I fare better with a little help from my friend

Thank goodness for my sharp-eyed friend. In a recent entry on a political blog for which I write, I used the word “fair” when I should have used “fare” and, fortunately, Susan, who likewise writes for a living, pointed it out to me.

I confess this sheepishly, as I should have known better. But the episode allows me to make two points:

One, every document needs editing and everybody needs an editor. Everything, everybody. If you don’t have someone who can read your writing, then wait a few days and look at it with fresh eyes. That’s not quite as efficacious as having an objective editor who has not previously seen your document, but it’s better than nothing.

Two, so you don’t make the same mistake, here are the words’ definitions:

“Fair” can be a noun, as in the State Fair, or an adjective that variously means even-handed or unbiased; pale; or pleasant in appearance. Let’s hope the concept of “the fair sex” has been banished from most lexicons.

“Fare” likewise can be a noun, as in bus fare or food and drink. As a verb, it means how one gets along or succeeds/fails. Clearly, I fared better with Susan’s help.

As for fair fare? In Indiana, that would be deep-fried Snickers and elephant ears.

Sir, you are no gentleman

The police officer was telling the newspaper about the arrest of a man suspected of a home invasion and an attack on a fuel truck driver, who had spotted the man crouched behind a wood pile at a gas station.

“When asked what was going on, or what he was doing, the gentleman got out from behind the wood pile and demanded his money and a brief struggle ensued,” the police officer said.

My definition of “gentleman” does not include someone who may have invaded a house and attacked a man. There’s a perfectly good, non-judgmental word to describe this person: “man.”

People similarly misuse “lady” all the time when they really should say “woman.” So the police officer is hardly the only person guilty of misusing a word that, in my book, should be reserved for a refined person who shows good manners and behavior.

Even Scarlett O’Hara recognized that Rhett Butler was no gentleman, and she didn’t mind telling him so. Nor did he have any problem making this retort: “And you, miss, are no lady.”

Let’s all follow the Scarlett-Rhett rule.

Sorry; I can't compliment this reporter's writing

It’s hard to believe but, five years ago, former U.S. Senator and Governor Evan Bayh was being mentioned, along with a zillion others, as then-candidate Barack Obama’s possible running mate.

A blog written by a Washington Post political reporter said that Bayh was considered by some to be “too boring” to be president, a trait that led to his early exit from the 2008 presidential race. Then, to add injury to insult, the blogger said that Bayh’s blandness “recommends him as the perfect compliment for the uber-flashy Obama.”

One hopes Mr. Bayh got a good chuckle at the reporter’s woeful mistake of using the word “compliment” instead of “complement,” an error he repeated later in the blog.

Interestingly, the blogger used the word “compliment” correctly even later in the same item when he encouraged readers to “condemn or compliment” his view.

“Compliment” means to praise another’s attribute or skill. An appreciative guest compliments his host’s choice of wine for dinner.

“Complement” means to go together nicely. A chewy cabernet sauvignon complements a New York strip.