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Rosie Right

Several readers have complained about seeing the noun renown used as an adjective. The correct word, of course is renowned. Apparently, for no clear reason, this is a common mistake — so usual that there is an entry for it in Webster's Dictionary of English Usage.:

"Copperud [editor of several books on grammar and words] finds that renown is commonly misused as an adjective equivalent to renowned. We have a little evidence of this curious error in our files: ...a world-renown authority on peregrines — Massachusetts Audubon News Letter ...

"Perhaps such a usage occurs because the final n of renown is felt to be a participial ending like the final n of known and shown. Perhaps the reason is more obscure. All we know for certain is that renown is not established as an adjective in standard English. Use renowned instead."

This is about as prescriptive as this Webster's reference ever gets, and actually it is very restful to read a clear rule.

Uh-Oh We are grateful to have alert readers, but sometimes they embarrass us. A caller has asked why we wrote that Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly was building a 14,000-square-feet home outside Richmond instead of square-foot home. Alas, the reason is that we were careless. We know that it should have been square-foot, but our concentration slipped. Our caller opined that perhaps the reason the words should be square-foot in front of the noun is because it is an adjective. We do not write plural adjectives and, for example, would never say beautifuls homes. But it is appropriate to say a house of 14,000 square feet because here the word feet is a noun.

Prepositions again: A note from Marylee G. McGregor tells us that when she wrote about missing prepositions, Rosie "did not mention my personal pet peeve regarding prepositions. All of a sudden, everyone is saying 'graduated high school/college' when did it change from 'graduated from ...?' I find it ugly to the ears and, in my mind at least, grammatically incorrect."

Rosie agrees with Ms. McGregor. This usage of graduate is painful to Rosie, but we are both about to lose this battle. The wonderful BBI Dictionary of English Word Combinations tells us to use the verb graduate with to or from or with in or with (as in with honors). But, alas, Webster's New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition, which announces on its cover that it is "defining the English Language for the 21st century," lists graduate college. Admittedly it labels it an informal usage, but, too bad, there it is in respectable

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