This is a major moan on my part. Major. And I mean, MAJOR. Are y’all gettin’ the picture yet?
The -ing and -ed endings for verbs are suffixes and whether you double up on a consonant or not depends on whether the word has a consonant-only ending or ends with a consonant + -e.
Consonant + e = remove the e and add -ing or ed.
Consonant alone = double the consonant and add -ing or ed.
The -ed ending on a verb creates a past participle (verb that acts like an adjective).
I can’t begin to whine on enough about the number of times my attention is jerked about when I read that someone is repinning for someone. What? When did a seamstress or tailor show up in the story? Why would they be pinning something when just a sentence ago they were sad? Pinterest is particularly bad with repining. Okay, I may be disgusted that I spend so much time cruising through the different boards, but generally I’m happy to be repinning so many pretty and useful ideas.
Lately, I’ve seen lots of confusion over poling and polling. Oh, boy. Sure, I love the romantic image of young love and a boat on the River Thames in Oxford that springs to mind when I read that someone is poling others. Well, okay, sometimes I think of Venice too. I’m not too happy when someone is polling others and the image that burbles to the top is of popup windows asking me to take a survey or someone wants to ask questions.
Now, switch those words around using the same images… Nuh-uh. Doesn’t work. Polling someone on the Thames? Well, people do live along the Thames, and they’re entitled to answer surveys. It certainly doesn’t create a romantic scene. As for poling for responses…ick… All I can think of is getting a stick up me bum.
A History of Spelling
David Crystal has an excellent book out that helps explain this, Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling, and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling. It’s an easy read and absolutely fascinating. Well…if you love words and their history, that is. It seems that back in the day, 6th century A.D. to give you a sense of it, the Christian missionaries popped in on the Anglo-Saxons and wanted to spread the word in Anglo-Saxon, but their Roman alphabet didn’t correspond well with the “at least thirty-seven phonemes” that made up Anglo-Saxon. This is where Crystal dips into the science of pronunciation, and I don’t grasp the details, but I do the gist of it. And I’m really impressed that the monks stuck to it and hammered this out. What it leads to is…
This is, of course, a tip of the iceberg when it comes to confused -ing endings. It should however provide enough of a sample to make authors aware of the need to pay attention. A good writer wants the reader to lose him- or herself into the story. Not have to backtrack to try and figure out what the writer is saying.
…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.
|Definition: A suffix that reflects a change in tense.
Rule: There are two verb endings addressed in this example:
|Word||Definition||-ing / -ed Form|
|bat||To hit at someone with your hand
To take a turn at using a bat to hit a ball
|bate||When a hawk beats its wings in an attempt to escape its perch||bating
|He batted the hawk out of the park.
Ooh, I suspect the ASPCA will come down on that guy!
The ball was bating from the pitcher’s hand.
It’s alive! Well, it does sound as if the ball is actively trying to leave the pitcher’s hand… It would probably work better if the “ball was batted by the batter”.
The hawk bated his wings.
The hawk fluttered his wings, trying to escape.
Babe Ruth batted the ball out of the park.
Babe Ruth hit the ball out of the park.
|can||To preserve fruit, vegetables, or meats for long term storage
[Slang] To fire someone
|cane||To beat with a cane as punishment||caning
|He was canned.
He was either pickled or fired.
We caned all the apples for applesauce.
Snicker. Bad apples. Bad. They were too saucy for words.
Mary and her daughters canned tomatoes all weekend.
Mary and her daughters preserved tomatoes.
Young Brown was caned for his antics.
He did something wrong and was beaten with a cane.
|grip||Take and keep a firm hold of something||gripping
|gripe||To express a complaint
To suffer gastric or intestinal pain
|Jesus, you’re always gripping.
Hope he doesn’t leave any bruises.
She’s griping the ladder.
What did the poor ladder ever do to her?
Debbie is always griping that Dan doesn’t fix anything around the house.
Debbie is always complaining…
He gripped her arm so hard it left bruises.
He clutched so hard that bruises were left on her arm.
|hop||Move by jumping on one foot||hopping
|hope||Want something to happen||hoping
|I’m hopping that Lieutenant Faraday comes home.
So, if you hop for 24 hours, people will pay you $0.20 an hour? Or maybe if you hop a mile, Faraday gets home sooner?
The kids are out hoping in the backyard.
Huh, what do they hope for? Is it a new game?
Maurice is hoping it doesn’t rain this weekend.
Maurice doesn’t want it to rain.
The kids are playing some kind of hopping game.
The kids are bouncing around.
|pin||Attach or fasten with pin(s)
Put the blame on someone else
|pine||Suffer a mental or physical decline, especially because of a broken heart||pining
|I’m pining pictures on Pinterest.
Oops, did “I” put up some regrettable pictures?
She’s really pinning for him.
Is that like cheering?
On the other hand, there are a number of people pinning pictures on Pinterest.
A lot of people are putting pictures on their individual boards.
She’s pining away for him.
She’s crying a lot.
|plan||Detailed proposal for doing or achieving something||planning
|plane||To soar without moving the wings
Smooth wood or material with a sharp implement
|Mary loves planning through the canyons.
Wait. Does she like to plan before she gets through or does she prefer to plan while traveling through the canyon?
John planed the building well.
That either took a long time to smooth the whole building or it was a really HUGE tool.
Mary and Joe love planing through the mountains.
Mary and Joe like to use their gliders to fly.
The door was sticking so bad that Henry planed it down.
Henry reduced the thickness of the door.
|pole||Propel a boat by pushing a pole against the bottom of a body of water||poling
|poll||Record the opinion or vote of||polling
|I’m so excited! We’re going polling on the canals in Venice.
I can think of more exciting things to do in Venice than ask people what they think of the state of the buildings in Venice, or whatever questions they plan to ask.
We’re poling the voters this afternoon.
Ouch, is that like Vlad the Impaler skewering people? D’ye reckon they plan to do it before they vote or after?
The campaign office is polling the crowd.
They’re asking people what they think.
Peter and Vicky were poled down the Grand Canal.
That’s so romantic. A Venetian gondolier propelling a boat along the water.
|rap||Strike a hard surface||rapping
|rape||To force a person into sexual intercourse||raping
|He rapped me!
Ouch! I hope it was with a pillow and not a rock!
He was raping on the door.
I don’t mean to sound flip, but was he committing rape to the door or to someone on the door?
The army raped and pillaged the town.
Conquering soldiers have made it a bad habit to sexually assault women when they take a town.
Who’s that rapping on my door?
Sounds rather Poe-ish, doesn’t it? Do you suppose it’s the raven knocking??
|repin||To pin something together again||repinning
|repine||Feel or express discontent||repining
|She repined a lot of images to Pinterest.
Oops, someone put a bunch of images on Pinterest that she regrets having pinned.
She was repinning her lost love.
Voodoo? No, wait. She’s pinning something together again. Does that mean she’s restraining him?
I repinned a number of images to Pinterest last week.
I put up a bunch of images on my Pinterest boards.
She repined over her lost love.
She regretted losing him.
|rid||Make someone or something free of a trouble||ridding
|ride||Sit on and control the movement of something||riding
|I love ridding horses.
Damn, that ASPCA is gonna come after you. Again.
He is riding me of my problem.
Sounds kind of mean, really. It’s not very nice to pick on someone who has issues.
Sara loves riding horses.
Sara enjoys proceeding along a route, handling her horse.
I am ridding myself of that man.
I’m dumping the bugger.
|rip||Pull or tear something away or off quickly||ripping
|ripe||It’s an adjective as is, but as soon as you add the -ing, and in this case, the N, ahem, it becomes a verb meaning to become or make ripe||ripening
|He ripened all the bandages.
Ick. Is it gangrene?
The peaches are ripping nicely.
Did the writer mean the peaches were rapping a song, maybe? Maybe the fruit is really ripe and are easily torn apart?
Angry, he ripped the bag from his head.
He pulled the sack off his head.
Personally, I prefer my peaches to ripen.
I like eating juicy, moist, tender peaches instead of hard, green ones.
|rob||Take property unlawfully from another||robbing
|robe||Clothe oneself in a long, loose outer garment||robing
|He’s robing the neighbors.
Costumes for a play? Was there a fire and all their clothes burned up?
He’s robbing himself in the most exquisite red silken dressing gown.
So, he’s wearing a red bathrobe to steal from himself?
Bonnie and Clyde robbed many banks during the Depression.
They were thieves and stole a lot of money.
She robed herself in a silky, embroidered gown.
She put on a dress.
|scrap||Discard or remove from service||scrapping
|scrape||Push or pull a hard or sharp implement across a surface to remove dirt
Rub or cause to rub by accident against a rough or hard surface, causing damage or injury
|They scrapped their knees when they fell.
Wait a minute. Why would they need to get rid of their knees? They’ll heal.
They scraped that line of merchandise.
Were the boxes dirty? Did the truck they were being hauled in overturn and the doors burst open? Did the products get in trouble?
Jenny scraped away at the burned bits on the bottom of the pan.
The bottom of the pan had to be scoured.
The idea wasn’t working, so they scrapped it.
They gave up on the idea.
|sit||Adopt or be in a position in which one’s weight is supported by one’s buttocks rather than one’s feet||sitting
|site||Fix or build something in a particular place||siting
|The architect sited himself at the table.
That’s reasonable if kinda stupid sounding. He did, after all, fix himself in a particular place.
There are better places for sitting that nuclear power plant.
I didn’t know power plants had buttocks…
The siting of the building was perfect.
They placed the building in the best place.
They bought their house while prices were low, so now they’re sitting pretty.
An idiom that indicates they did well buying their house when they did.
|star||A movie, play, or show in which a principal performer is appearing
Decorate or cover something with star-shaped marks or objects
|stare||Look fixedly or vacantly at someone or something with one’s eyes wide open||staring
|She was starring at the dog.
ASPCA. I’m tellin’ ya. ‘Cause I gotta assume she’s sticking glue-on stars to the poor thing.
She’s staring on stage and screen.
She won’t last long as an actress if all she does is look at people without moving.
The dog was staring at the cat.
Glaring. That’s what the dog is doing, he’s glaring at the cat and about ready to chase it.
Daniel Craig starred in Spectre, the latest James Bond movie.
Craig has the lead role in the movie.
|strip||Remove all coverings
Leave bare of accessories or fittings
|stripe||Mark with stripes||striping
|You should’a seen that woman striping!
Yeah, she was good at it. I’ve never seen anyone paint such a straight stripe before.
They’re stripping the road next week.
No. Don’t tell me they’re taking the road out completely? It’ll take all summer to redo it.
Tempest Storm was a famous stripper.
She was famous for taking her clothes off.
Road crews have a special machine for striping the road.
The machine paints a line on the road.
David Crystal’s Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling, and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling is a fascinating read about why we’re stuck with how English words are spelt. Once you’ve read this, you’ll realize how “lucky” we are to have it this good!
Frankfurt International School has a great chart showing the different rules for changing word endings.