Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Light in the Darkness XIII

For today's blog, we are going back to an older topic, that is, words that are easily confused with one another. These pairs have been pestering me lately, and that means they get a blog thrown at them.

The first of our pestering pairs is “loose” and “lose”. I almost never actually see “lose” written anywhere anymore, and it hurts me deeply. “Lose” is a perfectly fine word. It is not difficult to read or spell, and it is not an unusual word—but it is disappearing. “Loose” shows up in its place, as in the examples below.

“Where is your phaser? Did you loose it on the planet?” asked Kirk.

“Of course not, Captain. How could I loose a phaser?” asked McCoy, trying to hide the empty holster at his side.

Jim! Not in front of the Vulcans. You can "loose" my belt later...

These sentences will not trigger spell-checks, of course, as “loose” is a word. Nor will these uses trigger a grammar check, even if—as most are not—it is actually a good grammar checking program. That is because it is possible to use “loose” in these sentences, but it changes the meaning. For instance, in the above examples, Kirk is asking McCoy if the doctor had turned his phaser free to wander the planet. McCoy answers that he has not done this. Nowhere has either man addressed the issue of McCoy misplacing the phaser.

Galactic grammar nerds revenge themselves on this red shirt for "loosing" his phaser.

Here is a more appropriate usage of both words.

“Where is your phaser? Did you lose it on the planet?”

“Of course not, Captain. How could I lose a phaser?” asked McCoy, trying to hide the empty holster at his side.

“Where is your phaser? Did you loose it against the planet?”

“What the frak, Captain? I'm a doctor, not a villain! I'm not going loose a phaser on a primitive and helpless planet!”

But I just loosed something on Sulu. LOL

“Lose” is the word that means, in the sentences above, “to misplace”. “Where is your phaser? Did you misplace it on the planet?”

“Loose” can mean “to release” or “to shoot”, as it does in our phaser example. Usually, it is wanted, however, to mean “not tight”.

“Your girdle is working well, Captain, and your uniform is lose.”

“Your girdle is working well, Captain, and your uniform is loose.”

This is not usually a problem because “loose” is the word most people seem to use.

Psst! If you tell anyone about my girdle, I'll kill ya. Carry on.

There is another pair of words that are causing me fits as well, but they are more closely tied than “loose” and “lose” are.

“Breath” and “breathe” are, in my experience, being confused.

“Breath” is a noun. You can do things to your breath, such as hold it, let it out, have it come short, and so forth.

“Breathe” is a verb. You do not do things to “breathe”; you breathe.

“Spock, hold your breathe! Your space suit has a hole!”

“Captain, I cannot breath at all.”

Yeah, no shit, Captain. So does yours, by the way.

When using “breath” and “breathe” remember “death”. “Death” rhymes with “breath”, and they have the same ending. Without “breath”, “death” will come. Otherwise, use “breathe”.

Until next week, keep those grammar candles burning. (And don't hold your breath waiting for the next candle blog!)


  1. Loved this post, especially with all the Trekkie photos. Wonderful! Thanks for the reminders. :)

  2. Allison, thanks! If you're into Trek, check out A Light in the Darkness XII, too! :)

  3. Thank you for this! These words have been annoying me too..or rather the misuse of them which seems prevalent in ebooks.
    Hugs xx

  4. Sheesh! Those ebooks needed better editors!:)

  5. Good stuff. I always enjoy the grammar blogs.

  6. Thanks, James! Glad you're following!

  7. Very nice. What better way to illustrate your point than through the medium of Star Trek? The photos above remind me of the wonderfully awful acting throughout this classic series :-)

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Carol!

    Joe -- yeah we were doing vamps and wolves for a while, but it got boring. We thought Star Trek might be something we could exploit more for its humor. What a great show!


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