Was the giant renown? Or renowned?

I always enjoy reading Leonard Pitts Jr.'s column, and Tuesday's on "Americans evolving in wrong direction" was exceptionally good.  He noted that most science teachers (60 percent) "cheat controversy by such stratagems as telling students it does not matter if they 'believe' in evolution, so long as they understand enough to pass a test."  He went on to tell a great story about a giant who had once been intelligent but had become stupid.  Whatever your personal opinions on this subject, his column is worth reading.  You can find it at www.miamiherald.com/leonard_pitts/

Pitts is an excellent writer, and I have never before noticed a Grammar Glitch in his column.    Tuesday, however, a couple of things caught my eye and seemed worthy of comment.  First, there was this sentence:

Indeed, the giant was renown for an ingenuity and standard of living that made it the envy of the world.

I admit I had to check several sources on this one.  It didn't look right, but I wasn't positive it was wrong.  It turns out that RENOWN is a noun, as in "The white crystalline marble of Sylacauga, Alabama, has achieved great RENOWN."  RENOWNED is an adjective, as in "The RENOWNED marble of Sylacauga is the focus of the April festival."  Therefore, Pitts' sentence should read this way:

Indeed, the giant was renowned for an ingenuity and standard of living that made it the envy of the world. ( The adjective RENOWNED comes after the verb but still modifies the GIANT.)


My second comment has to do with parallel structure.  Consider this sentence:

Or they teach evolution on a par with creationism and encouraging students to make up their own minds.

As written, this sentence suggests that teachers put evolution on the same level as creationism AND on the same level as encouraging students to make up their own minds.  I suspect what Pitts meant was that these teachers teach both evolution and creationism and THEN encourage students to make up their own minds.  Because the structure is not parallel, the sentence is misleading.  The two verbs that need to be parallel are TEACH and ENCOURAGE.  Therefore, the sentence should read this way:

Or they teach evolution on a par with creationism and then  encourage students to make up their own minds. 

ADDITIONAL NOTE: One of my readers has pointed out that the parallel structure of the first sentence could also be improved by inserting the word A in front of STANDARD. I agree, especially because INGENUITY takes AN while STANDARD takes A. When I checked on that, I also noticed that the pronoun IT is used to refer to the GIANT when HIM would probably be more appropriate. So here, hopefully, is a final edit of that sentence:

Indeed, the giant was renowned for an ingenuity and a standard of living that made him the envy of the world.





Tags: ,

9 Responses to “Was the giant renown? Or renowned?”

  1. Thom says:

    Ironically, it looks like there may be a grammar glitch in your post as well.  You say "a couple things caught my eye" where I think you should have said "a couple of things".  See for instance: http://languageandgrammar.com/2008/01/31/you-have-a-couple-of-something-not-a-couple-something/
    Or do you think this is optional?

  2. admin says:

    Thanks, Thom. Good point, and I had to think about it. Although I might consider “a couple things” an acceptable optional use, I checked enough examples to see that the overwhelming opinion is that “a couple of things” is the more common usage. I will change my ways!

    I hope you don’t mind if I also point out that “…it looks like there may be…” would be more correct as “…it looks as if there may be…” Would you agree?

  3. Elisabeth says:

    I just found your site today after having been annoyed once too often by seeing renown used where renowned should have been. I have seen the noun used as an adjective so often that I began to question my own understanding of the usage. I am bookmarking the page and plan to tell a few friends about it. Thanks.
    I have frequently seen effect and affect as well as then and than interchanged  lately as well. Yikes!

  4. admin says:

    Welcome, Elisabeth. I’m glad you found the blog and found it interesting. There has been a discussion about usage glitches on Linked In the past two weeks or so, and I plan to do a blog post about the list of usage confusion examples I found there. Stay tuned! I agree–Yikes!

  5. Josiah says:

    I 'm pleased to have found your website.  As a fairly new ESL teacher, who relies a bit too much on intuition, I have been surprised at the number of mistakes to be found in ESL textbooks.  The sentence that set me to the hunt was: 'First on our program is a well-renown expert in the field of…'
    Also I 'm relieved to know that outside confirmation was required for yourself as well.  I 'm sure I 'll be back.

  6. admin says:

    Cheers to you, too, Josiah, and good luck with your ESL classes. Yes, I have noticed the mistakes in ESL textbooks and in websites that profess to help ESL students. Glad I can be of help, and please feel free to share examples you’d like to see highlighted.

  7. fd says:

    You are correct on the use of "renowned" as an adjectif.
    In the first sentence, to maintain the parallel structure, I would say:  "… an ingenuity and a standard…"

  8. admin says:

    Thanks for your comment, fd. I agree with your point about parallel structure, especially given the fact that INGENUITY takes AN and STANDARD would take A. Your edit suggestion is a good one. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Diane West says:

    In the second example stated above, a more careful emendment would be:

    “Or they teach evolution on par with creationism whilst encouraging students to make up their own minds”.

    In short: delete ‘a’ before the word par (which is part of an adverbial phrase describing a method of teaching rather than serving as noun) and substitute the conjunction ‘and’ for ‘whilst’ to show simultaneous rather than linear sequencing of action. The phrase ‘and then’ suggests the completion of one act followed by another when in reality, the acquisition and discerning of knowledge (and the teaching/encouragement of both) are simultaneously exercised.

    As a practicing linguist and editor, this is the version I would propose. Peace.

Leave a Reply