Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Principal vs. Principle

My ever-lovin' sister, who can't let a grammatical error pass her by, has cited me for another one. Recently, in each of my Toxicology posts on rodenticides, I have asked you to give me the toxic princiPAL of each poison when I meant the toxic princiPLE.

Guilty, Your Honor.

The former means the first or most important, as in "principal dancer of the ballet" or a person who has controlling authority, as in "my high school principal." PrinciPLE refers to the "primary source" or "the underlying law or fact."

Sheesh. Not only do I have to keep the Science Chimps happy, now I have the Grammar Gorilla on my back. If there are any Math Monkeys out there, I tell you now, I promise there will be math errors.

5 comments:

Lynne said...

You princiPAL is your PAL. That's the only way I remember it.

nina said...

Not that I will never write an inaccurately spelled word--but I like to think I have pretty good skills. (which came from 2 trips to the National Spelling Bee with my girls as their coach) And pretty good ways to remember those classic, confusing pairs.

I use: a principLE is a ruLE, the princiPAL is your PAL. (works for me)

But, I'll try not to be anuther grammer gorilla--its eazy, when your righting quickly, to have speling lapses!

KatDoc said...

Thanks, Lynne and Nina, for the PAL clue. I love mnemonic devices like that. (I spelled "mnemonic" correctly, but not "principal?" Go figure.) Mostly, I will claim typos for the errors in spelling in my blog and comments, but there are some things that have never stuck in my head, and the E/A sound is one of them.

Word endings like -ent and -ant are my downfall. PleasAnt? Or pleasEnt? I never can remember. And don't get me started on -bal/-ble or -able/-ible.

Why can't English be more logical?

~Kathi, who spells her name with an "i" and doesn't care how illogical (illogicle?) it is

Lisa said...

Ook, ook.

Hey, I did say I wasn't sure which one it should be, didn't I?

KGMom said...

Lynne and Nina beat me to it--the mnenomic device of principal = "pal".
As for why English can't be more logical--well, let's see, English borrow words from 100s of languages, English has gone through at least 3 major transitions--from Old English to Middle English to modern English. Probably more to come.
And if it were logical, where would the fun be in that?