Appendix III: Word Wise

 

B

 

baby boy, baby girl.

Pleonastic in the context of giving birth. If Ms Jones gave birth to a girl, we can generally deduce that the girl was a baby.

(See clichés, pleonasms and verbosity.)

 

backwards, forwards – (UK)
backward, forward – (US)

(See -ward(s) suffixes.)

 

bacteria – (plural)
bacterium – (singular)

(See English- and Latin-ending plurals.)

 

bad, badly.

Adverbs generally drop their -ly endings when they are used with sensual verbs (verbs of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste). Thus: The food
tasted bad
, but Colin played golf badly; The roses smelt sweet, but The cellist played sweetly; The wind felt bitter, but The wind blew bitterly.
Unfortunately, the rule is not consistent: grow light, touch lightly, sing low, swing low.

 

bail out, bale out.

The confusion results from the respective meanings of bail (‘take charge of’) and bale (‘a bundle’ or ‘leave’). Thus we bail out a prisoner or
someone in difficulty, and bale out of an aircraft. As for emptying water from a boat, authorities disagree. The Oxford  Compendium declares bail
out
to be British and bale out, American1The Times endorsing the distinction by choosing bail out.2 Burchfield3 and The Guardian4 opt for bale
out
.

 

baptise – (UK)
baptize – (US & UK)

(See -ise-and -ize-ending verbs.)

 

bare – (adj.) naked, basic, empty; (v.) reveal, expose.
bear – (v.) carry, endure, support, sustain; (n.) Paddington, Rupert and Yogi.

Bare: bare facts, bare hands, bare cupboard, bared teeth, bared soul. Bear: bear gifts, bear arms, bear malice, bear pain, bear in mindbear with
me
, bear west, bear witness, bear children.

 

base – morally low.
bass – musically low.

 

basically.

Basically tedious. Options: chiefly, essentially, fundamentally, merely, primarily, principally, purely, simply.

 

basis.

Often verbose: on a weekly basis (weekly, every week).

(See clichés, pleonasms and verbosity.)

 

BCE – (before the Common Era) an alternative to BC.

 

beg the question.

In logic, to beg the question is to make a circular argument (e.g. the well-known catch 22). More loosely, the expression means to ‘evade the 
question’ (in the manner characteristic of politicians) or to ‘raise the question’: Eighty per cent of people now own mobile phones, which begs the 
question whether we need public telephone boxes any longer
.

 

behaviour.

Behaviour is a mass noun; like health and happiness, it has no plural. We can speak of behaviour patterns but not legitimately of behaviours.

 

benefactor – one who provides support (especially financial) for another person or a cause.
benefice – a permanent church appointment
beneficence – generosity, kindness, support.

beneficent – generous, kind, supportive.
beneficial – advantageous, useful, favourable.
beneficiary – a person in receipt of benefit (especially a will or an insurance policy).

 

benefited, benefiting – (UK recommended)
benefitted, benefitting – (US, UK optional)

 

beside, besides.

Beside – at the side of: My shoes are beside the dresser; irrelevant to:Your argument is beside the point. Besides – furthermore, moreover, in
addition to, apart from: I don’t feel like going out tonight. Besides, I can’t afford to; There is no one here besides the 
two of us.

 

between…and… (correct)
between…or…(incorrect)

With little money left after their night out, they had to choose between a curry and (not or) a taxi home. Or is used without betweenWith little
money left after their night out, they had to choose a curry or a taxi home.

 

biannual – occurring twice yearly.
biennial – occurring every two years.

 

bias, biased.

Bias – (n.) a predisposition or prejudice: The interviewer was accused of bias; (v. present tense): Try all you want, you won’t bias his judgement;
give weight or importance to. Biased – (adj.): The referee was accused of making a biased decision; (v. past tense and past participle): The
candidate’s height probably biased the interviewer
.

 

billion.

The American value of a thousand million has superseded the older British value of a million million.

 

biriani – (recommended)
biryani – (variant)

 

Biro ™ – ballpoint pen.

 

bitter, bitterly.

(See bad, badly.)

 

Black (n.)
black (adj.)

The adjective is now the preferred term for people of Afro-Caribbean origin, but the noun is considered offensive (a BlackBlacks) since it seems to
define, rather than just describe, people by their colour. The same may be said for white and White, although people of Asian and Oriental origin
are less disposed to be described by skin colour.

 

blond – (masculine)
blonde – (feminine)

Men are blond; women are blonde (adj.). With no male equivalent, the noun blonde can be offensive.

 

boar – a wild pig.
Boer – a South African (especially a farmer) of Dutch descent.
boor – a crude, ill-mannered person.
bore – (n.) the hollow of a cylinder; (colloquial) a tiresome person or tedious task; (v.) drill; tire with dullness.

 

boat – a small vessel up to the size of a trawler.
ship – a large ocean-going vessel.

 

born – created.
borne – endured, carried, transported.
bourn – a small stream.

 

brake – (v) (past tense and past participle, braked) slow down, stop; (n.) a device for slowing down or stopping.
break – (v.) (past tense broke; past participle broken) damage; exceed; pause; (n.) a rest period.

 

brand new, not bran new.

 

breach, breech, breeches.

Breach – (v.) break, violate, infringe, contravene: to breach contract; (n.) a violation: a breach of contract; (warfare) create a gap in a fortification
by artillery; (n.) such a gap. Breech – rear end, rump, hind quarters: a breech-loading rifle; a breech birthBreeches – short trousers fastened
below the knee.

 

break down – (v.)
breakdown – (n.)

Break down – (v.) break down under pressure; break down the figures. Breakdown – (n.) a nervous breakdown; a mechanical breakdown; a
breakdown of the figures
.

 

Britain, Great Britain, United Kingdom, British Isles.

Great Britain is the island comprising England, Wales and Scotland. Britain can refer either to Great Britain or, more usually, to the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The 
British Isles comprise the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight, the
Channel Islands, the Scilly Isles, the Hebrides, 
Orkney, Western Isles and Shetland.

 

broach – raise for discussion.
brooch – an ornament pinned to clothing.

 

broker.

Strictly a noun in British English. We arrange or negotiate contracts; only Americans broker deals.

 

bureaus – (UK & US) writing desks; (US) offices.
bureaux – (UK) offices.

 

burger – a truncation of hamburger.
burgher – a citizen or freeman.

 

burgle – (UK)
burglarise – (UK)
burglarize – (US & UK)

The spellings are thus, but burgle, not burglarise, is the correct verb in British English. 

(See also -ise-and -ize-ending verbs.)

 

burned, burnt.

As verbs, it matters little which version is chosen, either in the past tense (I burnedI burnt the toast) or the past participle (I have burnedI have
burnt the toast
). So, too, with dreamed, dreamt; kneeled, knelt; leaped, leapt; leaned, leant; learned, learnt; smelled
smelt; spelled, speltspilled,
spilt; and spoiled, spoilt. But he adjectives usually take t-endings: burnt toast, spilt milk, spoilt 
child, but learned person.

(For the inconsistent rules of use, see -ed-and -t-ending verbs.)

 

bused, busing – (UK)
bussed, bussing – (US)

Burchfield accepts this American verb with its British spelling5, while both The Guardian6 and The Times7 adopt the American spelling. BBC
Radio
accepts neither and insists on taken by bus.8

 

buses – (UK) plural of bus.
busses – (US) plural of bus.

 

by-law, bye-law, bylaw.

Optional. The Oxford Compendium9 gives by-law as the principal spelling with bye-law as a variant. Both The Guardian10 and The Times11 opt
for bylaw. (But always by-election.)

 

____________

1 Oxford Compendium Concise Dictionary, 9th Edition, OUP, 1995.
2 The Times Style Guide. No longer available on line. Multiple access, 2002
03.
3 R. W. Burchfield (ed.), The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Third Revised Edition, OUP, Oxford, 1998.
4 The Guardian Style Guide. Multiple access, 200203.
5 Burchfield, op. cit.
6 The Guardian Style Guide.
7 The Times Style Guide.
8 BBC Radio Newsroom, Alphabetical List. Accessed 20.05.03.
9 Oxford Compendium.
10 The Guardian Style Guide.
11 The Times Style Guide.