Monday Muddle: parson, person

Monday Muddle: parson: (noun) member of the clergy; vicar; priest person: (noun) an individual; human being
A sign on a shop window that reads, "Only 2 parsons allowed inside".

Sometimes I am asked, “Do people really mix those up?” Yes. All the muddles I share with you have been seen in real life. Usually they are in the middle of a document, and I just add them to my list. Occasionally, I have a photo of them.

Now, to be fair, I’m not completely certain if this store has had previous problems with gangs of clergy that they are trying to avoid, or if they just had trouble with their spelling. Either way, someone may be confused about who is allowed in.

Monday Muddle: opt in, opt-in

Monday Muddle: opt in: (phrasal verb) choose to enroll; choose to register; choose to participate Used most frequently to indicate signing up online for an email list. opt-in: (adjective) usually used before "form" or "box" to describe the place where someone can choose to register; (noun) a shorter version of "opt-in form" For example: My opt-in is on every page of my website.

I have seen “optin” as one word without a hyphen used as a noun occasionally. It is not yet standard, but I expect it will be one day. If you choose to use this variant, be aware that autocorrect may change it to “option”.

Monday Muddle: meddle, mettle

Monday Muddle: meddle: (v) to interfere; to pry into someone else's affairs; to involve oneself in someone else's business without invitation or right given by some authority mettle: (n) ability to cope with difficult circumstances; courage; strength; boldness; resilience; spunk

“To prove one’s mettle” is a common expression. If you have proven your mettle you have come through a difficult situation with grace and aplomb. You might need to prove your mettle if you have neighbours who meddle.

Monday Muddle: metal, medal

Monday Muddle: metal: (n) a solid chemical element, such as gold, silver, or iron, or a combination of such elements, that conducts heat and electricity (adj) made of metal medal: (n) an award, often made of metal, that can be attached to clothing with a pin or hung about the neck with a ribbon; an award commonly given for athletic accomplishment or military honour (v) to win a medal

A metal detector works by creating an electromagnetic field that causes a reaction in metal objects. That reaction sends a signal to the metal detector that usually turns into some kind of beep so that you know metal has been found. I don’t know what a medal detector is, or what it does, but my guess is that it’s some kind of journalist looking for a story about an athletic event.

Monday Muddle: lapse, laps

laps: (n. plural of lap) the horizontal area created by your thighs when you sit down; the circuit of a track; movement around a track (v. to lap) to move more quickly around a track than someone else so that you are a lap or more ahead of them

Lapse is a singular noun. The plural is lapses. A lapse of time is a length of time, usually used to indicate the amount of time that something happened differently than before, or the space of time between two events. The adjective “time-lapse” is used to describe a video or a series of still photographs in which some of the sequence is removed. This allows a slow process to be viewed more quickly. To time laps is to record how long it takes to move around the track. 

Monday Muddle: into, in to

Monday Muddle: into: (preposition) indicates movement in relation to something else; tells you where; to the inside of, to the interior of; also used to indicate transformation Examples: She went into the house. The acorn grew into a mighty oak tree. in to: (adverb + preposition OR part of infinitive) most often seen when "in" is part of a verb phrase Example verb phrase: gave in Example sentence: He gave in to the peer pressure.

Note: I have seen people suggest that if you can replace “in to” with “in order to”, you need the space. However, “in to” is NOT interchangeable with “in order to”. There are contexts in which “to” can be replaced with “in order to”. But if you have a verb phrase that includes “in” (e.g. gave in) followed by “in order to”, you would need to have the word “in” twice. If we continue with the example of the boy who gave in to peer pressure: “He gave in to avoid being bullied further” MEANS THE SAME AS “He gave in in order to avoid being bullied further.” In both cases, the “to” is the beginning of the infinitive. If you had replaced “in to” with “in order to” the meaning would change. If you say “He gave in order to avoid being bullied further”, it would mean the boy gave something to someone for the purpose of avoiding further bullying. What he gave is not specified, but it was possibly his lunch money, or the answers to his homework. Giving to avoid bullying DOES NOT MEAN THE SAME AS giving in to avoid bullying. He might be giving in to the pressure to take drugs or to steal something. (In those cases, “giving in” is not only not the same as giving, but actually means taking.) So “in to” cannot be replaced by “in order to”, but if the “to” can be, you know you need the space.

I know this is a bit of a brain twister. Please ask any questions you have, and let me know what I need to say more clearly.

Monday Muddle: rein, reign, rain

Monday Muddle: rein: (noun) a long, narrow strap typically used in the plural to guide a horse and metaphorically used to guide people or situations; (verb) to guide; to keep under control (used with adverbs like in and back) Part of the expression “free rein”. reign: (noun) the period in which someone holds power; (verb) to rule as king, queen, or other authority figure NOT part of the expression “free rein”. rain: (noun) condensed atmospheric moisture; (verb) to precipitate said moisture NOT part of the expression “free rein”.

The expression “free rein” originated with horsemanship, and literally meant that the horse was free from the control of the reins. Use in broader senses followed. “Free reign” became a common substitution, I expect because people weren’t familiar with horsemanship. I’m not sure what “free reign” would really mean. I don’t think royalty pays for the privilege of ruling a kingdom. “Free rain”, well, I think rain is free for everyone.

“To rein in” means to subdue or to control or to limit. “To reign in” would be followed by a place where royals reside and hold power. “To rain in” might be used in a weather report if you are about to say, for example, that precipitation is beginning in a particular place. It is beginning to rain in London.

“To take over the reins” means to take over the leadership of something, but not necessarily the royal throne. “To take over the reigns” would require more than one royal to die or abdicate and leave an empty throne to be filled. “To take over the rains”—I don’t think that’s a thing.

Monday Muddle: cheque, check

Monday Muddle: cheque: (British English)(noun) a written order to a bank to pay a specified sum of money to a specified person check: (American English)(noun) a written order to a bank to pay a specified sum of money to a specified person check: (both BE and AE)(noun) a test or examination for quality or accuracy; a stop to progress; control or restraint; a chess move; (verb) to test or examine for quality or accuracy; to verify; to stop or slow progress; to mark an item or a form ✅

If you are American, or if you use some sort of electronic payment system, you may never have to worry about “cheque”. But it’s still good for you to know in case you see it in someone else’s writing.

Monday Muddle: ladder, latter

Some people accept the use of "latter" with more than two choices, but purists don't. The terms "last" or "last-mentioned" are preferred.

If someone asks if you want to take the stairs or the elevator, saying you’ll take the ladder will probably confuse them.

The term “ladder” can also be used metaphorically–to climb the corporate ladder or the ladder to success, for example. Whereas a physical ladder allows one to climb up and down, most people don’t want to go down a metaphorical ladder.