, but I must try to regain some respect...

My real point of course is that while the British may be taking to using 'bought' too often, it certainly seems to me that those of us down under tend to misuse 'brought' instead.
Since making that comment, I've been watching quite closely when people use the words 'brought' and 'bought' and I pleased to report there do exist some people who do use the words 'correctly'. However, I still feel that people who consistently use bought to refer to a purchase are few and far between. It might be my age group, or my particular circle of friends.

So I'm asking for your help. Have a listen next time you hear someone talking about the latest thing they bought. Do they say 'brought'?

Do I have friends who are particularly poor at using these words? or do Richard Bentley and Russell McMahon tend to 'hang out' with those who like to speak proper?

Remember knowing how we should use a word doesn't actually mean we really do use it that way.

Let the comments come!

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

AWAW: Aesthetic

Two words I often get mixed up are Aesthetic and Ascetic The funny thing is that the words mean almost the opposite.
Asthetics has to do with what is beautiful, where as Ascetic has to do with denying yourself pleasure!

I guess the guys at 37signals who deliberately produce software with fewer features might have found away to combine the two. Sometimes by choosing to prune things out of your life, a product or even a tree (I guess that is where the idiom comes from) you can end up with something more beautiful that it might otherwise have been...

aes·thet·ics (ĕs-thĕt'ĭks)
1. The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature and expression of beauty, as in the fine arts.
2. (used with a sing. verb) The study of the psychological responses to beauty and artistic experiences.
3. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) A conception of what is artistically valid or beautiful: minimalist aesthetics.
4. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) An artistically beautiful or pleasing appearance: “They're looking for quality construction, not aesthetics” (Ron Schram).

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

To Linkbait or to Link Bait?

Over at Searchengineland Danny Sullivan debates whether is correct to use the word "Linkbait" or the phrase "Link Bait".

For those of you who don't follow search engine optimization circles and who have no idea what linkbait is I'll explain. Linkbaiting is a term originally coined by Nick Wilson in his article The Art of Linkbaiting it refers to the practice some webmasters/bloggers are attempting in which they publish a piece of content in the hope that other people will link to it. This isn't really anything new as most webmasters and bloggers hope that the articles they write will be linked to by others. The difference is that in this case you specifically write the article or blog post with that purpose in mind.

I didn't really write this post to define linkbait, but more to comment on the fact that a) people seem to believe that there is or 'should be' one correct way of spelling or referring to this concept and b) that they are interested enough to write about it. Or is the post itself just another piece of linkbait? If so it worked for me...

I am always interested in language change, and I find it fascinating when people start arguing over the correct usage of a word. To my mind the correct usage of a word is just the way it is actually used. For example the word "sucks" once had a pretty crude meaning, but now days it is just used to say something is useless or no good.

Sucks is the most concise, emphatic way we have to say something is no good.

Surprising this is more or less what Danny suggests in the linkbait his article. He says that more people use the term linkbait than link bait so we should all use that. Perhaps. I think it is probably a bit too new a term for that type of analysis to work. There are other forces at play, For example linkbait shows up as a misspelled word in most spellcheckers, it will be interesting to see if that has an effect on usage.

My thoughts on the issue? Lets check back in a years time and see if the term is still being used at all and if there is a strong lean towards one or the other.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

AWAW: Venerable

Every now and then you hear someone describes a "venerable" it sounds like a good thing, but what does it really mean?



  1. Commanding respect by virtue of age, dignity, character, or position.

  2. Worthy of reverence, especially by religious or historical association: venerable relics.

  3. Venerable (Abbr. Ven. or V.)

    1. Roman Catholic Church. Used as a form of address for a person who has reached the first stage of canonization.
    2. Used as a form of address for an archdeacon in the Anglican Church or the Episcopal Church.

Wordnet says it like this:

Meaning #1: impressive by reason of age

Meaning #2: profoundly honored

Looks like quite a useful word, and one that is in reasonably comon use. So give it a try next time you meets someone that commands your respect :)

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Million Dollar Comma

See this story in "the register" about how the interpretation of some gramatical rules could end up costing Rogers Communications 1 million dollars.

The thing I found a amusing was this quote from the commission researching the case:

The Commission sided with Aliant, describing the clause as "clear an unambiguous". Had the intention been to limit the right to terminate at the end of the current and any renewal term, clear wording would have been included specifying by what date the notice was required, it said.

You think that a commission looking into the the meaning of a comma in a contract would take the time to correctly state "clear and unambiguous"? Note: I guess this could be the register's error.

You might also enjoy this link about the Oxford English Dictionary:
Cyber-Neologoliferation: Cyber-Neologoliferation:

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


According to WordWays logology is an old word resurrected by the late Dmitri Borgmann to describe recreational linguistics . That would make people like me (and quite likely others who read this blog) a logologist.

I don't subscribe to WordWays, so I can't give much of a reveiw of it, but David Weignburger has just blogged about it on his site Joho the Blog. It sounds like it contains some quite interesting stuff. The WordWays site also contains a bunch of articles from older issues that look like an interesting read.

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