Welcome to your GrammarBook.com e-newsletter.
“I love getting the grammar
e-newsletter. I enjoy learning something new each week and even find myself correcting my own grammar when speaking.”
“I am thrilled to have a resource such as GrammarBook.com at my fingertips to share with my students.”
“As a writer, I've used your quizzes to refresh all those lessons I've either forgotten or ignored. It's been a most useful tool.”
Don’t Dis Disinterested
We recently heard from a reader who defended using disinterested to mean “uninterested.” To most language mavens, this amounts to high
treason. The sticklers insist that disinterested can only mean “impartial, unbiased”: you’d want a disinterested judge
at your trial—an uninterested judge would just want to go home.
Our correspondent made two compelling arguments. His first was pragmatic: countless people nowadays use uninterested and disinterested
interchangeably. (True, but countless people also use infer and imply interchangeably, and no one is suggesting they are synonyms.) His
second argument was historical: both words meant “not interested” back in the seventeenth century. (That may be, but writers and scholars have
affirmed the words’ different meanings for many generations now.)
The writer Ben Yagoda conducted a survey in his advanced writing seminar and found that ninety-four percent of his students believed that uninterested and disinterested both mean “not interested.” But after further study, including an Internet search,
Yagoda concluded that the formal meaning of disinterested, while imperiled, is safe for the time being. It is inarguable that words change and
evolve, but the traditionalists are determined to keep these two words distinct, with wholehearted support from most English authorities.
Largely absent from this discussion is the difference between the prefixes un and dis. In adjectives, un simply means
“not,” whereas dis can mean several things, including “deprived of,” “the opposite of,” “in a different
direction.” Let’s observe un vs. dis in action with other common words …
• If you are unaffected, you are unchanged (or unpretentious). If you are disaffected, you are alienated from authority or
at odds with society in general.
• You are unable if you cannot do a task at a given moment, but you may never be able to do it if you are disabled.
• When you’re uncredited, you haven’t received the recognition you deserve. When you’re discredited, your
reputation has been sullied.
• If you don’t measure up, you are unqualified, although you can change that with a little hard work. But once you have been disqualified, it’s over for you.
• If you feel unease, you are restless or uncomfortable. There is much more on the line when you have a disease.
So the prefixes un and dis cannot be considered interchangeable. We see from the examples above what a difference un and dis can make when one rather than the other precedes the same root word. We should take this evidence to heart and resist excuses for making uninterested and disinterested synonymous.
Because of the e-newsletter’s large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com’s “Grammar Blog.”
Pick the correct word. Answers are below.
1. Despite her demands for equal pay, she claims to be uninterested/disinterested in the theory of feminism.
2. As a(n) uninterested/disinterested observer, I can enjoy the game more than a diehard fan is able to.
3. This uninterested/disinterested truth-seeker was getting it from both sides.
Free BONUS Quiz for You!
[[firstname]], because you are a subscriber to the newsletter, you get access to one of the Subscription Members-Only Quizzes. Click here to take a Hyphens with Prefixes Quiz and get your scores and explanations instantly!
Good News for Quiz Subscribers
First, we are excited to inform our instructor-level quiz subscribers of several significant improvements to your subscription at no added cost to you:
Second, after logging on, all quiz subscribers may now enjoy GrammarBook.com free of advertisements (excluding the Grammar Blog).
- You may opt out of receiving e-mails when students complete quizzes.
- You may now assign multiple quizzes at a time.
- You may now assign a starting date and ending date when quizzes will be available to students.
- You can now download a spreadsheet containing the results of all quizzes taken by each student.
“So convenient … hundreds of quizzes in one click.”
[[firstname]], Subscribe to receive hundreds of English usage quizzes not found anywhere else!
- Take the quizzes online or download and copy them.
- Get scored instantly.
- Find explanations for every quiz answer.
- Reproduce the quizzes to your heart’s content.
- EASY to use.
- No software to download.
- No setup time.
- A real person to help you if you have any questions!
“Fun to test my skills!”
“The explanations really help … thanks!”
Your choice: Subscribe at the $29.95 or $99.95 level ($30 off - regularly $129.95).
“I download the quizzes for my students who don’t have computer access.”
Subscribe today to receive hundreds of English usage quizzes not found anywhere else!
“Makes learning English FUN!”
Don’t need all the quizzes at once?
You can now purchase the same quizzes individually for ONLY 99¢ each. Purchase yours here.
Get Yours Today!
Get Amazon’s No. 1 Best-seller in Four Categories!
No. 1 in Grammar
No. 1 in Reading
No. 1 in Lesson Planning
No. 1 in Vocabulary
The Blue Book of Grammar
by Jane Straus, Lester Kaufman, and Tom Stern
The Authority on English Grammar!
Eleventh Edition Now Available
Have You Ordered Your Copy Yet?
An indispensable tool for busy professionals, teachers, students, homeschool families, editors, writers, and proofreaders.
Available in print AND as an e-Book! Over 2,000 copies are purchased every month!
Order Your Copy Today!
- Hundreds of Grammar, Punctuation, Capitalization, and Usage Rules
- Real-World Examples
- Spelling / Vocabulary / Confusing Words
- Quizzes with Answers
The publisher is extending its pre-publication discount offer until December 31, 2014! If you live in the United States or Canada, order the new edition of The Blue Book
through Wiley.com and get 30 percent off and FREE shipping. Simply go to bit.ly/1996hkA and use discount code E9X4AYY.
For those of you who live outside the U.S. and Canada, although the publisher is not able to offer free shipping, you will get 35 percent off to help offset your shipping costs. Simply go to bit.ly/1996hkA and use discount code E9X4A.
Words change meaning over time in ways that might surprise you. We sometimes notice words changing meaning under our noses, and it can be disconcerting. How in the world are we all going to communicate effectively if we allow words to shift in meaning like that?
This week, courtesy of language historian Anne Curzan, we continue our run of a small sampling of words that you may not have realized did not always mean what they mean today.
1. Guy: This word is an eponym. It comes from the name of Guy Fawkes, who was part of a failed attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. Folks used to burn his effigy, a “Guy Fawkes” or a “guy,” and from there it came to refer to a frightful figure. In the U.S., it has come to refer to men in general.
2. Hussy: Believe it or not, hussy comes from the word housewife (with several sound changes, clearly) and used to refer to the mistress of a household, not the disreputable woman it refers to today.
3. Egregious: It wasn't always necessarily a bad thing to be egregious: it meant you were distinguished or eminent (rough translation from Latin: “out from the flock”). But in the end, the negative meaning of the word won out, and now it means that someone or something is conspicuously bad—not conspicuously good.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. Despite her demands for equal pay, she claims to be uninterested in the theory of feminism.
2. As a disinterested observer, I can enjoy the game more than a diehard fan is able to.
3. This disinterested truth-seeker was getting it from both sides.
Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.