Stint and stent

These two words are used interchangeably and wrongly by too many people! We simply have to end the insanity today—and you can help! (Thank you—I feel better….)

A stint usually refers to a specific period of time dedicated to a specific action. For instance, “I did a stint as a hospital technician back in 2012.” Think “I did a stretch as…” or “I did a turn as a go-fer at that company when I was in college.” That’s a stint.

A stent, on the other hand (or in the other artery) is a mesh medical device for keeping bodily tubes open. They put stents in people who have blocked arteries to increase blood flow.

So unless someone gets shrunk down to Incredible Shrinking Man size and is implanted in someone’s artery for a temporary job, we can’t say that there’s a stint in there. If arterial health is the goal, that would be a stent.

Bottom line: Stints are what we have spent some time doing; stents go inside people.


Sons-in-law and attorneys general

When we pluralize words like son-in-law, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, etc., we do that by simply taking the noun and adding an s.

So it’s mothers-in-law, fathers-in-law, sons-in-law, etc. For example, the author has two lovely daughters-in-law. (They are not daughter-in-laws.)

Some of you are screaming at me now and saying, “But law is a noun, too.” Aye, but there’s the rub: the phrase “in-law” is an adjective describing the kind of mother/father/son/daughter you’re talking about. So in that two-word construction, law is not a separate noun.

This week’s other funny/funky plural is a legal and/or governmental term: attorney general. In this phrase, general is an adjective, not a noun. It describes the kind of attorney we are talking about. (Insert tasteless lawyer joke here.] So we take the noun—attorney—and add an s when we want to make it a plural. So one attorney general, two attorneys general, three attorneys general (and that’s really all the attorneys anyone wants to deal with, yes?).

Don’t overcomplicate things here. Just find the noun and add the s there.

A lot/allot/alot

A mistake here is always a matter of written grammar error, as all these sound the same when we speak.

Many things equals a lot of things—two words. There is no such word as alot. A and lot should always be written as two separate words.

(Then there’s allot. That means to assign or allocate or apportion something, or to give it as a share of something. For example, “Line up, and I will allot each of you your piece of cake.”

To repeat, don’t ever write alot. Ain’t no such word. : ). If you are referring to many things, it’s two words: a and lot.