Pedantique-Ryter: English Daftisms

Occasional Writing Tips from Dame Isadora Pedantique-Ryter :
#2 English Daftisms: Do I practise in my practice?

Of course, as I type this, the spell-checker — in American English — is giving me a loud red underline to tell me that practise is wrong.

star prize for English daftisms?Well, no. Not in British English it’s not. And, funnily enough, on this side of the pond we tend to think that English is OUR language and that Brits make the rules and get the shiny star.

If pushed, though, Brits would usually admit that some British English is plain daft.

I’d say that the distinction between practise and practice is one of those daftisms. I’d add that license and licence are daftisms, too. (“Daftism” is one of my own words, by the way, a Pedantique-Ryterism! It can’t be any dafter than practise/practice.)

American English is much more sensible on this kind of distinction and just uses practice/licence all the time. That being so, American visitors are at liberty to skip to the puzzle at the end — unless, of course, they’d like to have a laugh at the daftness of Brits. If so, feel free to read on.

English daftisms: when is it S and when is it C?

For those who have been taught grammar (and can still remember it!), it’s boring but simple. The S form is the verb and the C form is the noun.

I'm Lost in English daftismsI can hear tearing of hair again. “Help. What’s a noun? Or a verb? I was never taught those!”

Worry not. It’s all in the Don’t-Need-To-Read Geeknotes at the end.
And, in any case, Pedantique-Ryter has a simpler solution.


Daftism tip #1 — S-form or C-form? — the advise/advice test

The problem with practise/practice and license/licence is that they are pronounced the same. But advise (verb) and advice (noun) are not. We always know how to spell those because of how we say them. So, take your practise/practice sentence, take out the pesky p-word, and put in an a-word. It will probably produce rubbish, but it should help you to find the answer.

harpsichord for practising or for practice

practise on your harpsichord, ma’am, for practice

Her mother told her to p-word her music because p-word makes perfect
Her mother told her to advise her music because advice makes perfect

No, it makes no sense, but it makes even less sense to write
Her mother told her to advice her music because advise makes perfect
doesn’t it? Using the advise/advice test, you’ll end up with the correct forms:
Her mother told her to practise her music because practice makes perfect! 

Eureka! (And it works with license/licence, too. Try it if you don’t believe me.)

Daftism solution #1:
The advise/advice trick tells you whether it’s practise or practice.

When to use WHOM? — a Pedantique-Ryter Puzzle

English daftisms drive writer to distraction

Next time, I’ll be talking about the joys of who and whom. Almost everyone gets whom wrong, at least some of the time.

Here are four whom examples from the sainted Georgette Heyer. There MAY be mistakes in them, though I’m saying only that the number of mistakes here is somewhere between zero and four.


  1. “And liefer by far that we should tell no one at Oversett, except Mrs Underhill (whom I hope to heaven I can pledge to secrecy!), of our intentions…” (The Nonesuch, chap 20, p 291)
  2. “…Luckily, Sir Tristram had the presence of mind to tell him that the groom was – whom did you say he was, Sir Tristram?” (The Talisman Ring, chap 7, page 148)
  3. “…I have thought myself in love, but I never before met a woman whom I knew to be the one above all others I wanted to call my wife.” (The Toll-Gate, chap 9, p 134)
  4. Miss Challoner undoubtedly sniffed. Lord Vidal, whom feminine tears would have left unmoved, was touched. (Devil’s Cub, chap 7, p 96)

thank you for reading my writing tips

Happy puzzling.
Answers next time!

With thanks to Christina for suggesting the practise/practice topic

I. Pedantique-Ryter


Pedantique-Ryter’s Don’t-Need-To-Read Geeknotes #2

I Want More English daftisms + explanationsA noun is a thing-word. It can name a tangible thing, or an abstract thing, or a one-off thing like a specific person or place. So we have nouns like: hat, bush, kangaroo, fornication, amazement, Pangloss, Timbuctoo. (The final two of those are called proper nouns because they are proper to a single person or place. You don’t need to remember that.)

A verb is a doing-word. That’s still the case even if no one is doing anything!  Run, jump, eat, think are all verbs that obviously imply action. But wait, be, die are all verbs too, even though they may not imply action at all. (Admittedly there may be some action in dying. So far, I’ve not been able to ask a dier — or is it diee? — about that.)

8 thoughts on “Pedantique-Ryter: English Daftisms

    1. Joanna

      Ah. I’m under strict instructions from the Dame not to comment on how many mistakes there may or may not be in her puzzle. So all I can suggest, Georgiana, is that you wait for Her Damehood to reveal all, which she promises to do in her next blog.

      And thank you for being the first to hazard a view. She wasn’t sure that anyone would dare. (I certainly haven’t. She’s downright scary in the flesh, you know)

  1. Elizabeth Bailey

    I agree about the whom. I think three are wrong. Can’t wait to find out if the Dame pronounces me rubbish or cleverclogs. Fortunately I’m famliar with the s/c problem, though I very nearly lost the plot with the convoluted solution!!

    1. Joanna

      I will suggest it (as soon as I dare), Lesley, though I know she’s planning to do who/whom next and she’s also been muttering darkly into her proverbial beard about may/might and imply/infer. Still, she did take up Christina’s suggestion so why not yours?

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