Liable and Likely

The words liable and likely are now being used synonymously, and this post isn’t going to slow down that trend one iota.

Just file this under “Things I never knew” if you tend to use them that way.

The first meaning of the word liable is connected with the law. It means legally obligated or responsible for something, usually making reference to the one who must pay or is going to get in trouble because of something. If your tree hits the neighbor’s roof, you are probably liable for damages. (When you’re thinking being legally responsible, we usually say, liable for.) If it helps you to remember, it’s from a French word meaning, “to bind,” as in legally binding.

That’s the first meaning. Because it is, we tend to use liable when we mean likely with the connotation that something negative could occur: “He’s liable to hurt himself if he keeps that up.”

When we use likely to describe a possibility, it doesn’t carry a positive or negative connotation. It just refers to a strong possibility.

It would be nice to go back to a time when liable just referred to legal situations and likely referred to possibility. But that’s neither liable nor likely to happen!

Daylight Saving Time

It’s Daylight Saving Time. Just “saving”—with no “s” at the end.

Savings refers to money most of the time, and this changing of the clocks isn’t about money (except perhaps indirectly).

We are apparently “saving” daylight by turning the clock ahead. So it’s just Daylight Saving Time.

Hope your body adjusts quickly! I’m still dragging….

That pushy “L”–Jewelry and Realtor™

Two weeks ago, we discussed “The R’s that Aren’t” ( Those were those bossy R’s that try to insinuate themselves into words where they don’t belong, such as sherbet and persevere, both of which have enough R’s as it is.

Today we’re talking about the letter L, which does belong in a couple of words we’re discussing, but which continually tries to push itself forward in the pronunciation.

The two words with the pushy L’s are jewelry and Realtor™.

The rude L in jewelry tries to press for a pronunciation of Jew-luh-ree. There are dozens of possible and delightful Semitic jokes to be had here, but I will wisely eschew them. In any event, we never talk about having a new jew-luh, but of receiving a new jew-el. So it’s jew-el-ree. Not jew-luh-ree. (And just because you heard it pronounced that way on a local commercial doesn’t mean it’s correct!)

The problem may well stem from a slurred pronunciation of jeweler, which sometimes ends up as jew-lurh. That may explain why I keep hearing some jewelry store commercials talk about their jew-luh-ry. You’d think they would get the product name right sometime before recording….

The other word is Realtor™, which is actually a trademarked name. I will leave it to advertisers to continue to distinguish a Realtor™ from a run-of-the-mill real estate agent. Only you will know in your heart if you are capitalizing the R when you say it, but I wish to focus on the rest of the word.

What it’s not: Ree-luh-tor.

What it is: Real-tor. Pronounce the first half as real, and you’ll be fine. If helpful, remember that we don’t say “ree-luh estate,” but we say “real estate.”

Sometimes these pesky letters, in this case the L, like to push to the head of the line. Let’s work to keep them where they belong.