Word Confusion: Tenner versus Tenor

Posted September 1, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 11 October 2017

If someone suggested I give them a tenor, I’d be assuming I was supposed to hand over a singer. From the context of the paragraph, the writer definitely meant money. Although, if I had handed over Plácido Domingo, I guess he’d be worth more than a tenner.

Word Confusions…

…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.

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Tenner Tenor
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com


“Ten Pound Note” is Gktech716uk london’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Yep, that’s a tenner all right.

Saxophonist David Jackson playing with Alex Carpani Band at an concert 23 February 2013.

“David Jackson Plays Alto and Tenor Sax” is Gunnar Creutz’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Plural: tenners
Noun 2, 3
[British; informal] A ten-pound note

  • The sum of ten pounds

[U.S.] A ten-dollar bill

[Slang] A ten-year prison sentence 1

A singing voice between baritone and alto or countertenor, the highest of the ordinary adult male range 2

  • A singer with a tenor voice
  • A part written for a tenor voice
  • [Usually as modifier ] An instrument, especially a saxophone, trombone, tuba, or viol, of the lowest pitch but one in its family
  • [In full tenor bell] The largest and deepest bell of a ring or set

[In singular; usually the tenor of] The general meaning, sense, or content of something 3

[In singular; usually the tenor of] A settled or prevailing character or direction, especially the course of a person’s life or habits

[Law] The actual wording of a document

[Finance] The time that must elapse before a bill of exchange or promissory note becomes due for payment

Give us a tenner, guv.

I spent a tenner on that teddy bear.

He’s doing a tenner in Attica.

I’ll take another tenner, if you want my help.

He should be singing in with the tenors.

“Ruling the waves as King Neptune was the tenor of all tenors, Plácido Domingo, who now is conquering important roles in the baritone repertory as well” (WQXR).

I do adore the sound of a tenor sax.

The weight of the tenor, the largest bell, was 28 cwt. (Abbey Bells).

The general tenor of the debate is acrimonious.

The even tenor of life in the kitchen was disrupted the following day.

The tenor of a check would be the exact amount payable, as indicated on its face.

This document’s tenor has been verified.

Short-term loans usually have a tenor of a 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day option.

Adjective: tenorless
History of the Word:
1840-50: ten + -er
1 1866
2 Late Middle English, via Old French from medieval Latin and based on tenere meaning to hold; so named because the tenor part was allotted (and therefore “held”) the melody.
3 Middle English from the Old French tenour, from the Latin tenor meaning course, substance, or import of a law, which is from tenere meaning to hold.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

These images have been Photoshopped:

Lend Me a Tenor Poster is Collin Knopp-Schwyn‘s own work under the CC BY 3.0 license, and is a student-made poster for the 2011 production of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor at Minneapolis South High School.

Ten Dollar Bill Folder by Light Warrior, which is under the GPL or the FAL license, shows us one of the Towers is destroyed… Both images are via Wikimedia Commons.