Appendix III: Word Wise

 

M

 

manager – (common gender)
manageress – (obsolete)

(See also actor, actress.)

 

man, master, mistress.

The suffixes -master and -mistress are all but obsolete. Schoolmaster, schoolmistress, headmaster and headmistress have long been replaced by
schoolteacher and headteacher (or head teacher). The substitution of person for man (chairperson, spokesperson) is not always practical so that
man still survives as common gender: chairmanship, craftsmanship, sportsmanship, man-eating, manhandlemanpower, manhuntman-made
manslaughterMankind, on the other hand, is easily replaced with humankind or humanity. There is no gender-free alternative to master as a verb,
nor to the nouns mastermind, masterpiece and mastery.

(See also the generic he.)

 

manoeuvre, manoeuvrable – (UK)
maneuver, maneuverable – (US)

 

mantelpiece – (correct)
mantlepiece – (disputed)

Dictionaries often give mantlepiece as a variant spelling, but Burchfield declares it incorrect.1  

 

marquee, marquess, marquis 

Marquee – a large tent. Marquess – a British nobleman ranking above an earl and below a duke. Marquis – (a) in some European countries (e.g.
France), a nobleman ranking above a count and below a duke; (b) a variant spelling of marquess.

 

marshal – (n.) an official responsible for supervising events; (v.) gather, assemble or arrange.
martial  (adj.) to do with fighting or warfare.

Marshall is a family name.

 

marshal, marshalled, marshalling (UK)
marshal, marshaled, marshaling (US)

 

marvel, marvelled, marvelling – (UK)
marvel, marveled, marveling – (US)

 

may be – could be, might be: You may be right.
maybe – perhaps, possibly: Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner...

 

meaningful.

It is far clearer to speak of a useful dialogue and a successful relationship.

 

media – the press, radio and television.
mediums – spiritualists.

(See also data is, data are and English- and Latin-ending plurals.)

 

medicine. 

Pronounced with either two or three syllables, with two recommended.2 

 

mediaeval – (obsolescent)
medieval – (current)

 

meet, meet with, meet up with.

People are met, not met with or met up with.

(See phrasal verbs.)

 

memoranda, memorandums.

Optional. (See English- and Latin-ending plurals.)

 

mentally handicapped – (obsolete)
mentally ill, with learning difficulties – (current)

 

method, methodology.

Methodology is ‘a body of methods’ or ‘the study of method’, not a synonym of 'method'. If one way of doing things does not work, we try a different
method, not a different methodology.

 

metre, millimetre – (UK)
meter, millimeter – (US)

But the name of measuring instruments is universally spelt metergas meter, thermometerwater meterparking meter.

 

millennia (rather than millenniums).

(See English- and Latin-ending plurals.)

 

misandry – a hatred of men.
misanthropy – a hatred of people.
misogamy – a hatred of marriage.
misogyny – a hatred of women.

 

misplaced modifiers.

These are either ambiguous (People who exercise often live longer) or ridiculous (Woman finds long lost twin after twenty-six years in supermarket 
queue
).

(See only, often and modifiers.)

 

modern, modernised.

Political euphemisms for inferior substitutes or replacements, usually made for cost-cutting purposes: a modernised health service; modernised 
working practices.

(See also argument appealing to novelty.)

 

Mohammed – (obsolete)
Mohomet – (obsolete)
Muhammad – (current)

 

moral. morale.

Moral – (n.) a lesson or maxim: The moral of the story was 'never put all your eggs in one basket'; (adj.) to do with morality or ethics. Morale 
confidence, spirits: The threat of redundancy created a low morale among the workers.

 

mortuary – (UK)
morgue – (US)

 

Moslem – (obsolete)
Muslim – (current)

 

 

 Mother’s Day – (recommended)
Mothers Day – (variant)
Mothers Day – (incorrect)

While the day is dedicated to all mothers (Mothers Day), the singular is preferred in this context as a personification of universal motherhood
(
Mothers Day). To construe mother as an attributive noun (Mothers Day) is a mistake.

 

motive – a purpose or reason for action: a financial motive.
motif – a pattern: a musical motif.

 

moustache – (UK)
mustache – (US)

 

movable – (correct)
moveable – (disputed)

The Times alone champions moveable.3

(See separate entries on knowledgeable, likeable, rateable, sizeable, unmistakable and unshakeable.)

 

mucous – (adj.) to do with mucus.
mucus – (n.) a slimy substance secreted by the mucous membranes.

 

murderer – (common gender)
murderess – (obsolete)

(See also actor, actress.)

 

myself, yourself, herself, etc.

The report was written by Mary and myself (incorrect). The report was written by Mary and me (correct).

(See reflexive pronouns.)

 

____________________

1 R. W. Burchfield (ed.), The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Third Revised Edition, OUP, 1998.
2 Ibid.
3 The Times Style Guide. No longer available on line. Multiple access, 200203