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Corrective Actions
by Alec Mcewen

EMINENT, OR IMMINENT, DEMISE. A Calgary Herald editorial lamented the "virtual demise of Canadian Airlines International as a solvent company and the eminent demise of its chief competitor, Air Canada." While it is true that the collapse of Air Canada, should it ever occur, would he a prominent event, the writer evidently meant imminent, or about to happen. Although demise is often used as a synonym for death, it originally meant the act of being sent away or transferred, and it still appears in that sense as a legal term for the leasing of real property. DECIMATE. A Reuters report that the wanton killing of atbatrosses by fishermen "threatens to wipe out some varieties" quoted a New Zealand researcher as warning that, unless the practice ceases, the birds` population "will be decimated." Decimate, no longer used in its original sense of punishing mutinous soldiers by selecting and executing every tenth man in the ranks, now means to destroy a large part, but not all, of a group or number. The deliberate destruction of albatrosses by wiping them out would mean their extinction, not merely their decimation. MASSACRE. The Associated Press`s choice of the word massacre to describe the killing by death squads of eight Rio de Janeiro street children invites the question: when does murder become massacre? Even though massacre was once used to refer to the homicide of a single person, it now suggests wholesale slaughter of people or animals. Perhaps the emotional word should be used only where the victims neither provoked nor were known to their assailant, as in the Lepine tragedy. That type of incident can be distinguished from the so-called Boston Massacre, where an unruly crowd of citizens that taunted British soldiers lost five dead when the troops overreacted by firing their muskets. PROACTIVE. As quoted by the Financial Post, the president of the Vancouver Stock Exchange believes that the B.C. Securities Commission "should proactively correct media reports where regulatory responsibility is improperly allocated" to his institution. Yet this use of proactive, in its modem sense of acting in anticipation of changes or problems, is not only redundant but illogical. As soon as such media reports are issued, any corrective action is after the event and cannot be labelled anticipatory. LITERALLY, FIGURATIVELY. According to a Reuters reviewer of Leonard Felder`s Does Someone at Work Treat You Badly? the American psychologist advises employees to calmly interrupt a screaming boss who "is literally foaming at the mouth." But what if the boss`s condition is caused by drinking a head of beer, or by mistakenly eating a bar of soap, or by an attack of rabies? The urge for emphasis notwithstanding, literally means actually; its metaphorical equivalent is figuratively, and neither word is needed to intensify a welt-known hyperbole. 0RPHAN. In her description of Emma, a character in Prized Possessions, L. R. Wright wrote that as Emma was about to get married her mother died, her father having predeceased her mother many years earlier, "so now she was an orphan." Strictly speaking, Emma became an orphan with the first parental death, for the word means a person who has lost a father or a mother or both. In common usage, however, orphan is generally understood to mean a child bereft of both parents. SHODDY. The use of the word shoddy in the headline above a KitchenerWaterloo Record article to describe inferior change rooms in clothing stores might suggest an appropriate association with cheap fabric. Originally, shoddy was a type of yam made by mixing old woollen rag shreds with new wool to produce manufactured cloth of good quality. The recycled material, though not necessarily of the highest standard, did not deserve the "cheap and nasty" connotation that it later received. EFFECT, AFFECT. In selecting the example "the current economic conditions have effected sates" to illustrate a misused word, the brochure for a Canada-wide Grammar and Usage Seminar points out that the correct choice is affected, because 11 effect` is a noun." True, but its also a verb, and one that might be appropriate in the context given to it. Current economic conditions, whether good or bad, always create an environment in which the sales of some particular goods or services are effected or brought about.

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