Out of the Mouths of … Politicians: Staunch & Stanch, Tact & Tack

Because politicians get so much news coverage, and because not all are created linguistically equal, they provide examples galore of eloquence as well as coming up short of eloquence. My ruthless editor eyes and ears continuously scan for all things grammatical.

In a recent interview, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in talking about the immigrant-children-crossing-the-border crisis, presented a perfect teaching moment.

Perry spoke of “staunching the flow” of these children and taking “a different tact” to solving the problem.

As he famously uttered in a presidential debate: oops.

Staunch: loyal and committed in attitude; synonyms are stalwart, loyal, faithful, committed, devoted dedicated

What Gov Perry should have said is “stanching the flow.”

Stanch: stop or restrict the flow of blood from a wound; to stop or check something in its course

Tact: adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues; synonyms are diplomacy, sensitivity, understanding, consideration, prudence

I suspect he meant to use tack: change course by turning a boat’s head into and through the wind; synonyms are change direction, change course, swerve or zigzag

I invite you to share what you see or hear in the world of words. The more, the merrier!

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)