Word Confusion: Lacks versus Lax

Posted May 29, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions

Revised as of:
30 May 2017

Don’t be lax in your editing *shakes finger*. It lacks a certain…professionalism with this pair of heterographs.

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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Lacks Lax
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: lacks and lax

A ruined building missing a roof

“Deutschenbora (Nossen) Rittergut Herrenhaus” is Jörg Blobelt’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

This building lacks a roof.

Poster noting that registration is open for the women's lacrosse team

“Registration Open” courtesy of the Richmond Strikers

These lax players are not at all lax in their play.

Part of Grammar:
Third person present verb for lack

Verb, intransitive & transitive

Past tense or past participle: lacked

Gerund or present participle: lacking

Adjective 1;
Noun 2
Verb, intransitive:
To be absent or missing, as something needed or desirable

Verb, transitive:
To be without or deficient in

  • To lack ability
  • To lack the necessities of life

To fall short in respect of

Not sufficiently strict, severe, or careful

[Of the limbs or muscles] Relaxed, loose, slack

  • Not tense, not rigid, or not firm

Not rigidly exact or precise

  • Vague

[Of the bowels] Loose

[Phonetics; of a speech sound, especially a vowel] Pronounced with the vocal muscles relaxed

Open or not compact

  • Having a loosely cohering structure
  • Porous

[U.S. informal] lacrosse

Verb, intransitive:
Three votes are lacking to make a majority.

Since the house lacks a security system, Mabel is worried about Jack doing week-long business trips.

Verb, transitive:
He lacks three votes to win.

What he lacks in brains, he makes up for in brawn.

She lacks in patience.

Sam did not lack for friends.

It is impossible for someone who lacks empathy to understand grief.

They have lax security arrangements at the airport.

He’d been a bit lax about discipline in school lately.

After that workout, I feel quite lax.

Chronic constipation may contribute to anal fissures, hemorrhoids or lax bowels.

Lax vowels are short while tense vowels are long.

When stressed, lax vowels do not occur alone at the ends of words, but always need a following consonant.

His morals have always been lax.

I hate shaking hands with him; he’s got such a lax handshake.

Jesse has some lax ideas.

I’m worried about one of my patients, as he has such lax tissue.

It’s difficult to work with such lax texture.

I wore pads and a helmet whenever I played lax.

Play lax later?

Noun: lack, lacks Adjective: laxative, laxer, laxest, overlax
Adverb: laxly, overlaxly
Noun: laxative, laxity, laxness, overlaxness
History of the Word:
Middle English corresponding to, and perhaps partly from, Middle Dutch and Middle Low German lak meaning deficiency and the Middle Dutch laken meaning lack, blame. 1 Late Middle English, in the sense of loose, as is said of the bowels. It is from the Latin laxus.

2 1950s as an abbreviation of lacrosse, with X representing crosse (by association with cross).

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Swimming in Color” by Yatmandu from Canada is under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, via Wikimedia Commons.