Fine Points II


Pick the preferred word in each case.

1. I have (continually/continuously) been improving my wardrobe.
2. At the meeting we solved one problem but then could get no (farther/further).
3. Bruce was (champing/chomping) at the bit to refute what Kirk was claiming.
4. Although the practice is risky, I have decided to (lend/loan) my son-in-law money to buy a new car.

Your score

We know that word use changes over time, and one kind of change is a softening of some distinctions. So feel free to disagree, but I think in all four of these cases straying from original uses is not serious. In other words, you scored 100 on the quiz. Congratulations! But if you want to know what fussy folks (like me) would do, here you go.

The stickler point of view

1. Continually means that something keeps happening, but intermittently. (Zoe continually makes remarks that are politically incorrect.) Continuously means unceasing, like our pulse. (The alarm rang continuously for a full hour.)
(Note that continuous can also be used to describe something spatial, such as a continuous line – an unbroken one.)
2. A purist would use further in #2, because we’re being conceptual, and farther for something that can truly be measured, such as mileage. (The ice storm prevented me from driving any farther.)
3. You and I chomp, but when we use the expression in #3 we are referring to the action of a horse, and horses champ. So the original phrase is champing at the bit.
4. Using loan as a verb is widely accepted, but sticklers would say or write that they are going to lend their son-in-law money or give him a loan.

Distinctions about distinctions

We are in a gray area here, and beyond that, there are shades of gray. For example, some people can’t stand hearing irregardless, and I certainly agree that although irregardless is marginally acceptable, it’s much better form to stick with regardless. But the four distinctions above are far less important.

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