Monday, August 6, 2007

Pet Peeve: Definitely Defiant (or is that Defiantly Definite) about "Definitely"

It's pet peeve time again, folks. I recently finished grading papers for the summer session, and I am amazed at the number of students who use the word defiantly when they mean definitely. I'm not sure whether they think defiantly is the actual word they want, or whether they just really messed up the spelling and spell check suggested defiantly as the best course of action and the student thankfully accepted the correction. Argh!

So, let's do a quick review. If you are doing something defiantly, you are being bold, impudent, or rebellious. If you are planning to definitely do something, then you are certain you will be doing it. Here are a few examples to set the record straight:

  • She pouted defiantly when her mother grounded her.
  • "Don't you dare do that," said her father. In response, she defiantly broke the plate by dashing it to the floor.
  • I definitely want to see Peter Jackson produce The Hobbit.
  • I definitely hate it when students use defiantly when they mean definitely.
Feel free to share your pet peeves. What language abuses fan the flame of your ire?


Diane said...

I definitely think your students are defiantly using the word defiantly when they actually mean to use definitely. There is definitely no way you could confuse defiantly with definitely unless you were defiantly trying to confuse the teacher - - Definitely!

Your Cuz

joe from 101-02 said...

yeah, i know you posted this a while ago, but spell check thinks you mean defiantly when you misspell definitely as definatly, because they are spelling the word how it sounds.

J Crowley said...

Grrr, this irritates me more than most other misspellings and grammar screw-ups, and it's rather alarming how widespread it is. It's not even that they're getting a letter or two wrong (say, 'definately' or 'defanitely' or whatever), it's that they're using an entirely different word with an entirely different meaning.

Why does this happen? And why so often?

Anonymous said...

It irritates me too.. Blame Microsoft Word, or whoever developed the spelling correction algorithms (as google mail appears to use the same one). Type definatly and you get defiantly as your best option..

Anonymous said...

"If you are planning to definitely do something, then you are certain you will be doing it."

Here's my pet peeve. Language teachers who split infinitives when they are complaining about OTHER peoples' grammar. It should read, "If you are planning definitely to do... not to definitely do. You don't put words between to and the verb.

EnglishProf said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. Many people do abhor the use of split infinitives, but split infinitives are acceptable in some language teacher circles when they are used for a specific purpose, such as to emphasize how something is done, which is what I am doing in this article. You might be interested in checking out the blog entry I previously wrote on this topic, titled "To Boldly Split What No One Has Split Before" ; however, be forewarned: I do split a lot of infinitives in the article...

And by the way, language teachers actually can--and do--make mistakes! :-)

Antoine said...

I don't think I have ever been this happy to make some random search about a word I had my doubts about. I am a French speakers that uses fanfiction websites as a way to practice some day-to-day English, and I have been quite startled by the number of people that used defiantly instead of definitely. I mean, I first, I thought it was a mistake, but the more I saw it, the less I was sure. I am grateful I now know that for sur, because, it is very difficult to read something misspelled in a language that is not yours, and what is even more difficult is that you feel uneasy about signalling the mistakes, since they're supposed to have studied Englis for a bit longer than a mere five years. Thanks again and good evening. Oh, and by the way, please accept my apoligizes for any mistakes I might have done. If language teachers can make mistakes, I am sure you will admit that foreigners can as well. ^^