We won’t bother with the adjectival form of perfect, it is everywhere. Let’s jump right to the verb.

UC Berkeley will conduct research to perfect a microbial factory for the compound artemisinin, currently the most effective treatment for malaria. – UC Berkeley News

Per-fect’. (v) To improve or refine.

Brendan Gleeson has told RTÉ Entertainment that several takes were needed to perfect scenes in Paddington 2, and admits it was challenging trying to “keep the energy up” during filming. – RTE

It seems that the verb is almost always in its infinitive form: ‘to perfect‘ something or other. Perhaps it appears otherwise, but we stopped looking.

Zhang, 25, has been working to perfect her English for several years and now speaks the language with little difficulty. – China Daily


Combat, the noun, has the stress on the first syllable.

Com’bat. (n)
First, military training and exposure to combat does not create the wacko battle-scarred soldier so often depicted by Hollywood, nor does it translate into criminal behavior. – Albuquerque Journal

Combat, the verb, has stress on . . . either syllable. It is tempting to get all purist here and insist on stressing the second syllable in the verb, but both forms have been widely adopted.

Com’bat. (v)
Com-bat’. (v)
A beefed-up corporate law enforcement unit, a new anti-fraud agency and more efficient criminal cases are among a suite of measures to be introduced to combat white-collar crime. –Irish Examiner

For combat, the verb, the stress distinction may be heading for extinction.

Bona fide

If you read our post on ‘bona fides‘ you might think we were card-carrying members of the Latin Preservation Society. Well, bona fide will throw water on that hot theory.

The term bona fide has become thoroughly Americanized. It means ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’ or ‘qualified’, and it is almost always pronounced this way:

bah-na f-eye-d

Sometimes the ‘o’ is long:

boh-na f-eye-d

Almost never is it pronounced as originally intended:

boh-na fee-day

Why not the latter? It has been trampled underfoot, a fate that might await many of the words in this blog.

These benefits result in worldwide tax savings for a U.S. citizen only if the individual is a bona fide permanent resident of the island under U.S. tax rules. An individual must satisfy stringent requirements, which require sustained physical presence on the island, to qualify as a bona fide resident of either the USVI or Puerto Rico. – JD Supra

What if you said “boh-na fee-day permanent resident”? It sounds like a legal reference, and perhaps it is intended as one. It no longer sounds natural; we have been worn down.

Try using the thoroughly Latin pronunciation here:

The band’s first album, 1985’s We Care a Lot, was issued on the indie label Mordam and generated a bona fide hit with the anti-anthem title track. – Cleveland Scene

It just doesn’t work. You would sound like an Italian journalist new to the staff (nothing wrong with that), even though you had lived in Cleveland all your life. No, it simply has to be bah-na f-eye-d. Otherwise the Charlatans would stumble over the phrase below:

Oh, the old man gathers up his suitcase,
And heads for the sun,
Me, I’m looking for some bona fide treasure
And it’s dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. – The Charlatans

And that would be dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.


Don’t use this word.

Adverbs can be suspect in the best of circumstances. Use them sparingly Be sparing in their usage. One adverb in particular, ‘increasingly‘, gives the writer up as lazy. But for some reason, ‘increasingly’ crept into the lexicon two or three decades ago, used by newspaper reporters as an easy way to reference a trend, even if the trend had just developed over the past few hours instead of, say, months or years.

Most of the aides who had been wandering around the convention center had found refuge backstage, away from the crowds staring at big screens hoping for a victory. “The path kept narrowing and narrowing and narrowing until there wasn’t one,” Parkhomenko recalled. “The mood behind the stage became increasingly grim.” – The Hill

The following trend ‘increased’ over years, until it was ‘resounding’.

Increasingly, leading cities are hiring “data people.” Whether with the title chief data officer, chief innovation officer, performance stat program director, or data scientist, these individuals are looking at government in a new way and using data to increase efficiency. Are these hires worth the investment? Resoundingly, the answer is yes. – GovTech

But why is gradualism so revered by the writer? It is not how the world works. And it might stand in the way of clarity: does she mean that each city is hiring more ‘data people’? Or that more cities are doing the hiring?

  • Increasingly, leading cities are hiring “data people.”
  • Leading cities are hiring more “data people” than ever before.
  • Leading cities are hiring “data people” in record numbers.
  • More leading cities are hiring “data people”.

Perhaps ‘data people’ should be in the lead.

  • Increasingly, leading cities are hiring “data people.”
  • “Data people” are in demand in leading cities.

You have so many options. Don’t use ‘increasingly’, ever. And for sure don’t use it in a song.

Long blends of days
Stream into nights
Consciousness barely coping
The land going by seems level
But really the tracks are
Increasingly sloping.
– ‘Slice of Time’ by David Crosby

Just don’t.


Depending on the context, ‘diffuse‘ acts as an adjective or a verb.

More observation also failed to detect any trace of a tail or coma, the diffuse envelope of gas and dust that we expect around every comet. – The Guardian

Dif-fuse’. (adj) Spread out, dispersed.

The adjectival version of ‘diffuse’ has the stress on the second syllable, and it is pronounced with a distinct strong ‘s’ sound at the end: dǝ-fyoos!’.

It’s a film with seriousness and compassion, though a little lengthy and diffuse. Dramatic storm clouds gather and pass overhead without ever quite bursting into rain. – The Guardian

As a verb, ‘diffuse’ still has the stress on the second syllable, but it terminates with a soft ‘z’ sound: dǝ-fyoozz’.

Dif-fuse’. (v) Distribute broadly, disperse, percolate.

If one chemical moves faster than the other, then as they diffuse through the cells, they’ll create a pattern of different chemical concentrations. – Forbes (really)