Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Words on Wednesday: he dived right in, or was it dove?

So here is one that has always confused me: is the past tense of dive "dove" or "dived"? Turns out either is correct. Dived has the slight advantage of being the traditional version, but according to several sites I checked, dove has been in use for more than two centuries now (probably because of comparisons with drive/drove, weave/wove), and is also considered correct. So there you go. He dove into the water, and she dived in after him. ;-) Although I suppose you probably wouldn't want to use both of them in the same sentence.

I cited some grammar sites in that paragraph, which brings us to the next tricky word combo of the week: sight/site/cite.

sight has to do with vision, seeing things. Although she hadn't seen him in years, she recognized him at first sight. The sight of the sunset on the mountains brought tears to her eyes. We sighted an owl in the trees behind the house. Don't let that toddler out of your sight. And if you live in Montana, most of the guys you know go out in the fall and sight in their guns before hunting season starts, which means they shoot at some known target (like a bale of hay) to see if the scope on their gun is accurate. Not kidding. It's a major male bonding ritual around here.

site is a locale, the physical location of something, or when referring to an internet website, it is the virtual location of something. They reached the site of the event in plenty of time. She checked the site of the wound for infection. Their client visits the construction site every day. The Smiths camp at the same campsite every year. He created a new website to increase his internet exposure. The files for this project can be downloaded from their FTP site. Welcome to the Geeks on Steroids Site!

cite is to refer to something, usually something that backs up your opinion, or gives an example of what you're talking about. He cited his mother-in-law's dementia as an example of the need for long-term care.  Eleanor cited sixteen journal articles to back up her argument.  When you are citing academic texts in a paper or article, they are known as citations. The citations page often takes more time than writing the rest of the paper. Citation can also be an official acknowledgment of something--good (a citation for service to the community) or bad (a citation for drunk driving). 

This week's weird words: (thanks to a post on Huffpo for the first two)(see? I cited the Huffpo site)(OK, shutting up now.)

sprunt (obsolete) an old Scottish word for "chasing girls around the haystacks after dark." I love this word more than I can say.

fudgel (obsolete) is a verb from the 18th century meaning "to look like you're working when really you're doing nothing." We should definitely bring this one back.

people is an amorphous blob of human beings. According to Strunk (of The Elements of Style fame), since people can't be counted (you can't have "one people"), you shouldn't use "people" with numbers. So, six persons instead of six people. That sounds a bit pretentious to me, but that's what he says. Which brings up the question: if half the crowd leaves, do you have less people or fewer people? fewer sounds right to me (which is how I make most of my grammatical decisions), but few is for things that can be counted.

Hunh. This site (site!) says exactly the opposite: according to the Grammar Curmudgeon, "people" is the plural form of "person" (one person, two people), so therefore it is correct to say "fewer people" instead of "less people," although "less people" is common enough that it is colloquially acceptable. Interesting. Fortunately, I can't even remember the last time I had to write about half the crowd leaving, so I'm ignoring this one.

And there you go. More than you wanted to know. Again.


  1. LOL - I can't remember the last time I had to write about half the crowd leaving either ... so it must be fairly rare.

    1. and we can be thankful for that! :-)