In light of / in lieu of

These two seem to get used incorrectly a lot, and it can be easy to do when you’re not really thinking about it.

First off, these two phrases are not synonymous phrases; they mean quite different things.

“In light of” means “taking into consideration” or “taking into account”. For example: “In light of the recent economic downturn, we won’t be investing in such-and-such a business.” Or, “In light of Mom’s questionable cooking skills, I opt to take Mom and Dad out to dinner.” Literally, it means “in the light of,” which is a great visual to help us remember its meaning.

“In lieu of” means “in place of.” Lieu is the French word for place. So the phrase means “in place of” or “instead of.” Examples: “In lieu of hot dogs for this year’s party, let’s go with hamburgers.” Or “I think we should hire a professional to do the work in lieu of having your sister paint the kitchen.”

Or….

In light of how instructive and fun this grammar site it, I will tell my friends about it. And…

In lieu of keeping this site a secret so I don’t sound dumb, I will tell all my friends to sign up for this site!

Have a good week!

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Past

There’s nothing wrong with using this word—except when it’s redundant. And that’s where we find most of the goofs in our speech.

How often have you heard the phrases “past history” or “past experience”? Probably far too often, and likely often enough that we no longer feel the damage it’s doing to our brains.

Think about it. “History” is all in the past, isn’t it? So “past history” is redundant, right?

How about our experiences? As far as I’m aware, I’ve never had a future experience. Come to think of it, all my experiences have been in the past. (I’m assuming yours have been, too. So to say “past experience” is redundant, too.)

So let’s just say things like “History tells us…” and “From my experience…”. And yes, you have my permission to ask folks about any future history or future experiences when they use “past” redundantly!

Famous/Infamous/Notorious

We all know that famous means well-known.

The goof comes when we use notorious as a synonym for famous, or notoriety as a synonym for fame.

Infamous and notorious mean famous FOR A BAD REASON. If someone achieves notoriety, it’s for doing something you would probably be ashamed of or embarrassed about. The bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 has been called a day “which will live in infamy” (italics mine). That’s an excellent and appropriate use of the word.

So unless you’re a complete contrarian or something of a sociopath, you shouldn’t want to be infamous or notorious. That simply means you’re well-known for doing something wrong or dumb. We also shouldn’t be calling someone notorious just because they’ve become famous for something. That’s incorrect and an insult.

One can be both famous and infamous, of course (e.g., people with the last name of Kardashian). Personally, I don’t want to be famous, but if it happened for something good, then that would be OK. But I would never want to be infamous or notorious.

If you do want to be infamous or notorious, talk to a counselor. Seriously.