Friday, August 18, 2006

East is East

Q. Is there a legitimate choice between disoriented and disorientated?

A. Don't lose your bearings on this one. Here's the problem: we already had a word to express getting a sense of direction (orient yourself before moving on) when some asleep-at-the-switch genius decided to make a verb from orientation, thus creating orientate.

It's simply not needed, and there's a general feeling that short words are preferable. So when you negate the word and use it as an adjective, make it disoriented. Disorientated is not only longer, there's a certain ugliness in the superfluous syllable.

OK, then⎯which way is east?

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